Ben Smithgall

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Software and data at Spotify. Previously with U.S. Digital Service and Code for America.

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Provenance

By Ann Leckie

Finished reading on October 8, 2018

Leckie continues to take some risks in her writing. In her widely acclaimed Ancillary Justice trilogy, she manages to work with a character that is simultaneously a single being and a member of collective entity. This leads to a lot of very fascinating concepts, especially as the main character loses all of her collective selves except for one.

One of the things that makes that so compelling and work so well is that the book is narrated in the first person. In the case of Provenance, set in the same universe as the Ancillary trilogy but not directly related to it, the narration is done in a close third person style. This choice makes some of the decisions jarring: who is the narrator, and to whom are they telling the story? Why does the narrator jump between the invented neutral “e” pronoun and “she” instead of sticking to one?

Another difference to Ancillary is that the writing in Provenance is a lot less subtle. Interesting ideas that might have come out naturally through events or introspection are instead just shoved right at the readers.

Overall, the book was enjoyable: it’s a fun adventure in space, but it comes up short of Leckie’s previous work.

★★★☆☆