Book review: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Title: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Publisher: Ace/Roc

Publication date: 3 Nov 2015

Genre: Science fiction| Adult

Page extent: 336 pages

Content warnings: severe warning for anyone suffering from anxiety as this book is very difficult to read.

Planetfall is the first of Emma Newman’s Planetfall series. Both Planetfall and Before Mars (#3) are stand alone novels and I read Before Mars earlier in the year and really enjoyed it. Planetfall is just as good – in fact, I’d even say I enjoyed it more. The mental health represenatation is absolutely exceptional. Planetfall is very much a character-driven sci-fi novel with more of a focus on people and trauma than on science or technology. This book was absolutely amazing – until the last 20 pages. The ending really didn’t satisfy me, hence why this isn’t a 5 star read.

Planetfall follows Renata, an engineer in the colony of a new planet, as she reacts to a surprise new arrival from somewhere else on the planet. Out of the wilderness of the planet walked Sung-Soo, a person who bore a remarkable resemblence to the Pathfinder who had led them to the planet. And who shouldn’t exist.

As Renata reacts to this new arrival, we find out there’s move involved than meets the eye. Something happened all those years ago when the crew made planetfall, and Renata has buried the trauma so deeply, it tears her apart as the truth is revealed.

The mystery and tension of the story is brilliant – Newman creates a very thriller-esque sci-fi, as we get hints and reveal of murder and trauma that happpened at planetfall, but we see these glimspes from the eyes of Renata, someone who has hidden these memories away so deeply she can’t remember. The mystery around the events of planetfall centre on this living organism called God’s City – a giant structure that we see as Renata explores within it. There seem to be remenants of intelligent live within the city, and we know the events of first planetfall happened here. The mystery was very engaging and I really wanted to find out what this city was and more about it. The writing was hugely visceral when within the city, and you very much got the impression it was definitely a living thing – this was paritcularly evident in scenes where Renata was forced to cut through the city. It was very realistically gross!

I adored Renata. She is by no means a likeable character – she is shown at times to be ruthless and uncaring. And yet, at the same time it is very clear she has suffered, and is suffering. Renata’s mental illness was very overwhelming to read. A big, big warning to any anxiety sufferers – this was probably the closest I’ve gotten to having to physically stop reading a book because of the level of anxiety I was feeling whilst reading. I have a huge admiration for Emma for being able to write so brutally realistically.

Sung-Soo was a character I disliked very much from the start, pretty much entirely because of the awful way he pushed Renata to force her to be open with him despite her mental illness. It was very jarring and awful to see Renata so stressed and anxious because of him. I think because of this, I was very wary of him as a character.

In saying that, I did love the ending of Sung-Soo’s arc. I thought it was absolutely perfect, and I just wish the book had ended there! The last 20 pages or so as Renata found out the mystery of God’s City kind of just felt like it should have been a totally different book? It just didn’t hugely make sense to me and felt very random and totally out of character of the rest of the book.

But despite the ending, I did really enjoy this book! Emma Newman has such an incredible ability to write mental illness into her characters in such an awfully realistic way that it is truly difficult to read. It was such a gripping book, and I definitely recommend this series to everyone!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco

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