Too Like the Lightning

Ada Palmer
Too Like the Lightning Cover

Too Like the Lightning



Similarly, a few other things aren't entirely realistic and could hinder suspension of disbelief. But also in these cases the main narrative doesn't hinge on them. More so, they do generate symbolic effect, and as such serve the book's content. They also remind us we are not reading an exact, realistic prediction of a future, and not a work of Hard SF either, but an artificial construction, a work of art, a piece of theater. Critics could call some of it a bit contrived, yes, but for me it all worked splendidly. Similarly, one could call out there's a bit too much description of clothes, but it generally does serve character & world building rather than mere aesthetics.

Speaking of characters: so far this has not been a story that focuses on individual psychology. A big chunk of the sprawling supporting caste are larger than life - a president, a king, an emperor, the powers that be. Some are mere sketches so far, and might remain so. But that is not to say there is no meat on the bone either, Palmer does have something to say about humans, even though she paints these things in bright, clear strokes: love, hate, revenge, lust. And while J.E.D.D. and Mycroft are fascinating characters, all those mysteries keep their emotional development out of focus - even though I think a denouement on that front will be part of the subsequent books.

Too Like the Lightning can be very theatrical at times, and I think it is in that way we should also read the author's notes I quoted from in the beginning. Pretentious? Yes, probably. I also think it is heartfelt, for who can fault a writer, an artist, to have ambition? To want to communicate feelings and ideas? Isn't that the essence of a lot of art? I think it is brave for Ada Palmer to be honest and upfront about her reasons, rather than play the socially acceptable humble writer. It is also in line with another of the novel's main ideas: Do we still aspire to greatness as a species? Do we dare dream? Do we aspire to the stars?

Normally, I leave a lot of room in between books of a series - 15 or 20 other titles. Part of that is to keep this blog varied. I will ditch that rule: I'm addicted. I'll probably read 2 short novels first, but after those, expect a review of Seven Surrenders.

I hope Palmer doesn't drop the ball somewhere in the remaining three books, but I have high hopes, given reviews like those on fellow blog A Sky of Books and Movies. And even if she would, that doesn't take anything away of the mature & bold achievement that is her debut. Whatever happens, the first book of her next series - one she has been planning for years as well - will be an automatic, blind buy.

Full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It