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review 2018-05-27 18:28
Not what I expected from the second book and totally delighted
After Atlas (Planetfall Novel, A) - Emma Newman

If Planetfall was sci-fi that read as lit-fic, After Atlas was sci-fi that read as a straight up murder mystery. I really didn’t expect that kind of a shift, but if anything, I think I liked this book even more because I’m a sucker for a good mystery.


At the beginning, it seems like After Atlas is only tangentally connected to the first book. Forty years ago the main character’s mother left him and his father to go into space with the resulting tale of book 1. And while the effects on those left behind come into play, this book could be read on its own and still enjoyed.


Newman continues her exploration of the themes of loss and grief in this book. While Carlos doesn’t believe he was shaped by his mother’s departure, having only been a baby with no memory of her, the deeper he goes into this journey, the more he is forced to confront the choices and mindset that have led him to this point.


I couldn’t put the book down. There was a lyrical beauty to the writing that reminded me of one of my favourite mystery authors, Tana French. Both are so specific and evocative with the minutae of environment and both force their MCs up against painful revelations they’ve tried hard to deny.


Even if sci-fi isn’t your thing, pick up After Atlas if you enjoy a riveting mystery.

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review 2018-05-20 16:54
Not what I expected
Planetfall - Emma Newman

There was so much grief and loss permeating this book that it became this palpable living entity I found myself needing to understand. And the revelations around it are doled out as slowly as the mystery around why the newcomer to this society has the potential to unleash deeply buried secrets.


It created a pressure cooker where I was desperate for each new glimpse into the backstory of both Ren and what had happened when they first landed. The slow pace of this unravelling worked because the day-to-day insights of this society were compelling enough on their own.


Ren was an excellent character not often portrayed in the sci-fi I’ve read: queer, a person of colour, and struggling with a compulsive disorder. While I found her hugely sympathetic, there was always an emotional distance from her which worked for me, as it fed into the tone as a whole of never being able to relax enough and know what was going on.


My only hesitation around the book is the ending. I’d like to trust that this is all part of Newman’s “big picture” plan, however book two seems to focus on an entirely different character. However, I am going to continue the series because I am still very happy to be led through this world.

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review 2018-05-01 00:06
Planetfall by Emma Newman (audiobook)
Planetfall - Emma Newman

If you want some explanations, it's probably best to read my original review. To sum up: strange abandoned alien city on alien planet; the human expedition to check it out has formed a colony at its base.


The few weaknesses I experienced the first time around didn't bother me at all this time. Maybe it was the audio? Emma Newman's reading makes it all seem wonderful and natural. And I feel she handles Ren's anxiety very well. I loved seeing the colony through Ren's eyes. I also had a slightly different take on the characters this time around.


I know some people aren't all that fussed about this book, but I think it's awesome.


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review 2018-04-26 19:59
Planetfall - Emma Newman

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

Science fiction that is more of the social kind than hard, as in, while it was easy to imagine how the colony ran, the story focuses on the main character and her relationships with other people, rather than on a lot of technology. In a way, I liked this aspect, but on the other hand, with Ren being pretty much a recluse, her interactions weren’t always so developed; in the end, I’m not exactly sure what to think of it.

The storuy revolves around Ren, and in a certain measure Mack and Sung-Soo. More than 20 years ago, Ren and Mack embarked on an expedition throughout the stars to find another planet, guided by Lee Suh-Mi, who determined that planet’s location after waking up from a coma. After landfall, they found a strange structure they quickly nicknamed God’s city, into which Suh-Mi walked in, never to come out. Since that time, every year sees a ritual, almost religious ceremony take place, which will last until the day Suh comes out again. Only it quickly becomes apparent that this is all based on lies crafted by Mack and upheld by Ren, for fear that without it, the community’s union and focus will collapse, and the colony will be destroyed.

I spent most of my reading torn when it came to Ren as a character and narrator. It’s obvious that while she’s competent in her job, she’s also broken in quite a few ways (her reclusiveness, the reason why she never lets anyone into her home, the mental disorder she’s been developing due to all the stress and lies piling up), and this made her touching; you can tell from the early chapters on that she’d endured trauma and has been coping and suffering all by herself, ashamed of her choices, then refusing to look at them, then not even realising anymore that she had a problem (one that is all the more important that all the things she hoards are materials that can’t get recycled to fuel the colony). Yet at the same time, it was difficult to relate to her and to really care about her, probably she keeps people at a distance. Also, due to the latter, the other characters never really came into focus: Nick remains ‘the guy who’s in because he had money’, Carmen is ‘that annoying religion-obsessed woman’, and so on.

The foundations of the colony, too, were of a kind that made me cringe. Let’s be honest, I’m not a religious person, and basing such a whole expedition on ‘finding God’ (with the potential consequence that, if the religious aspect is destroyed, everything else is, too) seemed, I don’t know, flimsy. Deeply, I believe that what a society needs is ethics, and not religion: the latter can too quickly devolve. Which makes Mack’s lies and fears sort of understandable, if not justified, considering all everything goes to the dogs when the lies are revealed (because they will be, that’s half the plot, after all). In the end, I found myself not caring whether the colony collapsed or not.

Still, I enjoyed the world-building: the author didn’t need to explain a lot for me to picture this world, with its self-sufficient, half-living houses, built at the foot of that bizarre organic city that will kill whoever gets too deep inside. And while I kind of guessed quickly what the big secret was (it got dragged for a little too long as well), trying to imagine what happened to the people in the other pods was also enjoyable. The writing style itself was pleasant, and I never struggled with it. Besides, it looks like there’s much diversity in that colony, but it’s never presented in a heavy-handed way (‘oh, look, people of colour!’). Ren as I perceive her is likely black or close to, the founder/pathfinder is Korean, several other are probably of Indian or Pakistani origin, it’s not ye olde average colony full of white men only, and it’s also not emphasised: these people all come from different backgrounds and areas of the world, and it’s normal, and it’s normal that it’s normal because why would you ever expect anything else? In other words, the book doesn’t feel the need to justify anything about it, which is great.

The ending is somewhat controversial. I think I liked it, in general; it feels like giving up, and it leaves quite a few things unexplained when it comes to God’s city, but it was strangely fitting (with Ren having to first strip herself of everything that was dragging her down, in order to understand what they had refused or been unable to see in the beginning). However, I also think that some parts of the plot were not sufficiently explained, or dealt with too quickly, especially the part about Sung-Soo; had this been better strung into the narrative, its impact would have been different.

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text 2018-04-26 03:46
Reading progress update: I've read 44%.
Planetfall - Emma Newman

I keep wanting to quote this book but I listen to it while doing other things so it's not really convenient. Plus I'm not sure how isolated quotes would come across. Newman manages to convey Ren's anxiety in such a way that I can relate to her despite not necessarily feeling the way she does about the world and I just want to give her a hug although of course I wouldn't because she would find that invasive. If anything I find her voice more intense via audio.


Seriously, this book brings out ALL THE FEELS, even on a reread.


On a side note so far the book doesn't mention a character that left behind a baby so maybe I didn't miss it like I thought. I still couldn't remember which character it was from the first book though and now I can't be sure about which character it was from the second... Shrug.


Since the book was hard for Emma Newman to write, I wonder if the audio was hard for her to read?

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