Ada Palmer's debut novel, Too Like the Lightening, is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novel of 2016 and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Both awards will be announced at the World Science Fiction Convention, Worldcon 75, in Helsinki, Finland, on August 11, 2017. Lightening already appears on the 2016 James Tiptree Jr. Honors List, which celebrates works of speculative fiction that "explore and expand gender."


The Hugo Awards, named for Hugo Gernsback, founder of Amazing Stories magazine, have been given annually since 1953 for the best works of science fiction and fantasy writing. Past winners include Isaac Asimov for The Gods Themselves and Foundation’s Edge, Ray Bradbury for Farenheit 451, Philip K. Dick for The Man in the High Castle, Frank Herbert for Dune, and J. K. Rowling for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Robert A. Heinlein won four Hugos. The first Hugo to a woman went to Ursula K. Le Guin in 1970 for The Left Hand of Darkness; Lois McMaster Bujold dominated the awards in the 1990s with four awards.


Reviews have been many and generous. Jason Heller of NPR Books called Lightening an "awe-inspiring debut." He concluded that it considers "the fundamental questions of human civilization, chief among them: Can society be engineered? And if it can, should it?" The editors of Wired magazine's Book Club said, "Palmer has done a brilliant job with the pacing and keeping us in the close confidences of such a charming and deceitful narrator." Lightening is the first volume of the four-part Terra Ignota series, a Homeric epic of gender politics and religious fervor in the year 2454.

Ada Palmer is an assistant professor of early modern European history and the College at the University of Chicago. Harvard University Press published her first scholarly book, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, in 2014. Most recently, she organized the exhibition, Tensions in Renaissance Cities, which is on view at the University of Chicago's Special Collections until June 9, 2017.

By Joanne M. Berens, MFA'93, jberens[at]uchicago[dot]edu