I'm trying to understand what the Radchaai are.

Breq is Radchaai and an ancillary. She was once a ship brain.

Anaander Mianaai is Radchaai. She has multiple ancillaries; does it follow then that she too is the hub of a ship with troops? Or is there another configuration?

Seivarden is Radchaai, but only an ancillary.

Do all Radchaai live as part of these ships? Do any Radcahaai have actual bodies anywhere?

I mean, if everyone we've met so far is an ancillary, that means they are all human corpse soldiers, including the various Anaander Mianaai.

At the end of Ancillary Justice, they are on a station surrounded by Radchaai. Are these ancillaries too? If they're not, are they humanoid bodies with Radchaai minds?

I touched on some Dyson sphere homeworld exposition in the story; perhaps that's where Radchaai citizens live who aren't part of the fleet? Do they have bodies? Are they humanoid?

  • I don't have a book citation, but I believe Radchaai (ethnic group) (and to some degree, the dominant beauty standards of upper-class Radchaai society) are generally described as tall, with dark brown skin. Certainly there's a lot of cases where how well somebody fits or doesn't fit the appearance and mannerisms of Radchaii society comes up.
    – Kaia
    Apr 19 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


"Radchaai" has at least 3 distinct meanings in the story. There is the "Radch Empire" created by Anaander Mianaai which has both ships and citizens who are referred to as "Radchaai;" the racial/ethnic group called "Radchaai;" and the Radch system (isolationist and distinct from the empire) that is the origin of the Radchaai.

The Radchaai people are human (as are most of the people of the empire, but not aliens like the Presger), but they are probably a minority even in the Radchaai Empire, which is comprised of many conquered systems each with its own (human) population.

"That business was all uncovered," replied the head priest, "because the ship that human soldier boarded, she and the rest of her unit, had aliens on it. Radchaai have few qualms about killing humans, especially noncitizen humans, but you're very cautious about starting wars with aliens."

(Note: "that human" was a Radchaai soldier, One Amaat One.)

Note that Breq (as an ancillary) doesn't count as "human:"

"I'm not Radchaai." Which was true. You have to be human to be Radchaai.

But the body of the ancillary Breq is inhabiting was human, so she can pass as human.

Anaander Mianaai doesn't have "ancillaries;" ancillaries are ship-controlled bodies with no independent will, customarily taken from defeated enemy forces. (There is even a distinction between soldiers on the Justices that are ancillaries and those, "common soldiers," that are fully self-aware, either conscripts or volunteers.) Anaander Mianaai is a sort of a hive mind composed of many self-aware individual clones. (That Anaander Mianaai has so many clones the hive mind is breaking down becomes a plot point.)

A Radchaai station is one in the control of the Radchaai Empire, and everyone on the station is broadly "Radchaai" by virtue of being citizens of the Empire.

Seivarden isn't, as far as I recall, an ancillary; she was an officer who server on the Toren long in the past before being promoted to another ship.

The Dyson sphere you're thinking of is the Radch system, where the original Radch people live. They are not interested in Anaander Mianaai's empire.

Note that ancillaries are sometimes referred to as "corpse soldiers" but that's more because the original personality is dead, not because the body itself is:

"It was surgery. Sever a few connections, make a few new ones. Install some implants." She paused a moment, waiting for me to answer, but I didn't. "You pass well enough. Mostly. Your expression, your tone of voice, it's always right but it's always... always studied. Always a performance."

"You think you’ve solved the puzzle," I guessed.

"Solved isn't the right word. But you're a corpse soldier, I'm certain of it. Do you remember anything?"

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    Radchaai aren't alien, they're human. It's like talking about Romans and the Roman Empire (which, in fact, isn't the worst analogy). I'll try to dig up some quotes.
    – DavidW
    Apr 18 at 15:00
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    Ah. "Radchaai" is an artifical construct, not biological - an empire of citizens, almost all of which are human. Non-Rachaai are uncivilized folk - who might be human. Other groups, such as the Ors - are human, but not considered civilized and therefore not Radchaai (or vice versa: not Radchaai and therefore not civilized), yes? So, Radcahaai are annexing other human worlds. What about Genetate and others? Civilized or no? Apr 18 at 16:14
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    One further minor point: Breq's physical body (the biological part of the ancillary) isn't actually originally Radchaai. Radchaai wouldn't be made into ancillaries, even criminals would be "re-educated." There is a suggestion that One Esk Nineteen was originally a Ghaonish captive from one of the last annexations.
    – DavidW
    Apr 19 at 15:06
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    @Kaia "She resided in each of the thirteen provincial palaces, and was present at every annexation. She was able to do this because she possessed thousands of bodies, all of them genetically identical, all of them linked to each other." A clone by another name, perhaps. (Obviously they'd be different ages, and it's possible things like skin colour could be altered.)
    – DavidW
    Apr 19 at 19:29
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    Other than the Presger, the other aliens mentioned in the series are the Geck and the Rrrrrrr.
    – Raj
    Apr 20 at 13:15

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