The Imperial Radch series is composed by 3 books and 2 short stories. It was received with almost unprecedented public and critical acclaims. The first book of the series won the Hugo, the Nebula, the Locus, the BSFA, and the Clarke Awards. It also made it to the Tiptree Jr. Awards Honor list. But where to start? This is the recommended reading order list.
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren, a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
What I found particularly interesting in this book was its interesting treatment of gender. We are told that the Radch language (and society) does not distinguish between genders, as a result the gender of every character is undetermined. This prevent readers from applying gender biases and stereotypes to the characters, leaving them often confused, and making them realize how strongly gender influences the way we judge and perceive other people.
The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go — to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn’s sister works in Horticulture. Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized, or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears.
The second installment of the Imperial Radch series touches and develops many of the themes of the first. Particular focus is given to the ills of imperialism and how its promise of equality is hollow because some citizens are more equals than others.
This is the latest and final installment of one of my favorite sci-fi space operas. At the end of the previous book things seemed to be under control for Breq, formerly the AI of the battleship Justice of Torren. Then, a search of Atheok Station’s slums turns up someone who shouldn’t exist, someone who might be an ancillary from a ship that’s been hiding beyond the empire’s reach for three thousand years. Meanwhile, a messenger from the alien and mysterious Presger empire arrives, as does Breq’s enemy, the divided Anaander Mianaai, ruler of an empire at war with itself. Anaander is heavily armed and extremely unhappy with Breq. She could take her ship and crew and flee, but that would leave everyone at Athoek in terrible danger. Breq has a desperate plan. The odds aren’t good, but that’s never stopped her before.
The short stories
The short stories are set in the same universe of the main trilogy, and they provide insight on the Radch’s universe.
Night’s Slow Poison
While the events of the story take place century before the one of Ancillary Justice, I would read this between Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword.
The story takes place on the ship Jewel of Athat, on its six-month journey through the Crawl to Ghaon. It is a rich, claustrophobic story of a galactic voyage that forces one guardsmen to confront his uneasy family history through the lens of a passenger with his lost lover’s eyes.
Free : [Tor]
She Commands Me and I Obey
A short story set in the world of Ancillary Justice, published by Strange Horizons as part of their annual funding drive. The short story takes place in Noage Itray, a 35-mile-long cylindrical space station, and it is not directly connected to any of the events or civilizations of the main trilogy. As such, you can read it before or after any of the other books without risking any spoiler.
Free from Strange Horizons: [part 1], [part 2]