Terra Ignota

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Too Like the Lightning
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AuthorAda Palmer
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction, speculative fiction
PublisherTor Books
Publication date
Seven Surrenders
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AuthorAda Palmer
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction, speculative fiction
PublisherTor Books
Publication date
The Will to Battle
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First edition cover
AuthorAda Palmer
CountryUnited States
Genrescience fiction, speculative fiction
PublisherTor Books
Publication date
Perhaps the Stars
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First edition cover
AuthorAda Palmer
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction, speculative fiction
PublisherTor Books
Publication date

Terra Ignota is a planned quartet of science fiction novels by the American author Ada Palmer. The series consists of Too Like the Lightning (2016), Seven Surrenders (2017), The Will to Battle (2017), and Perhaps the Stars (2021). Set in the year 2454, they follow the events that lead the world to war for the first time after three centuries of peace following the end of the nation state. The novels have won several awards and the first was a finalist for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel.


Following the advent of technology allowing cheap transportation to any point in the world within two hours and a series of religious wars known as the Church Wars, the 22nd century saw the death of the nation state. Replacing this was a series of Universal Laws which apply to everybody and a group of Hives, which are non-geographical nations with voluntary membership.[1] Each Hive has its own legal system, as well as unique systems of government, language, manner of dress, and most have a capital city. By the year 2454, there are seven remaining Hives, as well as three groups of Hiveless. All minors are Graylaw Hiveless until they pass their Adult Competency Exam and declare an allegiance.[2]

An important tenet of the system of voluntary membership of Hives is that it must be possible to be a member of no hive. As such, there are a set of laws that govern all humanity set forth by the Universal Free Alliance known as the Black Laws. These laws primarily prohibit actions that will result in significant loss of human life or destruction of natural resources, harm a minor, or deprive an individual of the ability to call for help via trackers. Blacklaw Tribunes, the representatives of those without a Hive, have a veto power on any new Black Laws proposed. An additional set of Consensus Laws, known as Gray Laws, reflect reasonable laws frequently recommended to preserve common peace, and ban destructive behaviours such as violence, theft, and exploitation. These laws apply to Minors and those without mental facilities to give informed consent to opt out. Above these is a set of Character Laws known as White Laws, which are used by those that believe that restrictive laws are conducive to moral behaviour, and ban recreational substances and violence, and certain sexual activities. Any adult not a member of a Hive can choose which set of laws they wish to follow and be protected by.

Group Capital City Hive Language Governmental Structure Notes
The Humanists Buenos Aires Spanish Flexible-Constitution Democracy Power is proportional to the amount of the vote received. For example, in times of crisis, power concentrates in a President, who might have more than half the voting power, whereas in more stable times it might be spread among a ruling council.

Humanists believe in the power of individual achievement, and were formed by the merger of the sport-dedicated Olympic Hive and the artist-dedicated One Big Party Hive.

Humanists wear individualised boots.

The Cousins Casablanca English Board of Trustees and Suggestion Box Originally an international group of volunteers who provided welcoming accommodations to travelers, the Cousins continue to be a community of good Samaritans, their Chair being responsible for the Servicer program, and their laws banning the use of recreational drugs and prostitution.

Cousins wear a wrap.

Masonic Empire Alexandria Masonic neo-Latin[3]: 99  Nonhereditary absolute monarchy Legend says that the Masonic Empire is descended from Masonic lodges, and the air of mystery gives the Imperium an aura of strength.

Masons wear suits, frequently with different coloured arms or armbands to symbolise status.

Gordian Ingolstadt German Brain Bash, selected by Adolf Riktor Brill Institute of Psychotaxonomic Science The Brillist Institute is an academic institution founded by Brill, a revolutionary psychologist. The direction of the Brillist institute is determined by the Brain bash'.

Gordians wear sweaters with patterns that indicate their personality traits.

Europe Brussels French National Parliamentary Democracy The EU of the series represents those who still value ethnic/national identity, even beyond the European continent.
Mitsubishi Tōgenkyō (in Indonesia) None (English) Shareholder Democracy (Corporate Timocracy) Mitsubishi members value land ownership, and are allocated additional shares based on ownership of land, apartments, or factories. The Greenpeace Hive controlled most of the world's wildlife before the merger. Indonesia was chosen as the location of the capital as a compromise between the Hive's three major nation-strats, Japan, Korea, and China.[3]: 44  Mitsubishis wear clothing that changes with the season.
Utopia Luna City (on the Moon) None (English/U-speak) Overlapping "Constellations" of working groups/teams Utopians wear coats and visors of Griffincloth, a digital material that is programmed to display an alternative view of the world behind it based on the interests of the wearer; for example, as though the surroundings were a space station.
Blacklaw Hiveless Hobbestown None Blacklaw customs are suggested to those living in Hobbestown. Further, it's expected that before committing any serious action, a Blacklaw will consult the Rumormonger, who is the best informed person in the city, for advice.

All humans must follow the 8 Black Laws, or the Universal Laws. Blacklaw Hiveless choose to follow no more. There are an additional set of customs, but these are not binding. Blacklaws wear a black sash.

Graylaw Hiveless None By default, all Minors are Graylaws until they pass their Adult Competency Exam and choose otherwise.

Graylaws follow the Black Laws, plus an additional set of "Consensus Laws".

Graylaws wear a gray sash.

Whitelaw Hiveless None Whitelaw Hiveless follow all Black Laws and Gray Laws, plus an additional set of "Characters Laws"

Whitelaws wear a white sash.

The Six-Hive Transport system is a global network of flying cars operated by a Humanist bash', and is the primary mode of travel in the series. Utopia operates its own car system, separate to the primary one used in the series. The Utopian system is slightly slower than the primary one, but has 100% fewer accidents.

Set-sets are people who have been molded from before birth to have their nervous systems rewired in order to be able to carry out complicated calculations. Eureka Weeksbooth, a Cartesian set-set, is said to have 45 senses mapped to various nerves, including remapped pain nerves, and is more effective at running the car system than any supercomputer humanity is able to build. Nurturists are people who believe that as set-sets are not able to change or grow or normally interface with life, their creation is cruel and should be banned. In the series, the question of set-sets is a moral question that causes social tensions, and has in the past caused riots.[1]

Surveillance is universal; individuals are equipped with personal "trackers", devices that allow for telecommunication and record a person's whereabouts (as the name suggests), but these can be switched off.[1]

Style and influence[edit]

The books start with an in-fiction internal title page of authorizations, disclaimers and trigger warnings. Palmer explained in an interview that French books of the Ancien Régime period listed the authorities having approved them for censorship purposes, and that such lists provide insights as to the preoccupations and priorities of the society in which they were published.[1] Mycroft, a member of the Servicer program, for convicted but paroled criminals, is the primary narrator of the book, and for the most part it follows his activities from the March the twenty-third to March the twenty-seventh, 2454. Mycroft also describes some events that he is not directly implicated in, but which have been relayed to him since the conclusion of the action by others, or which he witnessed through another character's tracker, universally-worn technology that allows the wearer to, among other things, call other trackers, take a photograph, and instantly search an Internet-like network of information; he also admits to imagining some scenes, in keeping with the intimate narrative voice used throughout the novel.[4] There are occasional "interludes" by other narrators and sections which have been added by later in-universe editors and revisers, such as the Latin translations given in Chapter 21 by someone under the moniker 9A.

The novels make frequent direct addresses to the reader to create a "personal relationship" between the author and the reader, inspired by Jacques the Fatalist from Diderot, which provides the epigraph, and other pieces of eighteenth-century literature. Palmer felt there is a particular "emotional experience" when one reads this kind of book, and so adopted the style herself, to further the connection to the eighteenth century in the world of the series.[1] Similarly, the narrator makes frequent reference to his act of actually writing of the book, and the scrutiny he is under from some other characters, who have apparently acted as editors and censors.

Palmer has stated that "a number of the major themes come from Enlightenment literature: whether humans have the ability to rationally remake their world for the better, whether gender and morality are artificial or innate, whether Providence is a useful way to understand the world and if so what ethics we can develop to go with it."[5] Too Like the Lightning features frequent references to Voltaire, referred to as the Patriarch. Throughout the first three books of the series, Mycroft engages in dialogues with the reader, whose responses and objections to Mycroft are also given, and The Will to Battle also features dialogues with Thomas Hobbes.


Many different languages are spoken throughout the course of the series. Most dialogue is usually rendered in English, but to indicate other languages, and other mediums of communication, various orthographic conventions are used. For the most part, different quotation marks are used for each language. To represent words spoken in Japanese, corner brackets 「 like this 」 are used, while French and Greek speech receive guillemets « like this ». Inverted question and exclamation marks ¡¿like this?! are used to distinguish speech in Spanish. German receives no special punctuation, but text that is translated from German preserves the rules of noun-capitalization of that language, "so the Text looks like this, with all the Nouns capitalized". Masonic Latin, as well as J.E.D.D. Mason's own variety, is often left untranslated, and italicised, but is usually followed by an English translation in brackets, supplied either by Mycroft or 9A. Despite these being the seven languages that Mycroft speaks, occasionally other languages do appear, and they have their own conventions: for instance, when a character speaks Hindi, the full stop is replaced by the Hindi poorna viraam ("।") (U+0964 "Devanagari Danda"). Set-sets communicate only via text seen through trackers, and their dialogue is enclosed in less-than and greater-than signs, with all text rendered in lower case letters. Other text appearing over trackers is also enclosed in less-than and greater-than signs, but with proper capitalization.

Gendered language[edit]

By default, almost all characters use gender-neutral language, with "they/them" the predominant pronoun used. Mycroft, the primary narrator, finds his world's obsession with gender-neutrality oppressive, so often uses gendered pronouns to refer to other characters, assigning genders based on the characters' personalities and roles, as they relate to traditional Western gender roles. For instance, Chagatai is referred to using "she/her" pronouns because of their fierce, lioness-like strength when protecting their nephew from attack. The author has explained that Mycroft frequently "misuses" gendered pronouns, just as people in real life often make mistakes when using gender-neutral pronouns.[1] Also, in its chapter at the start of Seven Surrenders, Sniper advises the reader to not "trust the gendered pronouns Mycroft gives people, they all come from Madame".[6]: 23  Mycroft sometimes varies the gendered pronouns he gives characters. For instance, Carlyle is mostly referred to using she/her pronouns starting with Seven Surrenders, whereas in the first book Carlyle is referred to with he/him pronouns.

The titles' origins[edit]

  • The series' title, Terra Ignota, is an alternate form of the archaic topographical term terra incognita (Latin for "unknown land"), once used to denote regions that had not been mapped or documented. Ada Palmer repurposes the term as a new type of international law pleading that is entered by a character during a criminal trial in The Will to Battle. The earliest known use of the term appears in Ptolemy's Geography c. 150 CE, which regained a degree of influence during the Age of Discovery.
  • The first novel's title, Too Like the Lightning, is taken from Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Scene 2), and was the original inspiration for the series.[5]
  • Seven Surrenders describes the events of the book, in which all seven Hives abdicate part of their autonomy to a central character.
  • The Will to Battle is taken from Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, and describes the state of the world during the novel, before fighting actually begins, but "the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known."[7]
  • Perhaps the Stars, the title of the fourth book in the series, is also the title of the thirteenth chapter of the first novel, which introduced the Utopian hive to the story.


Too Like the Lightning[edit]

Set in the year 2454, the novel is a fictional memoir written by Mycroft Canner, a brilliant, infamous, and paroled criminal who often serves the world's most powerful leaders. Mycroft frequents the Saneer-Weeksbooth home, at which an important stolen document has been planted. The mystery of why and by whom serves as a focal point which draws many different characters, vying for global power and peace, into involvement with the family. Meanwhile, Mycroft tries to protect and conceal a child named Bridger, who has the power to make the unreal real.

March the twenty-third, 2454[edit]

Carlyle Foster has been assigned as the new sensayer (a professional spiritual guide) of the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash'. He enters their home suddenly and witnesses the death of a living toy soldier, brought to life by Bridger's miracle. Martin Guildbreaker has also arrived at the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash' to investigate a crime: the unpublished Seven-Ten List (ranking the world's ten most influential people) was stolen from the Black Sakura news office and planted in the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash'house as though to frame them for grand theft. Martin meets and interrogates Ockham Saneer, head of the bash'.

Mycroft is summoned to Tōgenkyō by Chief Director Hotaka Andō Mitsubishi. Hotaka and his wife Danaë interrogate Mycroft about the potential use of the "Canner Device" (which allows the user to travel untraced) in the Black Sakura theft.

March the twenty-fourth, Renunciation Day[edit]

Mycroft and Censor Vivien Ancelet calculate the economic and cultural impact of this year's publication of the Seven-Ten lists. Vivien recognizes the statistical sequence 33-67; 67-33; 29-71, because his former co-worker Kohaku Mardi wrote it on a wall in his own blood before he died. Mycroft divulges that the statistics predict the tipping point of global destabilization. Mycroft and Vivien agree privately to do anything they can to prevent this catastrophe. The six Hive leaders approve J.E.D.D. Mason to lead the investigation of the crime.

Switching narrators briefly, Martin Guildbreaker dictates his investigation interview, where he begins to learn about the conspicuous suicides and car crashes which have been subtly affecting world politics.

March the twenty-fifth[edit]

Mycroft returns to the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash' to find Bridger distressed: Dominic Seneschal has found Bridger's cave and confiscated many items. Mycroft wants to hide Bridger somewhere new, away from the bash'house, but Thisbe is suspicious. Carlyle finds out Mycroft is the infamous serial killer Mycroft Canner who tortured, murdered, and ate the seventeen Mardi bash' members years ago. Julia Doria-Pamphili, Mycroft's court-appointed sensayer, arrives. Carlyle and Julia travel together and discuss how Mitsubishi bash' members are now employed in the Censor's Office, European Parliament, the Humanist Praetor's office, the C.F.B., and the Black Sakura.

March the twenty-sixth[edit]

Saladin, Mycroft's secret lover and accomplice, has found and wants to kill Tully Mardi, the only remaining Mardi. Mycroft asks Saladin to kill Bridger if he is about to be captured.

Thisbe and Carlyle go to Paris to the 'black hole' which Eureka says J.E.D.D. Mason frequents. It turns out to be a secret, Eighteenth-Century era themed, high-security Gendered Sex Club, where they worship J.E.D.D. (Jehovah Epicurus Donatien D'Arouet) Mason as a God. They find out that the world leaders often secretly assemble here, united by Madame D'Arouet and her illegitimate son, J.E.D.D. Mason.

Saladin finds Bridger in distress, takes him to a safe house, and decides to hunt down Dominic Seneschal.

March the twenty-seventh[edit]

A final interlude by Martin Guildbreaker commences: a consultation with Commissioner General Ektor Papadelias. By examining the pattern of car crashes and Cato Weeksbooth's suicidal episodes, they realize the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash' is carrying out targeted assassinations, ostensibly in order to maintain the world political status quo and prevent war. They debate the kill-dozens-to-save-thousands ethics of pursuing this investigation. If these assassinations are revealed, war may begin.

Seven Surrenders[edit]

Seven Surrenders describes the final three days of Mycroft's history of the "seven days of transformation", March 26–29, 2454.

Ockham meets with Ganymede, Andō, and European Prime Minister Casimir Perry, to discuss what steps should be taken in the face of recent events. They propose using O.S., the nickname for the secret system of strategic assassinations that has benefited world peace for the past twelve generations by killing individuals to alleviate economic, social, and political tensions in the world.

Carlyle finds herself lured into a meeting with Dominic, her newly-reassigned sensayer. The session is interrupted by the arrival of the Utopian Voltaire Seldon, who had tracked the activated Canner Device to Dominic's room, and demands its surrender. After breaking her down thoroughly, Dominic convinces Carlyle to work with her to harness Bridger's power for J.E.D.D. Mason. Desperate to preserve Bridger, Mycroft tries to get through to Carlyle, but she switches off her tracker before he can finish.

Mycroft finds Saladin in a cage in Madame's Salon de Versailles, where he had been held after his own capture. Cornel MASON demands an explanation about Apollo Mojave's coat, and the immense number of lethal weapons stored within it. Mycroft reveals that the Mardi bash' had been preparing itself for war, while subtly trying to precipitate a global war, believing that war is inevitable, and it would be better to get it out of the way while they are around to advise on it than to have it later when more advanced technologies would mean greater bloodshed, possibly at the expense of the success of Utopia's Mars terraforming project.

After Sniper's kidnappers return it, the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash' holds a meeting of O.S., to decide whether or not to obey President Ganymede's ordered hit, should it come. Carlyle is discovered hiding and listening in, and Thisbe drags her away. Carlyle confesses that she has been willfully acting as Conclave Head Julia Doria-Pamphili's pawn in her struggle against Danaë Mitsubishi, who herself has also been developing a secret network infiltrating all the Hives.

A Cartesian set-set working on the investigation into O.S., finds themself irresistibly drawn to kill an O.S. target. They beg not to be sent to jail, and after reassurance from Guildbreaker, they reveal the breadth and depth of the impact O.S. Papadelias arrests Julia Doria-Pamphili and the majority of the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash', after Sniper is named the thirteenth O.S.

When Carlyle confronts the Hive leaders gathered at Madame's, Casimir Perry reveals himself to be Merion Kraye, a disgraced European politician who assaulted Danaë and fathered Carlyle. Having arranged for Sniper to be present to broadcast the scene with its ever-present cameras, Perry-Kraye grabs Ganymede and falls through the window that separates Madame's salon from the Flesh Pit, and the scandal of Madame's salon is revealed to the world. Later, J.E.D.D. Mason begins to give a report to the world, confirming the recent scandals and urging reason, but is interrupted by a bullet to the head from a Sniper doll across the Forum, brought to life by Bridger out of fear. Sniper publishes evidence and declares that J.E.D.D. Mason was a threat to the Hive system, since they were set to gain complete control over each Hive, thus erasing the freedom of choice from the system. As Dominic chases the assassin through Romanova, Bridger appears and resurrects J.E.D.D. with a potion before disappearing again.

As the leaderships of the Humanists, Cousins, and Mitsubishi plan reforms to their government and new leaders to take their place, Prime Minister Perry-Kraye gathers as many European officials and Ministers as he can into the Parliament in Brussels, which is then destroyed by missiles.

Mycroft finds Bridger hiding in a closet in the Sniper Doll Museum. He refuses to come out, and apologizes that he can't handle the war that is coming. He puts on the uniform of a World War II soldier, and transforms himself into the Major, who is revealed to be the legendary hero Achilles. Mycroft and Achilles mourn the loss of Bridger, then begin to plan for the war to come.

The Will to Battle[edit]

Following the events of Seven Surrenders, the world is experiencing higher tensions. Mycroft, from a position three months later, narrates how the history presented in the first two volumes was compiled and prepared for release; in contrast, this volume has been written for posterity, rather than public release, so is less closely edited by the Ninth Anonymous (9A). This is marked by several stylistic changes, including the presentation of conversations as simple dialogues, as if in a script. Mycroft's sanity is failing, and he had numerous dialogues with deceased friends, such as several of the Mardi bash' and Apollo Mojave, and with Thomas Hobbes and the reader, some involving the reader speaking directly to Hobbes.

J.E.D.D. Mason decides to take action, as a means of facilitating a dialogue with his peer, the God of this universe. As such, he begins to pursue the unconditional surrender of all hives so that he can remake the world into a place where the assassinations of O.S. are not needed to maintain stability. Opposing him is a faction led by Sniper and Tully Mardi, both in hiding, with the world split in opinion. J.E.D.D. Mason continues to gain power, being revealed as heir to the Masonic throne and being legitimized as the heir to the King of Spain. Several inciting incidents look like they might cause a war, such as riots sparked by a ban on the sale of land to the Mitsubishi, until J.E.D.D. Mason declares his intentions, clarifying the start of the war, and proposes a truce to last until the end of the forthcoming Olympic Games, as was the tradition in Ancient Greece.

Meanwhile, alliances are formed. Achilles, transformed from the toy known as the Major into a human by Bridger's suicide, helps world leaders prepare for war, stockpiling food and increasing medical facilities so that the upcoming war is as humane as it can be. Achilles helps begin the training of Servicers to serve as soldiers and commits to helping Utopia, whom he allies with the Masons.

After being kidnapped by Dominic and Madame in order to make contact with Sniper, an assailant attempts to kill Mycroft and later kidnaps Sniper. Sniper's disappearance is hidden, and they are returned in time for the Olympic Games. The assailant is revealed to supposedly be a surviving Merion Kraye/Casimir Perry, assisted by Croucher.

In order to prevent the destruction of the planet, Utopia destroys all facilities capable of creating Harbingers, weapons capable of great destruction, including viral laboratories and nuclear facilities. They also kidnap all people with the knowledge of how to create them. As this has affected all other Hives, they offer reparations in the form of assets and intellectual property. Furthermore, they give the Hives the means to spy on each other to ensure that no further Harbingers are created.

As war is declared, the Utopian undersea city of Atlantis is attacked, and Mycroft seemingly killed, though he somehow survives. The rest of the narrative is written by 9A, explaining their relation to Mycroft and the following events. The novel ends with the world newly at war.


  • Mycroft Canner: an infamous convicted Servicer and confessed unreliable narrator who works for many of the most powerful world leaders and protects Bridger. He has been commissioned by several other characters to write the "history" that the series is presented as
  • Bridger: a 13-year-old orphan who can "miracle" inanimate objects to become real
  • The Major, later known as Achilles: The leader of a unit of toy soldiers who were brought to life by Bridger, and who serve as his guard
  • Lieutenant Aimer, later Patroclus: The Major's lieutenant, and second in command of the toy soldiers.
  • Thisbe Ottila Saneer: another of Bridger's protectors, a member of the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash' which runs the world's transit system
  • Cato Weeksbooth: a member of the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash', brilliant but unstable. He volunteers at the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago), teaching young children about science
  • Ockham Prospero Saneer: the leader of the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash', possesses the extremely rare right to lethal force
  • Ojiro Cardigan Sniper: a world-famous athlete, performance artist, and model, and member of the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash'
  • Carlyle Foster: an orphaned Cousin sensayer, assigned to the Saneer-Weeksbooth bash'
  • J.E.D.D. Mason: strange but brilliant Tribune, Cornel MASON's adopted son. Other names include: Jed, Tai-Kun, Xiao Hei Wang, Jagmohan, Jehovah Epicurus Donatien D'Arouet Mason
  • Mycroft "Martin" Guildbreaker: A Masonic investigator and J.E.D.D. Mason caretaker
  • Dominic Seneschal: J.E.D.D. Mason's strange and abrasive personal valet and sensayer
  • Aldrin Bester: A Utopian investigator, wears a coat depicting a space city
  • Voltaire Seldon: A Utopian investigator, wears a coat depicting ruins
  • Danaë Marie-Anne de la Trémouïlle: world famous beauty, biological mother of Carlyle Foster, wife of Hotaka Andō Mitsubishi, sister of Ganymede de la Trémouïlle
  • Saladin: Mycroft's lover and secret accomplice

World leaders[edit]

  • Hotaka Andō Mitsubishi: Chief Director of the Mitsubishi Hive, husband of Danaë Marie-Anne de la Trémouïlle
  • Ganymede Jean-Louis de la Trémouïlle: President of the Humanist Hive, brother of Danaë Marie-Anne de la Trémouïlle
  • The Anonymous: An extremely well-respected political commentator who hides their identity, who controls the Vice President of the Humanist Hive by Proxy
  • Cornel MASON: Emperor of the Masons Hive
  • Vivien Ancelet: Censor of Romanova, spouse of Bryar Kosala
  • Bryar Kosala: Chair of the Cousins Hive, spouse of Vivien Ancelet
  • Felix Faust: Headmaster of the Brillist Institute & Gordian Hive, with a playful and sarcastic nature
  • King Isabel Carlos II: King of Spain and former Prime Minister of the European Hive
  • Casimir Perry: Prime Minister of the European Hive who won the election after the King of Spain withdrew
  • Madame D'Arouet: J.E.D.D. Mason's biological mother, madam of the Gendered Sex Club, leader of the secret world leaders' bash'

Publication history[edit]

The worldbuilding process took five years,[1] and was first inspired when Palmer heard the line in Romeo and Juliet that gives the first book its name. Palmer states that the original inspiration was for a structure involving the loss of something precious at the midpoint, and that the outline and worldbuilding grew out of that. The Mycroft character was developed after most of the other central characters, but before the plot.[5]

Palmer found out that she had sold the story to Tor Books at San Antonio Worldcon 2013, five years after she had first submitted it. By the time the first manuscript had been sold, Palmer had written drafts for the second and third.[8]


NPR qualifies the book as "dense and complex" and the worldbuilding as a "thrilling feat", comparing with Gene Wolfe and Neal Stephenson worlds. The critic describes Too Like The Lighting as "one of the most maddening, majestic, ambitious novels – in any genre – in recent years" but deplores the abrupt ending.[9] The New York Review of Science Fiction compares the narrator with Alex from A Clockwork Orange.[10]

Paul Kincaid in Strange Horizons was disappointed by the gender treatment in Too Like the Lightning, deploring the direct abandon by the narrator, preferring the style in Ancillary Justice.[11] They consider the book concepts had the potential to be "one of the most significant works of contemporary science fiction" but fails to "[live] up to its aspirations".[11]


Too Like the Lightning was a finalist for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel,[12] and won the 2017 Compton Crook Award for the best first novel in the genre published during the previous year.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g ENEASZ. "Interview – Ada Palmer (Too Like The Lightning)". The Methods of Rationality Podcast. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  2. ^ Palmer, Ada (2017-03-13). "Writing a Future in Which You Choose Your Own Nation". Tor.com. Retrieved 2017-12-23.
  3. ^ a b Palmer, Ada (2016). Too Like the Lightning. New York, NY: Tor Books. ISBN 978-0765378002.
  4. ^ Scalzi, John; Palmer, Ada (May 11, 2016). "The Big Idea: Ada Palmer". Whatever. Retrieved December 21, 2017. the narrator writes in an Enlightenment voice: personal, opinionated, intimate like memoir, with long tangents about philosophy and history, and personal addresses to the 'Gentle Reader.'
  5. ^ a b c Palmer, Ada (2017-12-04). "Other Story Ingredients beyond World, Characters, and Plot". Tor/Forge Blog. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  6. ^ Palmer, Ada (2017). Seven Surrenders (First ed.). New York: Tom Doherty Associates. ISBN 978-0-7653-7803-3.
  7. ^ Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan XIII
  8. ^ Palmer, Ada. "The Key to the Kingdom, or How I Sold Too Like the Lightning". Ex Urbe. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  9. ^ Jason, Heller (10 May 2016). "Science, Fiction And Philosophy Collide in Astonishing 'Lightning'". NPR. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  10. ^ Stephen, Gerken. "Two Views: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer reviewed by Stephen Gerken". The New York Review of Science Fiction. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  11. ^ a b Paul, Kincaid (2 September 2016). "Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer". Strange Horizons. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  12. ^ Trendacosta, Katharine. "Here Are the 2017 Hugo Awards Finalists". io9. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  13. ^ "The Thirty-Five Compton Crook Award Winning Novels from inception in 1983 through 2017". www.bsfs.org. Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Retrieved 6 May 2017.