Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer – Book Review

Morning mortals! More science fiction today, and a quite hefty dose of philosophy. I’ve got a lot to say about this one so I think it’s better we get straight to the reviewing.

Goodreads Summary:

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…

Find Too Like the Lightning on Goodreads

This book mostly frustrated me. It’s very long, very wordy and requires (as Mad Eye Moody might say) CONSTANT VIGILANCE. You let your attention slip for one minute and you’re completely lost and have to skip back a couple of pages to pick up the plot again. What annoyed me most was that, despite it’s many flaws, this book has me desperate to read the sequel. Something in my brain decided somewhere around the 80% mark that since I had sunk days of reading into these characters I was therefore invested and I had better find out how it ends!

So I suppose it has that going for it, at the end it is a gripping story, you just have to pick through a lot of gubbins to get to the plot. I think I finally understand what my friends were saying when they stated that they just couldn’t get on board with A Series of Unfortunate Events because of all the interludes in the writing. I personally don’t mind ASOUE but this was too much. Not only are you dealing with a very complex society in which this story is set but you also have to deal with a narrator constantly steeping in to clarify (which almost always just confused me more).

Most irritating to me was the way this book dealt with gender. I should, in theory have liked this, I enjoy books willing to include gender neutral characters. However our narrator, where they do use gendered pronouns takes their time to fully explain what attributes meant that they used ‘he’ or ‘she’ for a particular character. It adds to the word count unnecessarily and it doesn’t really add to the setting of the book.

Another thing you might need if you’re planning on reading this is a primer on philosophy. The author is clearly quite clued up on this topic and, while the narrator does try to explain references to obscure philosophers, it’s quite a lot to plough through.

This is no ordinary science fiction story. This is more like an exercise in creative thinking. There are some great ideas within this, and as I say the core story is remarkably compelling, I just find myself unwilling to force myself through the following titles in this series if they are anywhere near as wordy as this one.

My rating: 3/5 stars (I was won round by the end).

By the way, I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

What say you? Are you all in for a long novel? Let me know in the comments below!


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