Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman


Title: Planetfall
Author: Emma Newman
Publication Date: 22nd February 2018
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Description: 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…

My thoughts: This book has been out for a couple of years in the USA, and I've heard good things about it, and that it represents mental illness well. So, I was really pleased to hear that Gollancz were going to publish it in the UK, and I jumped at the chance to review it.

The book switches between what's happening in the present, and flashbacks to both life on earth and to when they were first arriving at the new planet. Although it's science fiction, I felt like the book was really an examining of society, what a society is built on, and what people might choose to do to maintain that society. You get little snippets of what Earth is like, what society and politics have descended to on earth that prompted this group of people to try to build a very idealistic culture on this new planet.

Each of the characters you meet throughout the book has a very distinct personality and different motivations for why they came to the new planet. They were all so well built, and I would have enjoyed getting to hear more about any of them. I think that's a good example of how well written this book is. Although you really don't see much of the planet they're living on, you still get a very clear picture of the area that they are in.

Ren has some anxiety problems, which manifests into certain other behaviours, and she keeps this hidden from the other colonists. Given what I'd heard about Emma Newman's handling of mental health problems in her writing, I was expecting it to be a little more prominent than it is in the story. While aspects of it play a big part, it just didn't come in to Planetfall the way I'd anticipated it might. But that's a good thing, that I was surprised in a lot of places in this story. It really didn't do what I expected from what I'd read on the back, or what I imagined in the early pages of the book.

Planetfall was a really interesting read, and such an interesting look at the consequences of our choices, regardless of what the intentions behind those choices might be. The ending also surprised me a lot, although I was content with it. That said, I'm really keen to read more set on this planet. I'll definitely be looking in to other things which Emma Newman has written. Overall, I'm giving Planetfall 8 out of 10.

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