I have a confession to make: I haven’t read either in their entirety. In part because I’ve run out of time and in part because I simply didn’t care for either of them enough to make the effort to finish (also they’re both really long and I felt my time was better spent on the short fiction–there are fewer reviews of short fiction out there).
So instead pretending like I’ve read both book in their entirely and writing what would amount to a passel of lies, what follows is a brief summary of my impressions based on the what I did manage to read along with links to other reviews for a more complete picture of each book’s critical reception.
This entire series of reviews took a lot of time and effort. If you enjoyed these posts, please consider buying me a cup of coffee (the blog is coffee-powered, as am I).
Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
There is much to like in Palmer’s debut novel Too Like the Lightning. The assured and polished authorial voice, the complicated and complex worldbuilding with flying cars and a quasi-utopian society, and the opening chapters are wonderful. However, I found myself alienated instead of drawn in by Mycroft Canner, which I expect was not Palmer’s intent. As a viewpoint character, I didn’t like him and I didn’t care for his constant need to assign genders to people in a society where gender-specific pronouns are taboo. I have too many trans friends who are aggressively misgendered to not see this behavior in a completely negative light.
There is much to admire about this ambitious novel and I may return to it at some point in the future, but for now, it is not a book for me.
Here’s what some other folks thought:
- Jason Heller at NPR: Science, Fiction And Philosophy Collide In Astonishing ‘Lightning’
- Paul Kincaid at Strange Horizons: “Had Too Like the Lightning lived up to its aspirations, it would have been one of the most significant works of contemporary science fiction.”
- Cheryl Morgan: “…Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer, is one of the most thoughtful and complex science fiction novels that I have read in a long time. That in itself, of course, does not make it a good novel. It is a book that, if one is being kind, one would describe as ‘ambitious’, and if one is being unkind one would call ‘pretentious’.”
- Jo Walton at Tor.com: “[Too Like the Lightning] gave me that experience of reading SF when SF was new to me, the feeling that I am a different and better person because I read this, and not only that but a better and more ambitious writer.”
- D Franklin: The Problematic Presentation of Gender in Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning
Death’s End by Cixin Liu
Cixin Liu’s Death’s End is the third book in his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. Originally published in China in 2010, Ken Liu’s English language translation was published last year by Tor.
I was hampered in my reading of this by hot having read the first two in the series–I’d bounced off The Three-Body Problem two years ago and didn’t attempt the second.There was a lot happening that I just wasn’t able to follow and, to be quite blunt: I didn’t find the part I read to be very interesting. I found the characters to be either irritating (Yun Tianming) or flat (Cheng Xin) and I simply didn’t care about either of them or the predicament they and the rest of humanity found themselves in. This is a style of science fiction that is, very much, not my sort of thing at all.
But don’t take my word for it:
- Jason Heller at NPR: ‘Death’s End’ Brings An Epic Trilogy To A Satisfying Close
- Thea at The Book Smugglers: “Epic, desolate, terrifying yet hopeful. Death’s End is my favorite book of 2016 and the best book in the trilogy.”
- Niall Alexander at Tor.com: Message in a Bottle: Death’s End by Cixin Liu
- Ceridwen Christensen at B&N.com: Death’s End Concludes a Hard Sci-Fi Magnus Opus of Unparalleled Scope
- Ezra Glinter at the Los Angeles Times: China’s most popular science fiction writer, Cixin Liu, brings his spectacular trilogy to an end
- Camestros Felapton: “The whole of Death’s End can feel like Yun Tianming’s fairy tales – some of it feels like filler, sets of events that are there just to move the characters further into the future, while other parts feel like they are attempting to make a wider observation about human society.”
- Stuart Starosta at Fantasy Literature: Death’s End: Truly epic finale to the Three-Body trilogy