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Too Like the Lightning: A Novel (Terra Ignota) Hardcover – May 10, 2016
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From Publishers Weekly
Palmer's fiction debut is the ambitious and colorful first installment of her Terra Ignota series, following the political intrigues of Mycroft Canner, a convict who, as punishment for his crimes, becomes the servant of all he meets. The setting is a richly depicted future where gender is concealed, people live in carefully coded sects, and theology is pick-and-choose. Mycroft is tasked with hiding a child whose existence could cause chaos; this is no easy feat, and he and those around him are soon plunged into the world of high politics. Palmer's prose is written with an Enlightenment sensibility, deliberately dense and ponderous. This stylistic decision can be engaging, especially in the tÃªte-Ã -tÃªtes between Mycroft and the reader, but the heaviness detracts from what might otherwise be an engrossing plot. Mycroft is a witty unreliable narrator whose own biases color the world brought before the reader; it lurches between hellish and utopian. Palmer proves that the boundaries of science fiction can be pushed and that history and the future can be married together. Agent: Amy Boggs, Donald Maass Literary. (May)\n
Praise for Too Like the Lightning:
"[An] awe-inspiring debut novel....It's a genius kind of energy, and it's infectious." ―NPR on Too Like the Lightning
"The best science fiction novel I've read in a long while, and it stands as powerful evidence that the sf genre is still a treasure box overflowing with wonders." ―Robert Charles Wilson
"This is the kind of science fiction that makes me excited all over again about what science fiction can do. Lots of books can knock you over and leave you reeling and dazzled when you're fifteen, but it takes something special to do the same thing to you at fifty. Too Like The Lightning and its sequels do that, over and over again." ―Jo Walton
"Thought-provoking, disturbing, occasionally perverted, and always entertaining. Worldbuilding at its richest." ―Kirkus, starred review, on Too Like the Lightning
"Palmer has done a brilliant job with the pacing and keeping us in the close confidences of such a charming and deceitful narrator. The book seems like it burst onto the page fully formed." ―Wired
Praise for Seven Surrenders:
"Palmer crafts one of the most compelling narrative voices around in describing this impossible, fascinating and plausibly contradictory world." ―RT Book Reviews, 4-1/2 stars
"The eloquence of Palmer's reflections on social issues cannot be denied." ―Library Journal, starred review
"Many-layered and engrossing." ―Publishers Weekly
Top customer reviews
I liked that it had a complexity and didn't resort to the cliché of having everything explained to one character or another, rather allowing you to pick things up through context and contrast (only happened once that I noticed). With heavy references to enlightenment philosophy and parallels to the French Revolution, I'll have to reread it.
The plot itself was muddled at times, but I was always pulled forward by the intriguing characters. It poses several interesting philosophical questions to the reader. It finishes with a frustrating unneatness, which isn't really a bad thing.
Had the author written her world like a history book, this would still be a worthwhile read, just as a matter of asking where technology and social liberalism will take us. What is the world like when gender is over, religion is private and separate from public life, where genetic engineering, virtual reality, google glass, and self-driving cars are taking us? When we're free from material want, do we better ourselves and the world? Or do we long for a lost age of "battle, murder, sudden death, with plenty of good beer and damsels in distress, and a complete callousness about blipping the ungodly over the beezer" (Leslie Charteris) And how do people of both persuasions and everything in between manage to live alongside one another?
As it's written, though, that discourse blends (almost) into two interwoven stories, each of which threaten to undermine the new world order. The first, which is introduced almost immediately, is of an abandoned child who can bring inanimate objects to life. The second is of a break-in at the site of the computers that run a world-wide self-driving car service, where nothing is harmed but instead something is *left*-- the pre-print draft of a controversial newspaper editorial.
This book is, as I understand it, the first of a pair. I imagine that this book effectively sets up Palmer's future and introduces the forces that threaten to destroy it outright, with the resolution of those forces in the second part. The last chapter of this book is both a plot twist and a cliffhanger, I suppose, but it also casts the entire rest of the book in a new light.
But frankly, that happens on a chapter-by-chapter basis. For example, we are told near the beginning that one of the book's two protagonists is a "Cousin", but who exactly the "Cousins" are is not thoroughly explained until about halfway through. I struggle to imagine how Palmer could have developed the narrative and the worldbuilding in a better way than she has, but the fact remains that reading this book takes some faith that you *haven't* missed necessary backstory, and that if you keep reading everything will make sense. But that faith, and your time reading this book, will be very richly rewarded.
I know what I'll be reading this December.
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