Review: Terra Ignota

Series by Ada Palmer
Audiobook: The first book the audio book is subpar, but it is fantastic for the next two

When I started reading these books, I didn’t care much for them. I told Brendan that I likely wouldn’t finish the first book. That I would absolutely never recommend them to anyone. That they were weird, and he was weird for liking them.

Wow was I wrong.

That is not to say they aren’t weird. They are extremely weird, enough so that I had to actively push through the strangeness. But at the core, these books are very, very good science fiction. For weeks I couldn’t shut up about the future Ada Palmer had created, info-dumping details of the books on anyone unfortunate enough to be around me. Too often, science fiction authors create a dystopia or a utopia, or just say ‘it’s like our world, but there are robots now.’ Palmer creates a world that just clicked with me somehow, with good parts that I desperately want for our society and the bad parts that would necessarily come with any culture.

The books are well written too, and while the prose isn’t exceptional the narrator’s unique voice and foibles keep the book interesting at a sentence to sentence level. The central conflict of the story hinges on a moral question to which I still don’t have an answer. Every character you meet is pursuing their own distinct goals in their own unique way. The villain, insomuch as there is one, is just so ℎ𝑎𝑡𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒. It’s been weeks and I still want to knock the smug smirk off their face. The Terra Ignota books are also the only science fiction novels ever to move me to tears (twice, actually).

So would I recommend them? I’m still not sure. Without too much spoiling, there is a lot of weird sex stuff and a strange in-universe fetishization of the Victorian era. But they are definitely my favorite books I’ve read this year.

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