Planetfall (Planetfall #1) by Emma Newman

Posted On 19 March 2018

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 18 responses

planetfallPlanetfall is a book that I’m late to the party of which seems to be a recurring theme for me lately.  But, late or not, I can say that I’m very glad I eventually arrived- I may have missed the speeches and the gift unwrapping but I managed to arrive in time for the cake.  And wow, what a cake.  It’s got multiple layers, the filling is character rich and the cherry on top of all of this is the emotional impact that the story delivered.  To be honest this book hit me with all the feelings, which was as extraordinary as it was unexpected and certainly not something I anticipated.

The story takes place on a far away planet where a small colony of people seem to have finally established themselves a lifestyle that on the face of things seems perfect.  A utopia.  Their knowledge and creativity has taken them forward in leaps and bounds and they live in a self sustaining community that is environmentally friendly and has a low carbon footprint.  But.  Of course there’s a but.  Below the surface the little community is built on a foundation of lies, lies that are finally threatening to break through the surface in the most dramatic way.

Renata Ghali (Ren) is the main protagonist of the piece and as the story starts she is called to a situation by the Ringmaster of the community to help with a possible problem.  A lone traveller is approaching the colony.  How he’s managed to survive by himself is a mystery in itself but also the fact that this stranger could reveal secrets about the community and the deceits that help to prop up their world is the real fear.  Basically this stranger bears an uncanny resemblance to Suh-Mi – the person with the original vision about the planet and the one who created such strength of faith that people were prepared to brave the unknown to follow her.  Suh-Mi has been, well, not really missing, absent, for many years.  She is believed to be communing with God and each year she sends the residents a message through a seed pod within the walls of ‘God City’ – an alien structure that sits next to the colony and is something of an enigma to them all even now.

So, briefly.  The sci-fi in the book is really pretty cool.  I’m not really going to explain it in great detail, the people live in pods that are printed (using 3D printers).  They’re covered in moss and have highly technical functions all connected to the technological advances of the time (you’ll have to forgive me but I couldn’t help but picture hobbit holes!).  3D printers help to maintain the lifestyle of the colony and a constant cycle of recycling to help reprint more necessities.  It’s only very briefly explored.  Basically, the people have lived here for many years and there way of life is now established.  It’s not the main focus of the story, just like the space travel also isn’t involved.  It’s only relevance is in the everyday lives of the people within the community.  I like this.  It’s an established place, Newman doesn’t try to explain nor does she over simplify – it just is what it is.

Then we have the community themselves and this for me is the winning element of the story because you can take a bunch of people off the planet earth in search of bliss but basically they’re still people, warts and all.  That’s the beauty of this book.  It’s character driven and the characters are flawed, not always likable but understandable.  You also have to bear in mind that this is a small, close knit community.  It feels like everyone is living on top of each other and to an extent they are.  It’s the sort of small community where fear lives with the residents daily and anything that threatens their lifestyle could be the tipping point for the ‘mob’ to break out, pitchforks, torches and all.

The other winning element to this story is the mystery. Which is two fold – in fact threefold.  There’s the mystery of what happened when everyone originally arrived on the planet.  Only Ren and the ‘Ringmaster’ know of this secret and it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep under wraps.  On top of that Ren seems to have other secrets of her own and the pressure of keeping so many things hidden is beginning to take its toll and finally there’s the mystery of the lone stranger.  What is he planning?  Is he friend or foe?

Underlying all of this is a really powerful look at mental health issues which escalate in a very dramatic way.  Ren herself is suffering from a condition that she’s managed to keep hidden but her own paranoia, her almost ‘teetering on the edge of a panic attack’ and her privacy and self driven loneliness are all there for people to see.  On a regular basis though people just don’t take the time to look.  It takes the arrival of a stranger to drum up new tensions and act as a catalyst for exposure.  And, wow, when that eventually happens it really does pack a punch.  Oh Ren!  I wanted to help her, I wanted to shout at the rest of the community to leave her alone.  I just so felt for her.  Such a powerfully written scene.

The only criticism I really have is the ending.  It felt a little bit rushed and almost, well, it didn’t feel like the rest of the story.  I can’t really describe why.  And, I’m not entirely sure that I understand what really happened – or if I’m totally happy with it.

In spite of that one blip – and I can genuinely say it hasn’t spoiled the book for me at all – I thoroughly enjoyed this and was totally absorbed.  I can’t wait to read more.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy received through Netgalley.  The above is my own opinion.




18 Responses to “Planetfall (Planetfall #1) by Emma Newman”

  1. Tammy

    I’m glad you loved this! I can’t wait to hear how you like After Atlas. It was even better😁 And her books are all standalones, which I really like.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I like that they’re standalones too. I hadn’t realised that but there was an excerpt from the start of the new book at the end of this one so I read it and figured it was going to be a new story.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Maryam (@thecurioussffreader)

    I really need to finally pick up this book! I read After Atlas because it was nominated for the Clarke last year and since then, I have been meaning to read it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      According to some of the comments I’ve received After Atlas seems to be the preferred book of the two – apparently they’re all standalones so no doubt you could read them in any order but I’d bear those comments in mind. I enjoyed this – not the ending so much, but it provoked strong emotion.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The mystery – or rather mysteries – you describe are very intriguing, so I will try to fit this one into my reading queue. When I have no idea, but one of these days…
    Thank you so much for this compelling review! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I know – we can’t read everything can we but this was good and I’m definitely going to read more.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Glad you enjoyed this, but omg I agree – I read this a couple years ago but I can still remember clear as day how annoyed I was at the ending. It was like it belonged to a whole different book. I was terribly disappointed at the way things wrapped up, to the point where I couldn’t bring myself to give the book a higher rating even though I enjoyed everything up to those final pages.

    • @lynnsbooks

      This one certainly gave me lots of different emotions – the ending, it kind of felt like the wrong piece had been tacked on. I can’t really fathom it out. It didn’t work for me but it didn’t spoil the read. A few years ago I read a fantastic book called A Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – that book was just amazing. I loved it. It’s a historical read set in a village where the plague breaks out and tells of their own self imposed quarantine to stop the spread of the disease. It sounds bleak but it’s an amazing read and also inspired by true events. Then there was the ending – I felt like the author had been abducted by aliens who had tacked on an ending of their own just to complete the project. Strangest ending ever. I still love that book though.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Louise

    I really liked this book too. It was nothing like I was expecting. My only issues was, like you say, that the ending felt a bit out of place and rushed.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it though and will definitely move on to the next one – although they’re all standalones so I suppose they can be read in any order.
      Lynn 😀

  6. sjhigbee

    An excellent review, Lynn. I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much, despite the fact you weren’t completely convinced by the ending. I would say that the same issue doesn’t crop up in After Atlas, which in my opinion, is even better… And as you say, the issue of mental health is very well handled.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I just saw a wonderful review of this over on The Fantasy Hive – it does have spoilers but thee is a warner – but it’s so good. I think it helped me to see the ending in a slightly different light which was great and the discussion on mental health issues was really interesting.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Oh yes – she writes an awesome reviews – and while I don’t like spoilers, I’ve no problems when reviewers give a warning because they want to discuss particular issues:)).

      • @lynnsbooks

        My thoughts exactly 😀

  7. Danya @ Fine Print

    Late to the party bloggers, unite! Haha. In all seriousness though, this sounds really good — even with the lacklustre ending. The strong portrayal of mental health issues is another point in Planetfall’s favour. I really enjoyed the first Split World book, so there’s no excuse for putting this one off!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a really good book. I think, having read some other reviews I maybe have a better understanding of the ending – although I’m still not in love with the ending – but, it didn’t stop me from thinking this was a great read.
      Lynn 😀

  8. TTT: Good reads 2018 | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Planetfall by Emma Newman […]

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