Planetfall is a breath-taking sci-fi debut from Emma Newman. It is a claustrophobic look at life in a human colony on a far flung planet with utopian ideals. The colony itself is self-sustaining with all waste being recycled. At the centre of it all is Ren the colony’s most accomplished 3-D printing engineer. Along with Mack, the closest thing the colony has to a leader they harbour a secret about its founding, one that has the power to destroy all they have achieved in the last twenty years. The arrival of Sung-Soo the grandson of Lee Suh-Mi the pathfinder, mission founder and ex-lover of Ren sparks change in this fragile ecosystem, one that causes lies to unravel as well as people.
This novel has a heart of darkness. Newman gives us information a morsel at a time drawing us in. We know that there is something rotten about the colony at the foot of God’s City, Ren yearns to let the truth out but is held captive by her previous complicity. God’s City is an alien structure on the planet that the colonists feel drawn to it feels like a character in it’s own right such is its effect on the colonists.
I adored Ren as a character, she struggles with other people, guards her privacy and as we follow her we can see the cost of holding secrets has had on her. There are moments when her pain and mental anguish really struck me, she is so strong on one hand and yet is so vulnerable.
Mack on the other hand is a piece of work. An advertising guru back on earth, here
he is the architect of a new religion based on God’s City with an elaborate scheme to keep the faithful in line.
Sung-Soo is the grit in the ointment his arrival at the end of the first chapter is the agitator of the whole novel. His arrival in the colony breeds seeds of distrust and suspicion within Ren, but to the rest of the colony he is a potential sign from the pathfinder.
I adored the technology, the organic homes, the the colonists all chipped and accessing the network in their heads. Really inventive and feels like it can’t be too far away from where we are now.
I don’t want to discuss plot as that is anathema to a good review. I will say that Newman’s narrative is tightly plotted and as the plot unravels and some of the characters too there is a sense of repulsion and pity and still the desire to understand the whole. This novel feels raw to read. That doesn’t mean it isn’t polished, it really is, it seethes with emotion and secrets and discomfort the ending felt elegiac and transcended into something really beautiful.
This novel left me bruised and heartsore. It is about love and grief as well as power and lies. I loved it, you need to put this on your to read list now.