Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Planetfall by Emma Newman

Roc, 336 pages, $15 (c2015)

“Planetfall” is a sci-fi novel. It’s intriguing and original and has a fascinating main character.

Renata “Ren” Ghali is one of the original pioneers who followed Lee Suh-Mi to a planet “a million miles” away from Earth to find God. Her colony has developed a highly self-sustaining community at the foot of “God’s city,” a strange organic form that towers above them. The mythology is that Suh went to live in God’s city when the original travelers first made planetfall and she will someday reappear to give them words of wisdom. In the meantime, a settler is chosen every year to receive "the seed" Suh leaves in a sacred community ceremony. That entails actually eating an indigenous food, something the settlers usually avoid.

It becomes clear very shortly that Ren is one of the most competent people in the colony. She’s an engineer, a builder, a fixer, all skills that seem to be rapidly diminishing. As the story goes along, Emma Newman brings in disturbing aspects of Ren’s personality. This makes Ren more and more interesting. Newman tosses in back stories of Ren’s life on Earth and how she made the decision to join the space crusade.

Although the colonists think they are the only ones on the planet, a wanderer soon appears. Sung-Soo is the grandson of Suh. His story is that his parents and some others managed to survive their malfunctioning pod at planetfall more than twenty years ago, landing far from Ren’s group. Lacking the supplies Ren’s group had, their existence had been a painful scramble for basic survival. Sung-Soo is the last survivor. His appearance provides a catalyst for community discontent. Soon Ren must face the horror that her life has become.

While “Planetfall” is not a mystery, apparently the just-released follow-up, “After Atlas,” might be. You can read a précis and an excerpt here: http://www.tor.com/2016/10/06/excerpts-after-atlas-emma-newman/

MBTB Manager Jean May often lamented my propensity for sometimes prematurely reading the ending of a mystery book (to see if it was worth reading the rest of the book). I did not skip ahead to this ending. I wanted to savor the surprise and revelations. 
Emma Newman deserved that and she earned that. And it was worth it.

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