PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune

After Atlas is the sequel of sorts to Emma Newman’s previous science fiction novel, Planetfall. By which we mean that though After Atlas is set in the same near-future dystopia as Planetfall, it’s a different story focusing on different characters.

Those expecting an encore to the critically-acclaimed Plantefall will be both delighted and disappointed; this is a very different story, as you should expect. However, Newman’s beautiful writing style and powerful use of structure is every bit as present here as it is in the first novel. After Atlas works entirely fine as a standalone; the thrills are still as strong regardless of your experience with the author’s previous work.

The novel is set in a world in which mankind has pretty much ran out of available resources. Governments have merged with corporate interests in such a way that they are now one and the same. The brightest and best people in the world have left; they got their heads together long ago to work out a way to leave the Earth via a ship called the Atlas, in the hope of meeting a newly discovered alien life.

After Atlas’ main character is a chap called Carlos Moreno. His mother left to board the Atlas when he was a small boy, and his father couldn’t cope with being abandoned. These tragic circumstances lead to Carlos becoming a highly-trained detective for GovCorp. Unluckily for Carlos, the same training means that he’s indentured to the state. Things make a turn for a worse when the earth-bound leader of the group that went away into space turns up dead. Carlos is the only one truly qualified to investigate the murder, yet at the same time the person with the most emotional baggage related to the case.

What Newman has created here is a lovely locked room mystery in which the stakes are incredibly high and the world is so very engaging. Whereas Planetfall felt liked a ragged scream in the dark at times, After Atlas feels like a more rational response to a dying Earth. Carlos’ emotional journey is rational and yet utterly gripping. This is a tale about bargaining with the untenable and finding the strength to keep going no matter what. The protagonist is a man with nothing, and yet somehow he still has something to lose. Emma Newman creates addictive page turners, and this is another fine example of that.

Expect to see this book on various award shortlists in 2017. It’s that good.



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