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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, #1)Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 1/5/17:
Re-read complete! And one thing I can definitely say without hesitation? : Definitely better the second time around.

It's still mightily dense with ideas and worldbuilding and truly fascinating characters that always manage to surprise, surprise again, tease me to death with hints and portents, and then managing to slam me up against the wall in a very civilized fashion before disemboweling me. It's just that kind of novel.

I'm loving the Marquis De Sade commentary as much this time as before, the extra commentaries on how to rule effectively, right down to the philosophical underpinnings of morals and Apollo's aphorisms, and yet this novel still manages to be both firmly 18th century and 25th century to the hilt. :)

What was slow in the beginning becomes absolutely necessary for the later blowout special effects of Ada Palmer's writing later in the novel. I firmly believe that now. It was just a glimmer before, but now on the second read, I'm a firm believer that this novel is just about perfect as it is.

I'm going to be recommending it for this year's Hugo nominations. It's wilding entertaining and strange and very intelligent, and beyond that, it shakes me nearly to the core.

I will also admit that it isn't an easy novel to read or enjoy superficially. It requires plenty of effort at all times and it's even more rewarding if you get all the classical and rather specialized Enlightenment references, but if you're on the same page, it's well beyond most novels out there. I'm talking about intellectual scope and the sheer depth and breadth of worldbuilding and ideas.

But I would be extremely remiss not to mention that Mycroft has got to be one of the most fascinating characters that I've ever read. And most surprising.

This mild-mannered squib did WHAT???? Oh my lordy... :) And the reasons for it? Oh my god... :)

I'm quickly wanting to ramp this one up to one of my all time favorite novels. Fantastic!

And now that I've got the sequel in my hands, I'm gonna enjoy the living hell out of a crumbling social system. :) Seven Surrenders, indeed. :) Seven-Ten list, anyone? lol And just who are they surrendering to? :)

Update 1/4/17:
This deserves a nice long re-read in preparation for the SEQUEL. :) Of which I just got and will be reviewing soon after. :) :) :)

Original Review:

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful.

First impressions are very deceiving, with this one, and assumptions can get you into a huge mess of problems, but fortunately for us, this writer has some serious chops, can lead us into a world that never quite changes, from the first page to the last, but instead invites and sometimes pushes us over the edge and CHANGES US.

What is this world, where are we headed? Is this truly a futuristic high-tech utopia that stylizes itself off the Enlightenment period including Voltaire, Sade, and Rousseau? Ha! You'd like to think so as you begin your read.

Is the tale revolving around a handful of seemingly mild mysteries, that while interesting in themselves, seem more like a vehicle for unfolding one of the most gorgeous societal world-building tableaus I've ever had the privilege to read? Ha! ... Again, I was fooled, lulled into complacency even as I was overwhelmed with sheer walls of world-data, only to be saved, regularly, by the sure hand of a truly wonderful and insightful narrator who would steer us through the dense currents and land us safely upon solid ground. Could I have wished for a more perfect or more gentlemanly Victorian Guide in a strange land? Nope!

And then there were the conversations. This novel has a lot to say about gender roles, and it is tackled delightfully, maybe even better than Ancillary Justice for sheer oddity. Social and societal quirks surrounding religion, was a big part of the novel, too, but it was the Conversation that made this novel become something Really Special.

And I really mean the Conversation; the ongoing discussion within whole fields of study and art and literature, or in this case, philosophy and science fiction. Ada Palmer deserves to be right up there with some of the best I've read, having so much to say about the Enlightenment period, made into a deep part of the story, aspects of the world-building, discussions both light and powerful between characters and even within our narrator's mind.

Some of the most awesome aspects of this novel are direct-line continuations of philosophy made into Art.

But do not let that dissuade you from this Oh So Excellent and Fascinating read, for even as I was fooled in the beginning, and as new and otherwise unforgivable glossed facts are slowly revealed to us, we are caught in a web much more complicated, dangerous, harrowing, bloody, and frankly more awe-inducing than I would have guessed in the first 150 pages.

It's a book worth reading several times over if only to pick up on all the clues that I had registered in passing, but not understood until much later.

And I will, because here's the real beauty... it's only part one of a two book cycle that belongs to one another. You know the symptoms. This is a fantastic larger tale that, by requirements out of the author's control, needed to be split unnaturally into two. It's only something truly miraculous and fantastic that the author still managed to make this single book feel complete and satisfying, even as it points to the second half of it's soul.

I feel truly blessed to be reading this. Ada Palmer has just earned herself a lifelong fanboy after a single wonderful read. This is what true Idea SF is all about, and it deserves to be up there with the very best. Remember Anathem? Sit yourself down for some real brilliance and some truly great set-sets.

I'm sure I won't be the only one who thinks the premise of the political setup is one I'd love to have now, even with its mature problems. I think this novel is going to be prompting an absolute TON of discussion among its soon-to-be legion fans. :) If there's any justice in the world, mind you. :)

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