A promising but disappointing new science fiction novel

science fiction novel

Renata Ghali, known to all as Ren, is seventy years of age and expects to live to two hundred. Like the thousand others in the tiny colony they’ve established on an unnamed, Earth-like planet, she is plugged into a cloud-based network through an implant in her brain. Her vision is enhanced by a bio-engineered lens. Ren lives in a home she built out of living, biological materials that enables her to live without creating waste or requiring energy beyond what the skin of her house can absorb from the sun. In fact, all the homes in the colony are similar. Ren, the community’s engineer, built them all.

An ingenious picture of humanity’s future

These and other aspects of the world Emma Newman has created in her new novel, Planetfall, represent an ingenious picture of humanity’s future, one that is based on foreseeable advances in science and technology. This promising landscape might have formed the backdrop for a fascinating work of speculative fiction. Instead, however, Newman veers off into metaphysics and fantasy about a mysterious alien structure that looms above the colony. The colonists call it “God’s city.” We’re informed that the colony was planted here because Ren’s former lover, Lee Suh-Mi, woke from a coma twenty-two years ago with a vision that God lived on this planet. For some unstated reason, a thousand people, most of them superbly capable scientists, elected to follow her to this distant planet.


Planetfall (Planetfall #1) by Emma Newman @@@ (3 out of 5)


Science fiction should be psychologically credible

Does any of this sound likely? Not to me. Despite the many troubles they left behind on Earth, it’s far too much of a stretch to believe that highly educated scientists would fall for Lee’s delusion. Then dissension breaks out in the colony shortly after Lee’s grandson, Lee Sung-Soo, mysteriously walks into the community — mysteriously, because Ren and everyone else in this unnamed settlement believed that all the other would-be colonists who traveled with them died twenty-two years ago. The action that ensues — and there’s plenty of it — is equally difficult to believe. Science fiction frees us to speculate about science, technology, and future social and political trends, but, like fiction in any genre, it needs to be based on credible psychology. This book isn’t.

About the author

Emma Newman is a young British science fiction and fantasy writer best known for a series of fantasy novels. Planetfall is her fifth novel.

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