#RRSciFiMonth Book Review: After Atlas by Emma Newman + Giveaway
***The giveaway is now over, thanks to everyone who entered!***
Sci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Rinn Reads and Over The Effing Rainbow this year, created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction! From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it is intended to help science fiction lovers share their love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Stand Alone/Book 2 of Planetfall
Publisher: Roc (November 8, 2016)
Length: 336 pages
While After Atlas takes place in the same cosmos as Planetfall, it is more accurate to call it a companion novel than a true sequel. If you were like me and were confused by the ending of the first book, I’m afraid you’ll not find many answers here. There are mentions to previous events, but at best the link between the two novels are tenuous, with After Atlas following a new protagonist, featuring a completely new scenario in a new setting, and even the story’s tone and style are completely different.
Of course, even if this isn’t the direct sequel you’d hoped for, there’s still plenty of good news. It means After Atlas can be read as a standalone, for one thing. And out of all the books I’ve read by Emma Newman so far, I have to say this was hands down my favorite one of all. It’s quite a departure from her The Split Worlds series and even Planetfall, but that’s what I really enjoyed about it, and how the story dug its hooks under my skin so that even now, days later, I’m still reeling from that punch-drunk sensation I get when I finish an amazing book.
After Atlas introduces us to Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno who went into law enforcement not because he chose that career for himself, but because his contract was bought by Norope’s Ministry of Justice. When Carlos was just a baby, his mother left on the spaceship Atlas along with her fellow faithful to seek God among the stars, leaving her son with her bereft husband. The two of them soon ended up with the Circle, a religious cult led by the charismatic Alejandro Casales, a man whose calling has led him to gather the scientists left behind by Atlas and to heal their shattered families. But living at the Circle had its costs. Alejandro advocated a simple life for his followers, forsaking technology in order to appreciate the meaning behind one’s own hard work and endeavors. When Carlos became a teenager, he chafed against these rules, so he ran away.
Penniless, un-chipped, and innocent of the ways of the world, Carlos sadly ended up in the hands of human traffickers, which is how he came to be trapped in his indentured servitude. Life could be much worse than working for the MoJ though, so Carlos makes sure to do his job well and not cause any trouble lest he adds more years onto his contract. However, the very moment he finds out about his newest case, he knows that things could only go badly. An American VIP has been found murdered and hacked to pieces in a high-class hotel, and the victim is none other than Circle leader Alejandro Casales, a man Carlos once respected and loved even more than his own father.
What follows next is an exciting and suspenseful police procedural. While it is as far as you can get from the mysticism and colonization sci-fi we saw from Planetfall, the straight-up mystery of After Atlas worked a lot better for yours truly, a self-professed fan of science fiction noir. As far as I know, this is the first time the author has written anything like this, and boy does she have the touch. Best of all, she has made use of her futuristic setting and incorporated its science and technology fully, equipping Carlos and his team with the use of advanced AI and virtual reality. But even with all this helpful tech, the case involving Alejandro remains a tough nut to crack, thus much of the story’s impetus actually comes from our protagonist’s inquisitive personality and his own personal stakes in finding out the truth.
Which brings us to Carlos, our gifted but somewhat surly detective. His personality at the start will likely turn some folks off, but before long we will find out more about his past and understand why he might be so private and standoffish. Gradually we also come to grasp the significance of Alejandro’s death and how Carlos’ love-hate relationship with the murdered Circle leader will affect the course of the investigation. I thought Newman handled this aspect of the book particularly well, adding an extra dimension to the already stretched emotions surrounding the case.
Regarding the links to Planetfall, I mentioned before that they are few and tenuous, but readers who want the full picture might want to read the previous book before tackling After Atlas. This story takes place forty years after the Atlas spaceship departed earth with the Pathfinder and her followers, and weeks from now the time capsule that they left is scheduled to be opened. This aspect of the book might come across a tad confusing if you haven’t read Planetfall, but fear not for everything will be sufficiently explained so that the shocking ending of After Atlas will ultimately have the desired impact. As you might recall, the biggest problem I had with Planetfall was the last 10% of the book, and once more I can’t help but think that the final chapter of After Atlas will be the greatest point of contention among readers. Once again, I felt that the conclusion was rushed, but at least this time the end brought a stronger sense of closure—even if winded up shaking me to the core.
Nothing can stop me from recommending this book, though. Emma Newman has written a police procedural like she was born to this genre, laying out the clues and following up on all the leads before pulling everything together for a stunner, the way a composer conducts the many parts of an orchestra to build her symphony into a climax. After Atlas is a wonderfully gripping novel if you enjoy these kinds of stories, and for me it was one of the best I’ve ever read.
After Atlas Giveaway
Our Sci-Fi Month giveaway blitz continues, this time courtesy of the awesome folks at Roc Books! Here’s your chance to win this excellent standalone companion novel to last year’s Planetfall by acclaimed author Emma Newman. With thanks to the publisher, The BiblioSanctum is hosting a giveaway for one print copy of After Atlas. This giveaway is open to addresses in the US. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “AFTER ATLAS” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Friday, November 18, 2016 and we’ll take care of the rest.
Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winners and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.
So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!