The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
(The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I)
Mercy of Kalr is a small warship. Ironic name, isn’t it. In this final volume of the Imperial Radch trilogy, Breq, the only remaining creature, human or ancillary, of the troop carrier Justice of Toran, is now Fleet Captain in charge of keeping the peace and security on Athoek Station and it’s companion planet. The station is quite the elaborate entity. It’s not three rooms and a bath, it is a huge complex, with a garden area at the top, a waterfall, many other levels. The area under the garden has become something of a slum, unrepaired, untended, medical and security do not go there. It has hundreds of unofficial residents living there, with no services, no waste disposal, no electricity, no water.
Now a conflict is brewing between the Ychana residents of the Undergarden, and the station’s more privileged residents, led by the head priest. The conflict is over how the now-damaged Undergarden will be repaired, and who will be allowed to live there once it is. Both the Ychana and the priesthood go on strike in protest, and Breq tries to convince the new head of security, Lusulun, that the less she threatens the Ychana protesters with violence, the less likely it is that mayhem will result.
One person, discovered in the Undergarden and taken prisoner by security, is someone Breq recognizes as not human at all: the ancillary of a ship hiding on the other side of Athoek system’s Ghost Gate, a ship that has not been seen for millennia. What is this ship’s purpose, and how can Breq get its ancillary to share information with her?
A new Presger translator, Zeiat, arrives to investigate what happened to her predecessor, Translator Dlique. Since Dlique was accidentally killed by station security, and the Presger are far more powerful than humans, this is a delicate situation which Breq tries to defuse partly by humoring Zeiat’s strange requests.
Oh, sigh…… I was going to give you more of the plot precis, but really, it is so involved and packed that I am losing my will to live just contemplating how to do this. Let me just say this, if this trilolgy intrigues you, read it, and start with Ancillary Justice, right on through Ancillary Sword, ending up with Ancillary Mercy. You won’t be sorry.
As with any really good sci fi, it is more than just space warfare, and evil aliens. It is about people, their everyday lives and thoughts, and their decisions, good and bad. Yes, some of the characters are larger than life, some are smaller. It’s all good.
What wonderful world building, what great characters, what an atmosphere!