2017 Hugo Reading: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer and Death’s End by Cixin Liu
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Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.
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July 11, 2017

Hugo Award LogoHere we are, the Tuesday before Hugo voting closes and it’s time for the last two fiction reviews–Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning and Cixin Liu’s Death’s End.

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:

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:

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1 Comment

  1. I_Sell_Books

    Oh, I thought it was just me who bounced off Too Like the Lightning. I’ve been struggling with it for months, and quite frankly, just don’t care about the characters, was very confused by all the politics, and irritated by the gender thing (because it seemed pointless). I would gently suggest that if you’re going to do that type of gender thing, where one character doesn’t do the socially accepted manner of speech, give the reader a reason early, so it becomes comprehensible instead of annoying.

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