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Too Like the Lightning: Terra Ignota    by Ada Palmer order for
Too Like the Lightning
by Ada Palmer
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ada Palmer has done an extraordinary job of world building (based on new nongeographic nations) in Too Like the Lightning, first in the Terra Ignota series, set in a 2454 Earth. But be warned. It's a complex tale, rich in sociology and philosophy, and it can be a challenge to follow. The fact that gender is rarely identified is one small aspect of this.

In this utopian world where individuals belong to Hives (extended clans of the like minded), criminals enter into a rather benign form of slavery as Servicers, and must wander the world working for anyone who requires their assistance. Anti-hero Mycroft Canner is one of them and we wonder, long into the story, what he did to merit this - the discovery is a shocker.

Another key character is sensayer Carlyle Foster - though religions are no longer permitted, people still need spiritual counselling and this is what he provides. As the story opens, Carlyle stumbles upon a dangerous secret in the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash (both home and place of business, the world's transportation center). The bash has recently had a security breach.

Mycroft and his lover Thisbe (a member of the bash) have taken in a boy, Bridger who can wish things (like plastic toy soldiers) into existence. They are keeping his talent very secret. As they work hard to protect Bridger and help him learn to use his talent wisely and to 'not be a monster', there are all kinds of complicated political machinations going on, centered on the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash.

And we learn that Mycroft is involved in some deep laid plan as well after he reconnects with someone close from his dark past - Saladin, who is officially dead. This first episode ends on a cliffhanger with violence erupting around the world. Those who have managed to follow the intricate story so far will be anxious to find out what follows.

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