15 October 2018

Review: Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

Trade paperback, 384 pages
Published 2017

Acquired November 2017
Read December 2017
Terra Ignota, Book II: Seven Surrenders
by Ada Palmer

I really loved book I of Terra Ignota, Too Like the Lightning, and ranked it first on my ballot for the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Had Seven Surrenders landed on the ballot for 2018, though, I don't think I would have ranked it so high. The joy of Too Like the Lightning was in the world it built, but the way Seven Surrenders develops swerves away from that aspect of TLTL. Palmer's semi-utopian future has "Hives" instead of nations as we understand them, voluntary associations, because in an era of instantaneous global transportation, who can enforce the borders of a traditional nation-state? But instead of focusing on the societies, Seven Surrenders doubles down on the people. A lot of the novel revolves around the political, sexual, and political/sexual intrigues of the Hive leaders... and I just really don't care about this at all. I kept losing track of who did what to whom, and I wasn't incentivized to spend the time to care. I feel like Palmer is creating a commentary here-- our societal aspirations will founder on the personal desires of the powerful-- but though the focus on personal lives might be justified, that doesn't make it interesting.

The answers to the mysteries set up in TLTL are mostly interesting and satisfying, and the book's end promises an interesting set-up for book III. I will read The Will to Battle, but hopefully it's more in tune with what I enjoyed about book I.

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