Genre: Adult Science Fiction Romance
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction
Release date: October 30 2012
Ghost Planet starts off with a fascinating concept: every person who lives on the planet of Ardagh 1 has an alien attached to them, and the alien is identical to someone in their life who has died. I’ll have to admit it took me a while to wrap my brain around this idea. These creatures are not, in fact, ghosts. Each believes he is the human he represents and is able to do just about anything a human can do: eat, touch, feel pain and emotions, and fall in love. But there are a couple of catches: the ghost will feel extreme pain if he isn’t within a certain distance of his host at all times, as the invisible bond that tethers them together can only stretch so far; and a directive called the Ghost Protocol prohibits ghosts and humans from interacting with each other in any way. With this concept, Fisher has set up a marvelous dilemma for her characters, and the themes she explores are complex and thought-provoking. Oh, and did I mention this is also a romance?
The story begins as psychologist Elizabeth Cole begins a new job on the recently colonized planet of Ardagh 1. Upon arrival she meets her supervisor, the very attractive Irishman Grayson Murphy, the man responsible for the Ghost Protocol that drives the behavior of those on the planet. Elizabeth is instantly attracted to Murphy, but Fisher throws a wrench into the story with a brilliant twist in the first chapter: it turns out that Elizabeth has actually died in a transporter accident on her way to the planet, and she is now Murphy’s ghost. What makes this crazy concept so intriguing is that Elizabeth doesn’t even know she’s dead until some tells her. Murphy is now forced to abide by his own rules and ignore Elizabeth, but she has other ideas.
Accepting her fate is difficult, but rather than wallow in self-pity, Elizabeth sets her scientific mind on the path to solving her problems, the immediate one being that the man who she has developed a fondness for won’t talk to her. She soon meets up with another ghost named Ian and forms a wonderful friendship with him, and together they delve into Elizabeth’s theories about symbiosis between ghosts and colonists. If Elizabeth’s hunch is correct, the ghosts will be able to separate from their colonists and live free instead of being chained to someone else’s life.
But not everyone wants this to happen, and soon the different factions on Ardagh 1 are battling to gain control of the planet. Elizabeth and Murphy find themselves in danger more than once as they try to figure out the connection between ghosts and humans, discover the secret to separation, and save the planet at the same time.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot. A lot happens in this book, and I would hate to ruin any reader’s discovery of the many wonderful elements of Ghost Planet. I absolutely loved Elizabeth and Murphy. Their growing relationship, despite the ghost protocol, was so well done, and Fisher has a splendid talent for dialog. The banter between the two is playful, sweet and sexy, and just as in real life, they go through many up and downs before things work themselves out. Elizabeth is just the kind of heroine I love: strong, curious and extremely intelligent.
The ghosts themselves are such an interesting invention. The only physical difference they have from their human counterparts is their yellow eyes, and it’s the one thing that reminds the colonists that they are in fact dealing with aliens. Ghosts also come back when they die (yes, you read that correctly!). More than one ghost is killed during the story, and is resurrected shortly after with very little memory of its life before. There is much speculation among Elizabeth, Murphy and Ian over how each ghost is chosen to be with a colonist, but they never really come to any firm conclusions. It remains a puzzle to the end. It was the one issue I had with the book that didn’t quite bump it up to a five-star review. Although Fisher hints at the reasons behind the alien/ghost/human relationship, my non-scientific brain wanted a little more explanation.
But this book is filled with so many strange and wondrous ideas that will charm everyone who loves good science fiction. One of my favorite parts is when Elizabeth and Murphy discover that when they ignore the Ghost Protocol and spend time together interacting, plants begin springing up around them, even inside their apartment.
Ghost Planet has everything: romance, action, danger and betrayal, and laced in among the entertaining and fast-moving plot are some puzzling questions about the nature of relationships and how human interaction can possibly save a planet. This is also a cautionary tale about the destruction of our environment and what might happen if we don’t work together. Despite the sometimes grim warnings, by the end of the book I felt something that I wish more books made me feel: hopeful.
Many thanks to the publisher, Tor Science Fiction, for supplying a review copy.
I’ll be participating in the Blog Tour for Ghost Planet next month, so make sure to stop by and read my interview with Sharon Lynn Fisher and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book!