From the winner of the 2017 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Ada Palmer's 2017 Compton Crook Award-winning political science fiction, Too Like the Lightning, ventures into a human future of extraordinary originality
Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer--a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.
The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world's population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.
And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life...
1. Too Like the Lightning
2. Seven Surrenders
3. The Will to Battle
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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 t te- -t tes 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.
Beautiful, thoughtful, deep
Very well done. Stands up with the old masters, Homer to Heinlein. Engaging story, with unique characters that I found myself deeply invested in. Loved the first and second book and now I’m on to the third. It certainly isn’t trivial or light reading - not fast fiction or plot based, rather deeply philosophical and political.
A great SF/political book
My trusted sources and others liked this book so I was excited to read it. I was not disappointed :-)
It’s a tale of interesting humans in a future with plausible advanced technology. But it’s much more about the political structures which have evolved and the people in them.
I have not extensively read history or philosophy and so a large number of references and allusions skipped right by me.
However I was drawn into the personal tale and the world immediately. I kept on wanting to read more each evening even though I was usually exhausted. I was not disappointed at the ending but I’m glad that I can more or less immediately start book 2.
Beautifully written, but more philosophy than sci-fi
Beautifully written, with a vastly rich and complex world. The most unique fourth wall breaks in recent years. And a story concept that puts into perspective the morality and ethics of progress.
The problem: it’s too philosophical for its own good.
I mean it when I say it’s “beautifully written”, it wasn’t long before I found myself sucked in by the writing style alone. I didn’t really care what was happening in the story, I was fascinated by the shear linguistics.
But as I grew accustomed to it as the book went on, I took a step back just to catch myself up on the story, and I realized how minute the story’s presence was. It almost seems as if it takes place in the dead space between the words, like the real story is hidden in subtexts.
As intriguing and idealistic as it is, Too Like the Lightning is more philosophy than science fiction.