by Emma Newman
Planetfall is easily one of the most memorable books I've read this year. From the first page, it kept me captive until it wrenched my heart in two. The story is beautifully layered, with rich symbolism woven deeply into the plot. I found it incredibly difficult, yet utterly compelling. Planetfall raises intensely personal reactions, so I don't know what it will mean for you. Maybe it will provide a glimpse of the struggle of living with a disorder; maybe the agonies of being
"Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of guilt and reminiscence"
will just be incomprehensible or frustrating or alien. But for me, even though the story takes place on a gloriously alien world, it was simply, utterly, heartbreakingly real.(show spoiler)
The story starts when Ren, a visengineer colonist on an alien planet, is summoned to greet a stranger to the town. But this stranger isn't just an unforeseen survivor of one of the colony's fallen ships. He's also the grandson of the Pathfinder, the vanished visionary who led the colony. All too soon, the stranger's arrival disrupts the fragile peace of the colony and brings to light secrets that have been hidden for decades.
I can't really describe the things I loved about this book without spoilers, so forgive my vagaries. I loved Ren. She's insightful and blinded and jaw-clenchingly frustrating and achingly sympathetic. I adored her sharp little asides, such as:
"I think 'majority' is one of my least favorite words. It's so often used to justify bad decisions."
The language of the story is simply lyrical, and I found myself highlighting far more quotes than I could ever include in a review. I loved the exploration of self, of the multitude of facets that make up each personality. As one character puts it,
"Where am I among all these parts? Am I just a mosaic of myself, held in the shape of a whole person? Perhaps the cracks are too tiny for people to notice."
But what happens when the cracks begin to widen?
"That scared me more than anything, sometimes; the noise of my thoughts, the sense that even the space inside myself wasn't safe."
One of the primary themes, which manifests itself in a multitude of ways, is trying to save the broken from destruction. As Ren says,
"We were all just little broken things, trying so hard to protect ourselves when all we were doing was keeping ourselves blind and alone."
The book held me rapt from start to finish. Like the people of the colony, the story is intimately connected with its environment, yet it is also so much more. The book is so intensely personal that I don't know what it will mean for you, but I hope you find it as heartrending and achingly perfect as I did.
~~I received this book through Netgalley from the publisher, Penguin Group Berkeley, in exchange for my honest review. Quotes are taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final versions, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~