Book 22 of 2014: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Short version: Crazy-good old-school sci-fi with a very new-school take on gender.
Long version: The narrator of this book is an A.I. who used to be a spaceship, plus a whole bunch of human bodies, and is now confined to just one human body. This A.I. was created by a society that doesn’t divide social roles by gender, and is now traveling through different cultures with different ways of performing gender, and is pretty confused by the whole thing. So the narrator refers to everyone with feminine pronouns.
For a while, I tried to keep track of what gender each character ‘really’ was (other characters use the proper pronouns for each other), but that just gradually got too difficult, and the story was too interesting to slow down to keep track.
The result is that you get, in a from-the-inside-out kind of way, that it really does not matter. Like, these two characters are coworkers who are sleeping together; that’s the thing you need to know, not what body parts go where.
In retrospect I’m not sure why I bothered to try to keep track. I know, intellectually, that it doesn’t matter. But we’re all products of our cultures, I guess; the impressive thing about this book is how easily, how naturally, you’re led into a very different way of thinking.
Oh, and that’s not even what this book is about! It’s actually about justice and revenge and the good of the many versus the few and all kinds of neat stuff like that. The whole gender thing is just, like, the hot fudge sauce on top of this sundae of awesomeness.
Shortest version: READ THIS BOOK ASAP.