Synopsis: 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…
“That scared me more than anything, sometimes; the noise of my thoughts, the sense that even the space inside myself wasn’t safe.”
Planetfall is a book that will be difficult to review without giving much away. Truthfully, I’m still trying to process what I read, even though I finished it almost two weeks ago.
I go into most books pretty much blind. I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to just.. have a feeling with books. A feeling if I’m going to dig them or not. Half of the time I don’t even read a synopsis. I KNOW WHAT I LIKE!!
I bought the first two books in this series because it features a queer woman of color & I fucking love space. Highly scientific reasons, okay?! What I was not expecting were the thick undercurrents of religion within this.
This theme is obviously not a new one, as oftentimes religion gives the writer more to explore inside of a sci-fi story. I’ve read many novels that deal with the theme of spiritual topics & religion that coexist alongside science fiction, whether at odds with one another or examining the similarities. Stranger in a Strange Land, Dune, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Snow Crash.. looking at television & the big screen, the first that comes to mind is of course STAR WARS. I mean.. the Force, anyone? Then there is of course Battlestar Galactica & Lost, just to name a few.
Admittedly, I can be on the critical end when it comes to religion inside of sci-fi. However, good science fiction is something that makes you question everything. Instead of asking “what if?” sci-fi tends to lean towards the “why not?”
The best way I can describe Planetfall is to compare it to Prometheus (one of my favorite films ever, FIGHT ME!!) & Octavia E. Butler’s Earthseed series. Both of which question THE TRUTH. Where do humans come from? Why are we here? They explore the tensions between science & religion in a thoughtful, intriguing way. Planetfall certainly does that.
Renata Ghali is our protagonist. She follows her lover, Lee Suh-Mi, to a new planet with 1000 other colonists. They are leaving Earth in search of.. well.. God. This is essentially a cult that is part of a religious journey. Once they arrived on this faraway planet, their leader Suh-Mi disappears inside of an alien structure, which they called God’s City. The book picks up 22 years after this happens, with Ren & the others still awaiting her return. Ren is the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, one of the most important roles in the settlement. Yet Ren is harboring many inner demons. Then one day a stranger walks in from the outskirts of the colony & with them, secrets begin to unravel.
“Am I just a mosaic of myself, held in the shape of a whole person?”
My biggest issue with the book is the pacing. It starts brilliantly, begins to lag in the middle & then ends in such a jarringly hectic way that it just completely threw me off.
Colonization, alien civilizations, isolation, religion. Ultimately, Planetfall is a character study that delves deep within examining mental illness. Newman realistically portrays this in a beautifully complex, haunting way.