Everybody seems to be focusing on the exclusive use of "she" in Breq's non-gendered society in this book. (As far as I can tell, there do appear to be two sexes. Members of other cultures use "he" to refer to some Radchaai, and a brief, vague discussion of reproduction suggests that Radchaai do it the same way as other cultures that do differentiate between genders. They just don't seem to find it linguistically or socially relevant.) I was surprised to find out how little that seemed to figure into the point, other than as a way generally to start stretching the reader's brain into funny directions. At first it bothered me that I wasn't sure how I was supposed to be picturing characters, but after a while I remembered that half the time when I read a book I keep realizing I'm picturing a character with different colored hair or a different height than what the author has explicitly told me, so visualizing characters wrongly is nothing new and I should just take my best guess and stop worrying about it.
So gender isn't as big a part of this story as I expected after I kept hearing it compared to The Left Hand of Darkness, possibly because unlike that book both of our protagonists have their roots in the same gender neutral culture, although their experiences have been very different. Mostly, this is a story about identity. Breq used to be very much not human-shaped, when she was a ship called The Justice of Toren and many squads of human-shaped corpse soldiers. Now, she has one human-shaped body, but the question remains of what she is and how it relates to what she was, and whether or not she is or was human. Secondary themes explore the imperial Roman style Radchaii culture, it's relationship to other human cultures and non-human aliens, and the class differences within it.
This isn't a hundred percent the book that I was expecting, but it was a fascinating and intriguing world. I'll be looking forward to the next ones.
Overall Grade: A