At some point in the future, humans have left Earth and established a colony on a new planet in a different galaxy. Something traumatic has happened in the colony’s past, but few people actually know the truth of it all, and the story becomes clouded by a newly established religion. There are secrets and betrayals and a deep look into mental illness that I’ve never seen in any other science fiction novel. And when a stranger arrives in the colony, the delicate balance struck by the colonists is shattered.
I hate spoilers. And there isn’t much I can say that isn’t going to spoil the book (at least, in my opinion), and I believe everyone should come to this book a blank slate. It should fill you up with wonder, and you should travel the path it takes you down completely uninfluenced. But I also realize that I can’t really write a review without touching on some of the events that transpire. So, go read the book and then come back so we can talk about it.
Ren, the protagonist, is infinitely human and easy to identify with. Her voice feels authentic, and her reactions to the relative isolation of being the only intelligent beings on an empty planet too far from Earth to ever go back resonate. The world building is as precise as I imagine the technology the colonies rely on to be. And so believable. The economy is heavily reliant on implanted chips, 3D printing, colony-wide networks, and recycling, and it feels completely drawn from current trends in technology we’re seeing right now. Everyone selected to be a part of this colony has a very specific skill he or she contributes to the society.
As cool as the tech is, for me, the most important part of this novel is the psychological insight we have on Ren. As we’re drawn deeper into the story, we’re also drawn further into the emotions of Ren and damaging effects certain events have had on her. We learn about her mind just as she’s learning about her mind. And in parallel of this is her exploration of the God city – a seemingly alive structure outside of the colony held in reverence by the colonists. And the end – wow. It will just leave you with so much to think about.
My only criticism is how rushed the end felt, but I read an early copy that I received from the editor back in July, so I’m hoping that gets smoothed out a bit before publication. But even so, this is a beautiful novel, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t collect some award nominations.