Planetfall by Emma Newman is a remarkable novel about grief and trauma and mental illness that happens to be set in space. Somewhere in the cosmos, Renata Ghali is part of a group of hardy explorers who have built a colony on an unnamed planet. They have made this journey because another woman, Lee Suh-Mi had a vision that led them to this unknown place at the base of a mysterious alien structure. But, there is a secret about who survived the planetfall and who did not and why. When a stranger shows up, Ren is forced to confront the past and the terrible secret she has carried for more than twenty years. The life she has built threatens to collapse as her sanity unravels.
There is so much to admire in this novel—Newman is a master at world building and creating a possible future. Ren is a visengineer, the colony expert in 3D printing, which is how the colonists build what they need to survive and Newman illustrates this innovation with fantastic authority and detail. Alongside the world building, much is treated as fact, a bold authorial choice in this genre. Space travel, for example, is taken for granted, leaving us free to marvel at Newman’s fascinating characters and the deft touch she brings to revealing the uncanny lives they are living.