psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
[personal profile] psocoptera
So first off, Ada Palmer was at Bryn Mawr in '99-01 and involved with Double Star, so while I don't think I ever met her, she can't be more than a step removed. Hi, if you're the mutual friend and you happen to read my lj. :)

Secondly: Too Like The Lightning is the first of four, and if you want to read it without knowing anything more about it at all, my recommendation is that you wait to do so until at least one more book in the series is out, maybe more than one. There's a large, complex cast of characters here, and no reason to think we're not still going to need to remember them all in future books - in fact I felt like the main work of TLTL was to painstakingly set up the board, piece by piece, for something that will play out in later books? Like it may actually make more sense to think of this as the first quarter of a very long single novel, just reaching plot breakout in the final chapters of this quarter.

From which you might guess that the heart of my reaction to this book is "well, it depends where it goes!" Maybe I've been watching Palmer meticulously setting up dominoes (which is not unpleasant, seeing the tricks and patterns) and then there's going to be one breathless orgiastic finish when they finally run. Or maybe it'll be more like putting together a puzzle without a lid, and there'll be all the little satisfactions of putting bits together, and then the big quiet satisfaction at the end of seeing that it all fits. I am, in general, both a sucker for this sort of thing and wary of it; my favorite books end up being the ones that are rewarding the whole way through, instead of saving up their zing for some ultimate payoff that might or might not actually pay off. I've been burned by television, by things like the X-Files or Lost, that pretended to look like a puzzle but turned out to be a heap of individually manufactured separate pieces some of which could be joined up but were never conceived as a coherent whole. Or, a more fair comparison, the Rothfuss Kingkiller books, which might in the end turn out to be a brilliant meta-work about storytelling or might turn out to be a tedious shaggy-dog story, we just don't know yet. At least Palmer is vastly less tedious than Rothfuss.

I also suspect that there's a whole layer going on that's a conversation with someone not in the room, which is frustrating when it's going over my head, but probably much more interesting if it's not. Possibly I need to have read Candide.

I think this review is sounding more negative than I mean it to be? It just feels so hard to know what to make of it. I want to compare it to Simmons' Hyperion series (four books, similar themes so far about politics, religion, transportation as a mode of social control), but Hyperion has a lot more sfnal razzle-dazzle (the farcasters, the cruciforms, the Time Tombs, etc). But maybe it's more of a Snow Crash or Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom project, about futuristic ways to organize society, although the latter had some razzle-dazzle too, and the former is *wildly* action-packed, so not a good comparison at all. I don't know! Stranger in a Strange Land, which is name-checked explicitly at one point, and might be being referenced in a whole bunch of other ways more subtly - I've read that, at least, unlike Candide, so that part of the conversation I am catching. Or possibly making up. (ETA: Dune, of course. Mentats and messiahs? Shadow/not so shadow organizations steering history? Duh, me.)

One more thing behind a spoiler cut for significant spoilers. I felt frustrated for much of this book about feeling like we were only seeing the exceptions to this world and no representation at all of the ordinary - that every character is either a prince (word chosen deliberately) or a conspirator or both, and we have no idea at all of how "most people" feel about their world - happy? content? frustrated? scared? how successful is this Utopia at being a good place for the average person? By the end I think this is very deliberate, and is part of some very complicated inter-woven themes about power and responsibility both in-world - choices about who matters, who may be sacrificed, utilitarian/Omelas kinds of questions - and also about The-Author-As-God, God-As-An-Author, what it means to be named in the narrative. The faceless billions, by being faceless, are completely free; we can imagine them to be living lives as happy and rich and authentic as we like, in contrast to everyone stuck in the web of authorial manipulation. Between Bridger's second cave and the universe in JEDD's head, there's clearly some Big Stuff going on here in terms of who is a God and what is their modus operandi as a God; Bridger in a literal underworld, whose creation is material, literal reification, vs JEDD whose creation is aphysical and timeless - their ultimate showdown is going to have the existence of multiple worlds on the table, right? (Gnosticism means we get a showdown not a team-up, right? ::grin::) And whatever we favor as readers is going to depend on whose story we've gotten most involved in emotionally? I mean, that's where I think this is going, but I honestly don't know. But that seems like the sort of scope of what's going to be needed here to pull the whole thing off. ...I reread that and what I think it means is [ profile] aryky read this one, ideally without reading that very spoilery paragraph. :)

Date: 2016-09-30 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think I am one of the mutual friend-ish people.

Date: 2016-10-02 01:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Cool! Do you have any chance of ever having time to read the book? :)

Date: 2016-10-02 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My copy is sitting on my bookshelf next to my unread copy of We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Greenidge was a high school classmate). I was invested enough to buy it and have aspirations of getting to it eventually, but I'm kinda hilariously behind on reading all the things.

What you describe is totally consistent with the Ada Palmer I remember.

Date: 2016-09-30 11:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Another mutual friend.

The novel feels a lot like sitting in a room listening to Ada tell a story. (Especially when she gets into the topic of the Enlightenment). I only half follow half as much as I feel like I should but listening to her craft a story is so enjoyable I don't care.

Date: 2016-10-02 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, that's neat! (And sounds like a good sign for the rest of the story!)

Date: 2016-10-01 02:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for the recommendation! I have managed to avoid reading the spoiler paragraph though I am very tempted ;-)

Date: 2016-10-02 01:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sorry! I want to get to read your theories before we start comparing theories :)

Date: 2016-10-02 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ha ha, no, it's okay. I mean, spoilers that I personally am warned off from reading are enticing!


psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (Default)

September 2017

17 181920212223

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 20th, 2017 11:14 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios