PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

Emma Newman’s Planetfall focuses on the story of Renata Ghali, a woman who followed cult leader Lee Suh-Mi into the stars to find an alien world. She and her fellow travellers left a polluted, war-ruined Earth behind, believing that they could unlock the secrets of the universe. Twenty-two years have passed since they founded their colony on this distant planet, planting their base at the foot of a strange alien structure under strained circumstances. Life in the colony changes when a figure who could well be the son of Su-Mi arrives, someone who was clearly born on this world. 

One of the things that science fiction does very well is provide a fantastic framework into which we can make even the most mundane story fantastic. The genre is rich in metaphor and this allows a skilled author to put many layers into the simplest stories, turning a tale of one personal tragedy into something much deeper and more engaging. Newman’s tale of secrets and distant alien worlds serves as a backdrop for a far darker and intensely personal tale. Planetfall is a science fiction novel that uses the future as a way of reminding us that people don’t really change.

The main protagonist is a powerful and sympathetic character. Renata’s skills primarily involve building and repairing things for the colony; she can manufacture whole organs using something akin to a 3D printer. Everyone in the colony has the best toys, from self-sustaining homes to mind implants that allow for a sort-of text message-based telepathy, and they have a peace of sorts. With the arrival of the stranger, however, things quickly unravel. The charming stranger throws things into sharp focus and the lies and self-deceit that the colony is built on begin to reveal themselves.

Planetfall is a book about broken things; people, places, memories and dreams. It is no coincidence that the central character is responsible for repairs. She may have the power to change matter but secrets and self-delusion have eaten away at this colony and the reasons behind this form much of the focus for the novel.

Planetfall is a gentle science fiction thriller that will draw you in slowly and shock you throughout. It’s a powerful journey into the human psyche and one well worth the trip.



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