Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman
Published by Roc on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Science Fiction
Source: Ace Roc Stars, Publisher
From Emma Newman, the award-nominated author of Between Two Thorns, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity’s future might be its undoing…
Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.
More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.
Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.
The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart…
Planetfall is tense and addictive. It is the story of a colony of humans who fled earth in pursuit of God’s city on a faraway planet. This was supposed to be an answer for humans from earth, where things are not going so well. Since this is not simply the exploration of a new planet, but also a pilgrimage, religion and faith both factor heavily into this society. For me it was an interesting dynamic to have a people so technologically advanced, and also so faithful to this God and city they journeyed to. I honestly kept waiting for more of a scientific approach to explain some of their religious beliefs, perhaps because that is my personal inclination. So as a reader, some of the things that the society referred to as religious fact, I couldn’t help but want to know more, I almost craved an alternative explanation and wondered how the characters could accept things so blindly. Honestly, this aspect of the book fascinated me in a good way.
Planetfall also examines the relationships between people as it shows how even surrounded by people, how easy it is to feel isolated and alone. The idyllic community the settlers tried to create sounds wonderful, but as with pretty much every attempt at utopia, it is has flaws. There are secrets, and these secrets are on the verge of surfacing. And evidently, they have the potential to shake these people to their core and destroy the world as they know it. I don’t think this was a fast paced book, but it was gripping and was very hard to put down.
The technology is all based off of 3D printing. Manufacturing and production has been simplified to simply starting a print job for whatever is needed when it is needed, including food, medicines, clothes, houses (printed in components since the printers are not quite large enough yet for an entire house…. at least not yet). You name it, they print it. Our protagonist, Ren, is the main 3D Printing Engineer for the the community. She is smart and respected, but also a bit of a loner.
They have also developed a very cool technology that allows people to communicate and send information through chips that are implanted in them. This can be used to summon medical help, trigger a neurological response or to chat with people or send messages. Can I just tell you how often I have wished for such a technology that could let me send a message straight from my mind? Granted, it is usually when I want to send a snarky comment to someone when it would be completely inappropriate to pull out a phone and text, so maybe I’m better off without it, but I am still incredibly envious!
Ren may be a loner, but her one constant goto person is Mack, also known as the “Ringmaster”, as he is able to sway people to his will, convince them of an idea, sell them on whatever it is he gets in his head he wants done. He’s an intriguing character, and the more you learn about him the more interesting he becomes.
Planetfall was full of the unexpected for me. I was surprised by an element of mental illness in this. It was unexpected and changed how we saw and understood the character that was suffering from it. There were twists and motives that I didn’t see coming but understood as they were revealed. This is not a light, feel good type of book but it was one that fascinated me and left me grateful I decided to pick it up.
Review originally posted at The Speculative Herald