Book Review: Planetfall – by Emma Newman

Planetfall #1


Ace Books; November 3, 2015

320 pages (PB)

2.5 / 5 ✪

Emma Newman has been on my TBR for a while, with the Planetfall series marked as one of her more popular offerings. For some reason.

Planetfall is the combination of two tales in one. The first is the story of Renata Ghali, and the secret that has haunted her for so many years. The secret, and what it has done to her. But it begins with a woman named Lee Suh-Mi. Renata’s friend, roommate, idol, obsession. It begins in years long past, when they were still on Earth.

The second story in a moment. But first, a scene is to be set. A lone human colony sits on an alien world, a spaceship in orbit above. Beside it sits an alien city—a vast, towering thing, dwarfing it—called God’s City. A number of colonists go about their morning routine, while two others separate from them. These two strike out from the city, to intercept a third. One coming from the plains without. A figure that looks familiar somehow, but definitely should not be there.

The second story is his. But it is told via Renata Ghali as well, the woman the first belongs to.

These two tales intertwine, providing an interlocking narrative that spans the text, often flipping back and forth multiple times in a single chapter. Ren seems to just faze out a lot. She will often randomly switch from one to the next without pause; mind stuck in the past while her body lives on in the present. This is meant to show her trauma, I assume, though it’s fairly confusing, especially at first.

But when I got used to it, nothing really distracted from the story itself. I mean, both. Themselves. And they’re both pretty interesting, though the first quickly becomes less about Suh and more about Ren. And when it does, it was less immersive scifi and more, well, vaguely-science-fictiony trauma. The story of the newcomer continues to deliver, though. Right up until the end, but we’ll get to that.

The newcomer introduces himself to both Ren and Mack—the de facto leaders of the colony. Though he looks the spitting image of Suh, he is far to young to be of their original crew. He claims to be the grandson of Suh-Mi, and has been living on the far side of the planet, the now lone survivor of a terrible accident suffered many years prior. Mack and Ren let him in, allow this Suh to begin integrating into the colony. And yet Mack is nervous—about who he is, about what he knows. And Ren… Ren is still haunted. By the other story, now bleeding over into this one.

Got it? Yeah? Cool.

I’m a fan of colonial books. Fiction, I mean. Scifi and fantasy ones especially. Something like Planetfall would always be on my radar and high up my TBR. I really would’ve liked more on the planet itself, more on the journey, more on the sheer… differentness of it all, but Planetfall did an adequate job of introducing a new world and populating it with adventure.

At first.

So… the ending sucks. It’s like the end of the Mass Effect series. It’s like Game of Thrones ending. It’s like… It doesn’t combine the two tales into one so much as abandon one and give the other one a totally unfulfilling conclusion. In my opinion, the last 10-15% one the text isn’t even worth reading—it’s that bad.

I wouldn’t say this ruins everything. As pissed as I was about the ending, the journey there was still enjoyable. More so, I’ve heard the rest of the series is better than the beginning. Even, since each novel seem to be connected vaguely at best (sharing only the same universe, really), I’d say read Planetfall as an intro, to tide you over, as an apart… but don’t expect it to set the tone for the series as a whole. Personally, I haven’t gotten to any of the others in sequence yet. My library only had the one. But I’m definitely planning to return to Emma Newman’s Planetfall universe… just not this book itself.