I've been reading F/SF for over 35 years. I have a lot of past Hugo Award winners that number among my favorites so I am well versed in what constitutes an award winning story. Last years Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice popped onto my radar when it won not only the Hugo Award, but the Nebula Award as well. It went on to win several other awards as well.
It features an interesting set of premises - that the point of view character is the last remaining component of a ship AI and the culture that it comes from makes no gender distinction. Consequently all the pronouns, except when using a different language (noted in the text as such), are feminine.
I have a feeling the pronoun usage might get in some people's way in enjoying this work, but I found it very alien and that it added to the world building immensely.
When you get down to the story, it is a truly epic space opera set far in the future - in terms of unspecified thousands of years. Everything is fleshed out, painting a brilliant picture of the world in the author's mind. You feel what it might be like to have different pieces of yourself. You can feel the Ancillary's pain and confusion when that is cut. And brilliantly, the author not only portrayed the former AI that way, but also the leader of the people. How else do you control a multi-system empire except to divide yourself and be everywhere at once.
And past the events of the story itself are the character interactions and development. The characters come alive and are more than the words on the page. I felt like I had lived the story with them. A brilliant feat of writing.
I have to say that this was as good, if not better, than some of the great stuff I read many years ago. Hugo Award winning (and Nebula Award winning) are markers of quality and this novel fit right in.
I quickly followed reading Ancillary Justice with the sequel, Ancillary Sword. It was as good and as engrossing, bringing with it new aspects of the universe and the characters. If a sequel ever deserved as many awards as the original, this one certainly does. It is a magnificent world given to us by a magnificent writer. I can't wait for the third book. I definitely have a new author to add to my list of favorites. I can't wait to see what she does next. Her nomination for this year's Hugo Awards is justly deserved.