Gaylaxicon Spectrum Award nominee
In the wake of the Trump election, I’ve decided to change the focus of my book reviews. From here on out, everything is going to be SUPER-DUPER, DOUBLE-PLUS QUEER. Much like myself. Only in book review form.
That being said, I can’t say I found Planetfall to be super-duper queer. It was, instead, quietly and unassumingly lesbian.
Love is central to the story, but in a past-tense sort of way. Renata Gahli, better known as Ren, followed her lover Lee Suh-Mei on a kind of spiritual quest into space. There are several points in Planetfall that require you to loosen your suspenders of disbelief, and one of them is how everyone ended up on this particular planet. It involves a space seed. Like, literally. And a figuratively space seeded humanity… which could have been the part in the book where I threw it across the room.
But, thing is, I liked this book despite its deep, deep flaws.
The thing that saved this book for me is that I found Ren engaging. Ren is a character that rarely takes the lead role in a novel because she’s deeply and severely broken. Even though some of the depths of Ren’s problems stay hidden from the reader until near the end, you can tell that something is very wrong with her. Ren is socially anxious. She doesn’t do people in a way that feels very, dare I say, current? She’s the sort of heroine who skips the party to hide under a blanket fort. In a weird way, that’s very relatable. I know a lot of people a lot like Ren, and getting into her head felt oddly familiar–yet enough different from me to be fascinating.
I could see, however, Ren driving a reader-who-is-not-me crazy. She doesn’t have a lot of what writers call “agency.” She gets pushed around by the colony’s ringleader, Mack. She keeps secrets she should be brave enough not to, especially since they clearly contribute to her mental illness. Ultimately, at that point when you want a hero to do the hero thing, she looks at the situation and basically thinks, “In a videogame, I’d totally take out the guards and save all the people, but–whelp, this is real life, so I guess they’re doomed.”
And, yeah, no, she doesn’t save them. Ren doesn’t do hero, either. Not at all.
Yet, I still liked her. She’s smart and nerdy and some of the things fueling her anxiety are, for me, deeply relatable. In a strange way this book reminded me of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. The plot seemed somewhat secondary to the characters interactions and the details and minutia of colony life.
This book was as flawed as Ren, but just like the character, I liked it despite itself.