ANCILLARY JUSTICE: EMPATHY AND RESISTANCE

Very interesting discussion on The SFFaudio Podcast #282 of Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE. The question is raised of why Breq saves Seivarden (“save”-arden) at the beginning of the story and later on the bridge. This is not presented as some inexplicable reflex reaction, yet Breq herself does not understand it. The whole story is about her exceptional gift for empathy, coming in part from the loss of her captain with whom she was bonded very closely by implant technology and by personal sympathy, and in part from the loss of all her other selves. There is also the sympathy with Seivarden who like her had been reduced to next to nothing by the loss of his family’s wealth and status. Both are shards of something bigger that is now lost, cf my review.

Similarly, as to why Breq wants to shoot one of the bodies of the emperor. It seems to be a useless and suicidal act of revenge. But Breq is obsessed by history, and wants to inscribe her action into a line of resistance to oppression which made other acts possible. She also wants to show that the propaganda of invulnerability, which tried to cover up even the existence of this gun, is false. So once again her motivation is more than personal, and involves a gesture of self-sacrifice. If she hadn’t selflessly saved Seivarden earlier we might have been able to dismiss her planned assassination of one of the Emperors bodies as purely personal, but we come to see her larger personality over the whole story line. She is very much an unreliable narrator as to her own motivations as she does not understand them.

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