On sale now
in hardcover and e-book. Excerpts here: chapters 1 and 2
, chapter 3
, and chapter 4
. Author websites: adapalmer.com
and Ex Urbe
Some recent online author appearances:
My flap copy:
Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer--a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.
The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world's population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competion is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.
And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life...
"Mindblowingly great...Too Like the Lightning is a very difficult book to talk about to people who haven't read it. It's a huge complex book introducing a huge complex world, and it's bursting with fascinating ideas. But there's no simple elevator pitch explanation for it. I've spent the last four years dying to talk about it. As people have been reading the ARCs and loving it and posting about it on Twitter--Karl Schroeder ('most exciting SF future I've encountered in years'), Fran Wilde ('AMAZEBALLS. GET. READ.'), Ken Liu ('reflective, analytical, smart, beautiful.'), Ellen Kushner ('stylistically wacky and daring'), Max Gladstone ('I'm kind of in love with this book')--I've been bubbling over with 'I told you you'd like it!'"
--Jo Walton, Tor.com
"The difficult part (as I see it as a reader) of writing really good science fiction is that you need to make your society and your story strange enough to alienate and to provoke that sense of wonder, but familiar enough to be comprehensible. Palmer does this in an entirely novel way. Her imagined society misremembers and misinterprets the Enlightenment as does ours; it puts Enlightenment ideas to its own uses. These twin acts of misinterpretation are what create the bridge between the reader and a 25th century that is thoroughly unlike her own--it is the radically different uses of the Enlightenment that both make this future seem comprehensible and make it seem so dazzlingly strange. Again and again, her world seems familiar, when the reader encounters some scrap of an idea, or social practice or argument that builds on thinkers whom we think we know. But again and again, the rug is yanked away from beneath the reader as she realizes that no--this isn't what it looked like at first glance, or that it is, but that it fits very differently because it has been cut to match the needs of a different world. The reader is looking into a mirror of misprisions. Too Like the Lightning is an Enlightenment book, but one that takes and radicalizes the lesson of a Romantic writer - to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange."
--Henry Farrell, Crooked Timber
"It's a thrilling feat of speculative worldbuilding, on par with those of masters like Gene Wolfe and Neal Stephenson. Her eye for political dynamics goes all the way down to the personal: Gender-specific pronouns are considered obscene and have become taboo. Yet as Mycroft tells the story, he consistently uses gendered pronouns--unreliably, it turns out--and what seems at first to be a minor detail winds up having more profound consequences. Not to mention plenty important to say about our current debate on the issue....One of the most maddening, majestic, ambitious novels--in any genre--in recent years."
--Jason Heller, NPR.org
"Astonishingly dense, accomplished and well-realized, with a future that feels real in both its strangeness and its familiarity....In the year 2454, in a world where technology has rendered countries obsolete and history has rendered genders and churches dangerous, the most reviled criminal of his age, now a slave to emperors, kings, CEOs and other powers, recounts a story to his readers. It's a tale of how this world, freshly influenced by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, sees flying cars and most-influential-people lists, technology and politics, theology and sex, swirling around a plot, or plots, to either save the world or destabilize it back into bloody madness. And unknown to most of those plotting is the real secret our criminal is hiding: a boy who can make miracles in a world that's outlawed conversion."
--RT Book Reviews
"More intricate, more plausible, more significant than any debut I can recall....Palmer writes science fiction like a historian, maneuvering vast historical forces deftly, plunging effortlessly into their minutae and detail, zooming out to dizzying heights to show how they all fit together. Her acknowledgements cite Alfred Bester as an influence, and that's no surprise--few writers can trump Bester for the sense of a world that contains within it all the other worlds of all its inhabitants. Palmer, though, may have exceeded the master....Too Like the Lightning manages to be several books at once: a serious philosophical treatise; a murder-mystery whose surprises buffet the reader like cold slaps out of nowhere that feel inevitable in hindsight; a piece of historical theory in narrative form; a thought-experiment about gender, nationality, identity and bigotry; and a gripping personal story whose players are likable, flawed, sexy, and sometimes terrifying. If you read a debut novel this year, make it Too Like the Lightning."
--Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing