Review of 'Too Like the Lightning'

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
1st book in the 'Terra Ignota' series

too_lke_the_lightning.jpg In the 25th century borders between countries no longer exist but instead seven factions or “hives” have governed the planet for centuries. Sensayer (sort of a professional spiritual guide for hire) Mycroft Conner is investigating the bizarre theft of the yearly Black Sakura (newspaper) “Seven-Ten” list which shows rankings of the various hives and key individuals within. In doing so he frequents the Saneer-Weeksbooth residence where he comes across Bridger, a child who is able to bring inanimate objects to life and is protected by an army of small toy soldiers. As the plot thickens Bridger's life is threatened and we learn that Mycroft has a deep and troubled past that makes him the most hated person in the world.

A mixture of clan-type politics, high technology and bizarre socio-economic concepts, “Too Like the Lightning” is quite hard to get into never mind understand. Told from the future perspective of Mycroft Conner who has been tasked to write the history of two weeks that changed the world. Confusingly as narrator Mycroft frequently talks to an unknown future reader – who replies back, often criticizing and critiquing both the narrator and the way the story is being told. It all makes it a bit confusing though I have to admit I did keep reading on, in the hope of making some sort of sense about it all but as events unfold I could never foresee where these would go…

An odd narrative device is the continual questioning of genders to be assigned to the characters with him/he, her/she frequently mixed with they/them to refer to individuals. Indeed, this is a key part of the narrator's discussions with his reader in their comments. I am not sure whether this continual dwelling on this aspect somewhat distracts from the story but it does keep (this) reader on their toes.

Interesting and certainly innovative, “Too Like the Lightening” is a start to what promises to be an interesting series of four books. It has been very well received both critically but also by the SF community as a whole including being a finalist in the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel. I will be reading on…if only in the hope of understanding how the heck this bizarre future version of Earth works.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2024-01-14

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Head of Zeus

Publication Date: 2016

ISBN: 9781786699503