“Places science fiction tropes in the background to present one of the most human tales I have read for a long time.”
Author: Emma Newman
I have come to expect certain things from science fiction literature, certain tropes that reoccur that act as a safety blanket, allowing the reader to slip seamlessly into the world created due to its similarities with other examples of the genre. Planetfall pulled this blanket out from under me as, instead of focusing on the more fantastical elements of the Science Fiction classification, it treated me to one of the most human novels I have read for a long time.
Humanity is flawed, I think we can all agree, but this is the first sci fi book I have read that explores a certain type of flaw within the human condition. Usually books of this ilk focus on greed, power, or even fear; yet Planetfall chooses something a lot more personal, and a lot more realistic.
The idea of secrets is a main plot thread throughout yet this is not what fascinated me about this book; the secrets aren't the flaw in the human condition, but the results caused by their psychological toll are. By focusing on this specific attribute I became incredibly absorbed in the actions of the main character, Ren. In real life I know someone who suffers in a similar way to that of Ren, but seeing that most tragic of human conditions transported into such a genre was an unusual and ultimately welcomed surprise.
Author Emma Newman handles the subject manner with an honesty that lesser authors lack, showing it in a truthful light, allowing us to see how it can come about. Despite used as a plot element it is done with grace, giving us the full picture needed to understand why such a thing often occurs.
Now don't get me wrong, the things we have come to love with science fiction are ever present, however by placing them in the background it gives the book space to explore the humanity of its main character. Instead of a full explanation of this world we are shown little bits of it, the characters guilt offering us snapshots, puzzle pieces that we slowly collect and put together throughout the length of the book.
Despite not getting all of the answers by the last page I didn't feel shortchanged, this book is obviously a part of a series yet, unlike other novels that have tried such a thing, I can happily take this as a stand alone entry; the vagueness of the characters surroundings and her interpretation of them presented well enough that I wasn't frustrated by the last page, instead looking forward to the next instalment.
So, even though this book sits firmly within the realms of science fiction, Emma Newman has created a wonderfully human tale that shows the damage that secrets can have on the human condition in a manner that is truthful and graceful.