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Translation State by Ann Leckie

13/06/2023
Translation State by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie is almost certainly bets known for her multi-award winning Imperial Radch Trilogy (also often referred to as the Ancillary trilogy given the names of the books). Until now she has set one other book in her Ancillary universe – Provenance, mainly unconnected to the events of the trilogy. And also successfully after dabbling in fantasy (The Raven Tower), Leckie returns to her Ancillary universe with Translation State. Once again she demonstrates an uncanny ability to deliver a page turning yarn centred around strange but relatable characters who live inside complex personal, political and social structures. At the same time she considerably builds out her universe with a sideways view into the intensely alien and threatening Presger

In a fairly sudden turn of events Mx Enae Athtur is turned out of the house sie has lived in while looking after hir ageing grandmother. Enae is not destitute but rather set up with a diplomatic job, tasked with looking into a two hundred year old mystery that no one expects her to solve. That mystery relates to a missing Presger translator, a hybrid creature created by the alien Presger to communicate with humans, enabling a treaty that has prevented the Presger from wiping out not only humanity but other sentient races. At the same time Reet Hluid is wooed into joining a possibly violent separatist group who believe he is the long lost descendant of their former leaders. The third strand of the narrative is narrated by Qven, a young Presger translator who finds growing up confusing and dangerous. The plot will slowly bring the three together in a way that threatens to destabilise the treaty that keeps the universe in a type of harmony.

As with all of Leckie’s books, Translation State constantly transcends its characters and its milieu. This is a book about identity, about gender, about our biases, about belonging with a unique kind of love story at its centre. While there are some connections to the Imperial Radch trilogy, this can be read as a stand alone. And while it takes a little while to get on the wavelength of these characters, there is enough to hook readers and Leckie absolutely makes the journey worthwhile.

Translation State is another must-read science fiction book set in a universe that keeps getting more complex and more interesting. While there is plenty of engaging action and there are stakes, this is as much about its characters coming to terms with who they are and making decisions about who they want to be. And it is likely to once again see Leckie on the awards shortlists.

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Translation State by Ann Leckie

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Translation State by Ann Leckie

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