RogerBW's Blog

Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer 11 June 2017

2016 Hugo-nominated science fiction, first book of Terra Ignota. Even in a techno-utopia, there are people who are unhappy with the rules.

That's assuming you can hack your way through the writing style to get to the story. It's a conscious imitation of eighteenth-century novels (as the world is an imitation of the culture of the Enlightenment), with additional massive dumps of made-up words and no explanation; I don't mind bring thrown into the middle of things and expected to work out what's going on, indeed as an SF reader that's an experience I actively look for, but in this case before we even start to learn anything about the world we're being told about a child who can quite literally do anything he can imagine… and apparently nobody finds this terrifying. And then it's back into the thickets until the next thing happens.

It's not that the book is slow-paced; indeed, you can miss something important by skimming a paragraph. It's that there's never any narrative momentum, because the moment things begin to happen there's an authorial aside. Much of the point of the book, which certainly isn't the plot or the characters, is a heavy-handed parody of current trends in inclusive language and trigger warnings: Palmer has interesting things to say here (particularly as to how a "good enough" solution can be much worse in the long term than continuing to struggle for perfection, which I suppose justifies the way all the powerful characters turn out to be male when their gender is finally signalled reliably), but she says them at much less length in various interviews.

There are sample chapters on tor.com. Read them. If you actually like them, you might get on with the book. I found it excessively self-satisfied and deliberately over-complex, like The Name of the Rose right down to the title that has no apparent relevance to the story, only here there is an actual story struggling to get out, set in a world interestingly different from our own. I'd have liked to have read it.

Followed by Seven Surrenders. This work was nominated for the 2017 Hugo Awards.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

See also:
The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1