This book was SO AGGRAVATING! The first half was interesting, and it tackled mental health in a way I hadn’t seen from a sci-fi book before, and then the ending was just MADDENING.
Twenty years ago, a group of scientists and pilgrims left Earth for reasons I thought would be explained but weren’t. (I thought they were fleeing from some kind of planet-ending doom, but then it seemed like not? They just got the traveling bug?) A scientist named Suh had a vision/dream of some coordinates she decided were from God, and thousands of people said “Oh, okay, cool! We’ll give up our entire lives and come along.” They called Suh the Pathfinder. Ren, our main character, helped Suh (her friend and roommate) build the ship that took them to the coordinates, where indeed there was a planet that could sustain human life. Except a tragedy happened after they landed and discovered an organic growing city, so now Suh is gone, and a couple of shuttles didn’t make it through the landing (or Planetfall).
In the current time, Ren and Mack, the leader of their settlement, find a young man at the borders of their community. He claims to be the son of one of the other shuttle inhabitants, thought to be dead these twenty years. They welcome this mystery Sung-Soo in, and Ren is immediately uncomfortable with how interested he is in her and her home, which she doesn’t let people enter. He finally bullies his way in, and she’s a hoarder! This was an interesting take I’d never seen tackled in a sci-fi book before. In a small colony where everything is recycled and every community member has their allotment of supplies, hoarding is a big deal. Ren has been ‘rescuing’ objects from the recycler and fudging the logs, justifying it by saying she’ll fix all these things ‘someday.’ Sung-Soo knowing her secret is a big deal.
If this had been it, it could have been an interesting book. I liked the slowly unfolding mystery of what happened to the Pathfinder, although I would have liked more backstory on what happened on Earth to make them leave, and some more info on what the heck God’s city actually was. It’s this goopy organic growing changing mound of tubes and tendrils, that they only enter once a year for a ritual and then ignore the rest of the time. Watching the colonists who haven’t seen a stranger in 20 years react to Sung-Soo was nifty. There were many good pieces! But the end just threw it all away, so spoilers ahead!
SPOILERS! (I don’t know how to do the trick where you white out the text, sorry!)
You know when you’re getting close to the end of the book, and you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, there aren’t nearly enough pages left to properly wrap things up…” Don’t you hate that? No sequel, no series, just THE END. Right at the end, Sung-Soo and his merry band of other survivors who had been in hiding attack the colonists, killing Mack and anyone they think won’t be useful, and kidnapping everybody else. He tries to kidnap Ren, but she escapes into God’s city, so we never find out what the hell their plan was after they’ve blown up all the supplies and half the colonists. Because Ren goes into the gooey tendril city for the first time without any protective suit, gets into a secret room, finds an ancient dead person, magically realizes it’s her purpose to replace that dead person, climbs up onto the platform and the book ends. What?!? Why?!? Who was the dead person? Why did they need replaced? What was the city, and how did it call the Pathfinder there from Earth? And why? Too many questions, not enough explanations, and then just a completely abrupt final page, which is even more annoying after a setup with so much potential.