TBR Day. Ghost Planet / Sharon Lynn Fisher. 2012
This month's theme is books that received lots of hype. I don't really have anything like that in my TBR pile, so I decided to go off in a totally different direction and review the first SF romance I've read in ages. This book was a finalist this year in the RITAs and the description was intriguing so I picked it up several months ago. I finally read it this weekend and I really, really liked it. Fisher was nominated in the "Best First Book" category. If this is her first book, I'm definitely looking forward to more.
Earth is in a bad way as the environment has become extremely toxic. A new world has opened up that has incredible potential to provide the sustenance Earth needs. But there's a very strange phenomenon on this planet. Whenever a new human arrives on the planet, someone from that person's past is reincarnated into a very human-like body and is somehow tethered to their human. Everyone has a "ghost" trailing behind them. The ghost is fully aware of who he/she used to be. Yet for the human, it can be extremely unsettling to have this person trailing around behind them. It's one thing if your ghost is a beloved spouse or an old friend. It's another if your ghost is an abusive parent. So a Ghost Protocol has been initiated to keep ghosts in the background, shunned and ignored. Ghosts become pale imitations of the humans they used to be.
Elizabeth Cole is a psychologist who has traveled to this new world to work with the psychologists who help people acclimate and learn how to deal with their ghosts. When the book opens she meets Murphy, her new boss and creator of the protocol. It turns out they'd met once before, back on earth. There's an instant attraction between them. And then it turns out that Elizabeth died when her ship crash-landed and Elizabeth is a ghost--tethered to, of all people, Murphy. Elizabeth goes instantly from being a welcomed and respected new colleague to being shunted to the side. And Elizabeth isn't going to take it lying down.
As Elizabeth digs deep to discover what exactly it means to be a ghost, she manages to get Murphy to really look at her and not ignore her. Their attraction deepens and it becomes imperative to understand the nature of their symbiotic relationship and the ramifications that has for the development of the planet. Meanwhile there are other people at work who want to exploit the ghosts and the planet's resources for commercial gain.
A book about reincarnating the dead brings up numerous interesting questions. Fisher doesn't necessarily answer all of those questions, but she does delve into issues of control and responsibility for those who didn't ask to find themselves in the position of being a ghost. It was particularly interesting to see that the treatment of the ghosts was important to the planet's ability to be developed for humans to use.
The book is in 1st person from Elizabeth's POV. This is perfect for seeing her dismay, confusion, and anger upon realizing she's a ghost. It's also great for seeing her wrestle for the control over her own life that was lost when she "died." I enjoyed the romance that developed between her and Murphy just as much as I enjoyed the world Fisher created. Frankly, I'd love to see more books set here, although it doesn't appear right now that Fisher is going to do that. Still, what a lovely debut. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes SciFi Romance.