Post-Holiday Reading: Planetfall

OK, it's actually an upside down sunset. Still pretty cool!
Image from Flickr user Carl Milner

This was a very book-themed holiday season for me. Between immediate and extended family and my in-laws, I picked up nine new books. They should merge well with my goal of replacing some screen time with page time.

(Also, they and the new day job mean that the S.H.A.K.E.S.P.E.A.R.E. project has been put on indefinite hold. Since we weren’t very far in, I don’t think anyone will be too disappointed.)

A couple books are more related to my day-job work, but most of them should play well with this space. The first one I jumped into was Emma Newman’s Planetfall.

I’ll preface what follows by saying that I’m a big fan of most stories about space colonies. There’s something about that combination of high-tech exploration, frontier adventure, and city-in-a-bottle social dynamics that really captures my imagination. Planetfall captures a bunch of that, but also adds some additional factors that mean I’ll be coming back to it at least a few more times in an attempt to grok everything it’s doing. [No intentional spoilers follow, but those who want to read the book “cleanly” might want to skip the rest of this post.]

A smattering of pieces that caught my attention:

  • The book is narrated in the first person by a character who’s not neurotypical in some specific ways I don’t have much personal experience with. Some might call her an unreliable narrator, but I prefer to think of her as reliable through a lens quite different from my own.
  • A not-insignificant amount of the social worldbuilding in the book relates to ideas of religion and social construction that are occasionally oblique but always interesting. These ideas will be one of the reasons I return to the book.
  • The relationship between technology and privilege – most directly in the treatment of both 3D printing and medicine, but also in other ways – is explored periodically over the course of the story. It might be a bit cliché to invoke at this point the Gibsonian notion that the future is already here, just unevenly distributed, but it certainly applies. There’s at least one whole parallel story to be told in this universe exploring that notion.

The overall path of the story wasn’t quite what I expected, which is another reason I want to go back and read it now that I have a better idea about where it’s all headed. That re-read will have to wait at least until I’ve made it through the rest of the books, though; there’s so much goodness to look forward to!

(For those interested, I just finished Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs, with Terry Pratchett’s Mort, N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, and Chuck Wendig’s Zer0es yet to go on the fiction front. In nonfiction, there’s Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile and Brian Upton’s The Aesthetic of Play.)