Ann Leckie's first novel, Ancillary Justice, was only released in 2013 but came out with the poise and polish of a seasoned author's work. None of the three other Ancillary universe books that followed has done anything to lesson that aura. All of her work required a shift of gears to read, she seems to delight in upsetting or at least ignoring convention in her world building but a good plot will only take you so far without giving the reader someone likable to hang the story on and in this Ms. Leckie also excels. Gentle lead characters that were quite capable of dealing violence capably if pushed captured my attention. The Raven Tower doesn't abandon any of these precepts but does so in a new genre for her, leaving scifi for fantasy with her sword and sorcery doing a refreshing take on what would be pablum in lessor hands. The book is narrated from the viewpoint of a watching nonhuman consciousness that alternates chapters between said consciousness's unveiling of its history and its present observation of a human newcomer of indeterminate sex (in her other work few of Leckie's lead characters are gender obvious) who arrives at the stone fortress the consciousness inhabits as the book opens. The initial chapters of the narrator's history started slowly but at some point about a third of the way in I realized I was hooked on the very strange tale that was unfolding. The passages dealing with the newcomer were more accessible at first but gradually both tales became equally appealing. Its hard to go into detail without spoilers so while I don't feel The Raven Tower has the easy appeal and breadth of characterization of her four Ancillary universe entries it still clears the bar as a rewarding read. I will be honest here and say that this book was so unusual and challenged enough of my concepts of god(s) and their relationship to humans that I will have to let it settle while it digests. I will have to let some time pass in order to come to grips with the feelings that arose but things like that don't become clear overnight.
Note/spoiler warning to followers of mainstream deities, may be challenging to personal belief systems: I was wrong, I got a good night's sleep and things did become more clear-never underestimate the human animal. Painters make use of a plain background in order to focus attention on their desired subject. in comparison to previous work Leckie's lack of passion and depth of characterization for her characters and their situation may be to allow her main point to emerge, which seems to be humanity's relationship to god. In the past when church and state was combined in one powerful and all to frequently repressive authority she would have been toasted at the stake in many cultures for the unrepentant heresy she presents in The Raven Tower. Back in the 1950's and '60's when it was common to use the capitol G in spelling the almighty's name I have no doubt she would have faced varying amounts of social ostracism, but now the most common reaction (I hope) could well be, "Big deal, what's new."
When I speak of the views the book presents by gods I am referring to any consciousness connected to a physical body/object or not that can manifest control or power over aspects of the physical world beyond the abilities normal humans have. In other words small g gods. Neither I nor the book is referring to what might be considered a universal mind/group consciousness that pervades all of reality and non reality. That is another kettle of fish entirely. If you prefer this could be termed a capitol G God, but if I read this book correctly our religions have been infiltrated and are infused and controlled by small g gods masquerading as capitol G Gods. Could be the reason the whole god thing has fallen out of favor, among large elements of the population, huh? In mitigation Ms. Leckie does point out that the little gods can on occasion be caring and supportive in their relations with us humans or selfish, petty, controlling, and blood thirsty as well, but consistently all caring and benign, not so much. A religious treatise on this subject would attract only modest interest, but wrap it in an appealing fantasy novel and us masses might get to thinking. Set no false gods before me, huh? I have spent a large portion of my life either looking for, denying or running away from god/God. Maybe it's time to get over it and be myself.
P.S.Apologies for any mashed toes, I would be disappointed if everybody agreed with me, not trying to start a religion here or an argument.
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (26 February 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316388696
- ISBN-13: 978-0316388696
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 653 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)