Birthday Reviews: Ann Leckie’s “The Unknown God”

Birthday Reviews: Ann Leckie’s “The Unknown God”

Cover by Randy Gallegos
Cover by Randy Gallegos

Ann Leckie was born on March 2, 1966. Her first novel Ancillary Justice was published in 2013 and not only opened her Imperial Radch series, but won the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke, British Fantasy, British SF, Seiun, and Kitschie Awards. The second book in the series, Ancillary Sword, also won the British SF Association Award. While Ancillary Justice won the Locus Poll for Best first novel, the other two books in the series won the Locus Poll for Best SF novel. Leckie also served as the editor for the magazine Gigantosaurus from 2010-2014.

“The Unknown God” appeared in the February 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy, purchased by Shawna McCarthy. It is related to her God of Au series of stories and was reprinted in January-February 2017 issue of Uncanny Magazine.

Awolo is the God of Horses, living for the past year as a human being in “The Unknown God.” Having fallen in love with the human Saest,who spurned him, Awolo cursed her and left her for dead. Leaving the city, he decided to see how the other half lives, going so far as to live among a group of atheists for a while.

On his return to the city, Awolo discovers that Saest has survived the intervening year, although she is still bound by his curse. Joining up with the merchant Nes Imosa, who doesn’t fully realize Awolo is the god, not just named for him, they go to seek Saest and remove the curse.

Leckie’s story depicts an intriguing culture with a complex and unique understand of the gods who inhabit it. While she doesn’t fully delve into the divine structure of the world (which is also featured in her stories “The God of Au,” “Marsh Gods,” and “The Nalendar”), but clearly knows the background of her world, so while it feels like she isn’t revealing everything, it does not feel underdeveloped, but rather leaves the reader wanting more.

Reviewed in its original publication in Realms of Fantasyedited by Shawna McCarthy, February, 2010.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a fifteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “Big White Men—Attack!” in Little Green Men—Attack! Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 5 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Joe H.

Huh — I loved the Ancillary books, and Provenance, but didn’t realize she’d been published that long ago. Hoping we get a short story collection one of these years.

Rich Horton

I actually reprinted Ann’s very first sale in my 2007 Best of the Year collection (it first appeared in a special issue of Subterranean edited by John Scalzi in 2006).

She actually published a True Confessions story even earlier, and she wrote the first version of ANCILLARY JUSTICE (Much different from the eventual version!) back in the early 2000s as well.

(Connie Willis’ first sales were True Confessions type stories as well.)

(Ann is a sort of neighbor of mine — lives in the next town to mine, we go to the same grocery store, our kids went to the same high school, etc.)

She’s written several very fine fantasies exploring the nature of godhood and worship. I reprinted one of them (“The God of Au”) in one of my books as well.

Joe H.

I might even have that issue somewhere, although my (bad?) habit with pretty much all of the fiction magazines I used to buy is that I’d read the columns and reviews, but generally not touch the actual fiction.

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