AUTHOR: Emma Newman
RELEASED: November 2015; Ace/Roc
GENRE: Science Fiction
KEY INFO: Founding of a new colony, character-driven, #ownvoice, political secrets, grief
REPRESENTATION: bisexual woman MC, anxiety, hoarding disorder, f/f romance, people of colour
CONTENT NOTICES: depiction of severe hoarding, forcible public intervention against hoarders will, feelings of shame around hoarding, descriptions of hoarding
“That scared me more than anything, sometimes; the noise of my thoughts, the sense that even the space inside myself wasn’t safe.”
I’m not even sure where to begin this review, other than to make enthusiastic, joyful noises in response to how much I loved it?
Planetfall is a fantastic and refreshing journey into science-fiction, taking us to places within the genre that I haven’t come across before and managing to blend so many different elements seamlessly together. Planetfall is not just well-written science-fiction. It offers us an incredibly realistic and touching portrayal of mental illness through Newman’s surprising depiction of Hoarding Disorder; a captivating character-driven plot full of gasp-out-loud twists; and an interesting female protagonist who is a bisexual visengineer, religious, intelligent, but most importantly completely flawed and real. I have to say, I think Ren is one of my favorite characters that I’ve come across. She always surprised me and made me feel all kinds of things towards her; anger, frustration, heartbreaking sympathy, encouragement and I never stopped rooting for her even when she was making huge mistakes!
I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Newman disseminated information throughout the novel, giving me just enough to become riveted but not giving too much away too early. As I made my way through Planetfall I learned about things at an enjoyable pace about life back on Earth before they left, the diverse array of characters we spend time with, the fantastic world-building and the plot. Newman set an addictive pacing throughout the book by using a breadcrumb trail type of storytelling and I most definitely gobbled it all up as quickly as I could. I read the entire thing in 2 days because I just needed to know what was happening, what all these secrets were, and which direction the story was heading in. The ending was a complete surprise to me and left me desperate to read the next installment, After Atlas.
One thing I also really loved about Planetfall was the world-building and Newman’s ability to offer such vivid descriptions of this world that she had created. We get to spend a lot of time with Ren living out her life in the colony without lots of narrative drama and it really helped me to get to a feel for the world she was living in, how it operated and why they were there. As Ren is an integral part of the colony, being a visengineer, we see a lot of the day to day maintenance of the colony. How their eco-friendly and sustainable houses are built, how they recycle materials in order to make new products which are printed, how their implanted chips enable them to easily use virtual messaging and live-streaming software, and how all of this science slots in with the colonies intriguing religious beliefs.
“I thought you were a believer, Ren,” Mack says. “I’m also a scientist,” I fire back, irritated with his mocking tone. “They’re not incompatible.”
I love reading science-fiction but there are times when I get frustrated with the lack of diversity and realistic portrayal of people. It often seems to miss out on the people-ness, choosing instead to focus purely on the science-fiction elements of the story in a way which divorces those things from real people problems like mental health, relationships, religious beliefs, and identity. I think Planetfall is up there with books like The Long Way To a Small, Angry Planet in terms of diverse, character-driven and realistic science-fiction. Memorable, addictive and at all times enjoyable, I definitely recommend Planetfall to other readers and have found myself a new series and a new author to become a big fan of!