Book Notes: Too Like The Lightning

Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer
Read Jun 16, 2021 - Jul 4, 2021

Too Like the Lightning, the first book of the Terra Ignota1 series, takes us to the world of 2454, where there are no nation-states and advances in technology make it possible to casually travel anywhere on Earth within two hours. The story is narrated by Mycroft, a paroled criminal who is helping in a criminal investigation: an important document has been stolen and planted at the house of the family that runs the world’s transportation system. The book is compiled by Mycroft as an account of events for public release, and takes us in detail through the first few days of the investigation.

Palmer’s background as a historian shows through in the many references to Enlightenment literature and culture. The style is also unusual, with the narrator often addressing the reader, and portions of the story authored or edited by other characters.

While the mystery and the surrounding political intrigue are interesting, for me the most fascinating part of this book is the world-building. This is a world with very different modes of government, ideas about religion, gender, vocation or family than our current world. This is a world that has not seen war for centuries. As the story unfolds, the question becomes: what is the cost of this utopia?

It is not quite hitting 5 stars for me because it feels more cerebral than gripping. But there are so many interesting ideas here, I feel like it could fuel months and months of book club discussions.

  1. My notes on books 2 and 3 of Terra Ignota: Seven Surrenders and The Will To Battle↩︎

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