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Planetfall #2

After Atlas

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Acclaimed author Emma Newman returns to the captivating universe she created in Planetfall with a stunning science fiction mystery where one man’s murder is much more than it seems...

Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.

To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realizes that escaping the past is not so easy. There’s more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realizes...

369 pages, Paperback

First published November 8, 2016

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About the author

Emma Newman

75 books1,678 followers
Emma Newman writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels.

'Between Two Thorns', the first book in Emma's Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the BFS Best Novel and Best Newcomer awards.

Emma's latest book, Planetfall, is a standalone science fiction novel published by Roc.

Emma is a professional audiobook narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast 'Tea and Jeopardy' which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs. She blogs and gets up to all kinds of writing mischief at www.enewman.co.uk.

Emma has recorded audio books for publishers and short stories for fiction podcasts. To find out more about her voice work go to www.enewman.co.uk/voice. You can also find Emma on Twitter: @emapocalyptic

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 609 reviews
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,109 followers
January 18, 2019
This one was one rather huge surprise for me. I mean, I liked the exploration bits and the mental disability bits in the first novel. It felt genuine and fascinating.

But this one took on a whole different feel. Cyberpunk, a heavily populated society, massive injustice, social inequality, and institutionalized slavery based on credits and indenture. I loved this aspect. I felt harrowed and despairing even as I railed against it with our main character... who has been S*** upon for 23 years, dreams of decent meals, and lives a life equivalent to a labor camp... AS a murder investigator.

Say what? Yep, specialized training, a chip in his head, wide powers to hunt down mysteries... and yet he's still pretty much a slave.

Cool, right?

The characterizations are all fantastic, claustrophobic, and I FEEL the need to solve the murder if only to get my mind off my horrible situation. Ahem. I mean, the CHARACTER's situation. :)

As a full-on murder mystery, I had a great time. As a worldbuilding novel, I was fascinated by so many of these details... especially the Circle. But as a character novel, I think I loved it the best.

Very well worth the read and my personal favorite between the two novels and one novelette I read. :)
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,564 reviews2,937 followers
April 5, 2018
This is the second book this year I've given a full five stars to, and it's super well deserved. I really liked Planetfall, the first book set in this universe, but this one takes a fairly different approach and is much more of a police investigation than anything else. Our only real link to Planetfall is the fact that our main character, Carlos, is the son of a woman who left on the Atlas mission that we follow in Planetfall.

Carlos is now a grown up and we follow a bit about his daily life as he tries to work off his contract with the Govcorp who own him. He's had a pretty tough upbringing, from his mother leaving to journalists hounding him, and now to being 'owned'. There was also a time in between where his father was severely depressed and he had to take care of himself, and a bizarre religious cult called the Circle too. Despite all of this, Carlos is a pretty grounded guy and although he has a distinct need to see a case through to the end, he's a very good detective and is starting to get a decent(-ish) life together...until...

Carlos gets told he is going to have to work a case because his past and his current position make him the only person who can. One of the most prestigious Circle members has been found dead, and there is quite a lot of mutilation and horror to the scene. Carlos is drafted in by his owners and the Circle to help solve the crime and find out what really happened.

This world is Earth, but definitely a futuristic version. We have a whole new range of technology which includes printed food, internal AI head chips, virtual reality and more. There's also a lot more of a progressive society, with gay and non-binary characters included in the story (side-note, they aren't necessarily huge parts or the best representations, but the fact that they are there was a good thing I felt). I think the world itself was a major part of why I enjoyed this so fully, and it was filled with interesting ideas.

Overall, once the plot got going and the character was established I really enjoyed the book. It has some major twists and turns that I didn't see coming, and I think there DEFINITELY needs to be a direct sequel to this one because THAT ENDING... :O Luckily Before Mars is coming pretty soon and I am looking forward to it :D 5*s from me :)
Profile Image for Gabi.
698 reviews123 followers
June 28, 2020
This was excellent!

Like with "Planetfall" the end was a bit rushed, but like "Planetfall" I didn't care.

Emma Newman has the quite unique talent not only to understand people who are 'mentally other', but also the talent to write them in an authentic and relatable fashion that is rare. Very seldom I feel myself being represented in novels, here I feel at home and understood. This alone is worth all the stars for me.

Yet on top of a self-assured hand in character writing and development, Newman also creates a suspenseful crime story over a story of world politics on top of a story about abuse, slavery and loyalty. Her multilayered narration in "After Atlas" is so different from what I encountered in "Planetfall", that my first feeling was one of slight irritation. It begins as a classical whodunit crime investigation and then gets deeper into issues of humaness and faith.

The author manages to present twist upon twist and keeps up the suspension in a masterful way which let to me reading the whole book in one sitting. It literally did cost my sleep last night, cause I would not lay it down.

This feeling of all-around contentment is worth all the stars. Emma Newman, I love you! (and while I'm writing this review "Atlas Alone" already is open at my side and awaits reading)
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,635 followers
November 8, 2016
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/11/08/...

UPDATED: Sci-Fi Month Giveaway (US) for After Atlas running 11/8/16-11/18/16 https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/11/08/...

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.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,158 reviews312 followers
April 1, 2017
4.5 stars

I really liked this one. Although technically a sequel to Planetfall, instead of being set on the planet where the events of the last book took place, After Atlas is a crime novel set on Earth 40 years after the colonists of Planetfall departed.

I don't really read many crime novels or murder mysteries, but this one appealed to me. Newman's writing and characterisation are spot on, and captured a definite sense of gritty realism in the dystopian future she has created. As much as I wanted more of a true sequel to the first book, this one turned out to be incredibly satisfying as well.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
May 30, 2019


Emma “cool as the underside of the pillow” Newman has crafted this TASTY!! series Planetfall, and this is the SECOND!! in the series.


I HAVE STARTED SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN THE BEGINNING!! (I sometimes do things that don’t make sense)


Cause WAY COOL!! Emma has fashioned this sufficiently as a standalone that it was entertaining by itself. Like TANA FRENCH!! Emma has added to her world building while creating a cool police procedural within her somewhat DYSTOPIAN!! vision.

Like many AWESOME!! writers such as William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and Alistair Reynolds, Newman has looked ahead to a future where technology has dehumanized our society. But Newman has made this to be an empathetic and humanistic story with hard SF foundations. And like those other writers, while the surface story is COOL!!, the real hero here is Newman and her world building.

She’s taken WAGE SLAVE!! to a whole new level, reintroducing indentured servitude in a world where governments have melded into government-corporate entities where privacy and individual rights have become subservient to multinational organizations and multi-billionaires. Regional alliances have reformed historic boundaries and America’s religious isolationism has taken FULL BLOOM!!

When the leader of a religious cult is found BRUTALLY MURDERED!! our hero fights past tortured ANGST!! and corporate espionage to not only solve the crime but also get to the bottom of some global SHENANIGANS!!

Thank you, Ms. Newman, I’ll be reading MORE!!

Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,275 reviews227 followers
November 24, 2016
A detective story in a horrific dystopian future set in the Earth that was left behind by the Atlas in the book Planetfall.

Carlos Moreno is a detective and an indentured slave to the Norope Ministry of Justice. He's also one of the only people ever to leave the Circle, the cult that originated the Atlas spaceship that took off in search of God. Now, many years later, the leader of the Circle is dead and apparently murdered, and Carlos has been put in charge of the politically charged investigation.

Carlos is sympathetic and competent, much like Ren in Planetfall. The way that investigations are conducted in this world is fascinating and the implications of the sort of technology available to law enforcement here are profound. Reminiscent of Charles Stross's Halting State and Rule 34 in that regard. As to the collapse of democracy and the rise of neoliberty and its like ... well, November 2016 is not the best time to be reading about govcorps and indentured servitude to corporations. Or maybe it is the right time; it certainly feels much more impactful than it might have a month ago.

I can happily report a more satisfying ending to this though, although I still think the author has a problem with winding up her novels. This one, like Planetfall, felt like everything in the final part of the book happens very quickly after much more leisurely scene-setting for the first three quarters of it.
Profile Image for Carly.
456 reviews185 followers
October 8, 2016
After Atlas proves that, yes indeed, Emma Newman can do cyberpunk.

Good news: although it takes place in the same world as Newman's earlier novel, After Atlas can be read without Planetfall, and if the idea of a discussion of agency wrapped around a police procedural taking place in a world remade by gov-corps sounds appealing while an exploration of OCD on an alien planet does not, then I'd definitely recommend jumping straight ahead to After Atlas. You'll miss a certain amount of dramatic irony, but the worldbuilding and plot points should be entirely intelligible.

The narrator of After Atlas is Carlos, a police inspector for the Noropean Ministry of Justice. Carlos is also an indentured slave with few rights and little hope of freedom. After "the transition from pseudo-democracy into neoliberty," the new gov-corps tried their hands at solving the issues of poverty and homelessness in the most economical way they could think of: "nonpersons" are scooped off the streets and locked into "hot-houses," where their brains are crammed with skills so they can be sold to the highest bidder. Carlos is luckier than most, for the MoJ is a comparatively kindly master. He may not have the right to own property or be in a relationship or "cohabitate" or even take his own life, but he has one of the most advanced artificial personal assistants on the market and he truly loves solving problems. His newest case, however, takes him to a place he has no desire to explore: his own past, including the technology-shunning cult he grew up in and fled from.

I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid, gritty cyberpunk world that Newman created. People wander the streets of London gesticulating to thin air as they engage in virtual conversations with friends hundreds of miles away; others use their APAs to play augmented reality games or watch an endless stream of advertisements. Except for the very wealthy, almost all food is made-to-order from food printers. Resources are scarce, attention even scarcer. In such a world, Carlos's questions about agency are all too apt. As he puts it,
"Everybody is on a leash. Some are more obvious than others."

Like its predecessor, After Atlas is a compelling story. Approached as a mystery, it is perhaps rather lacking, both in terms of twists and in an ultimately satisfactory explanation. The story shines most in its examination of agency and choice, particularly coming from the perspective of a character who has so little of either. As an elite inspector, Carlos is fully of the disparity between the privileged world he appears to be a part of and his actual state of disempowerment:
"It was the constant cognitive dissonance of being so desperate to get out yet too scared to leave. Of being so afraid to fail yet wishing I did so it would all stop. Of being told I was lucky when I was being abused. Of hearing I was a valuable asset when I was being treated like a fucking object."
I don't know what exactly Emma Newman does to make her books so addictive, but I do know that I'm thoroughly hooked. It's not just that I love the worldbuilding; there's something about her stories and her style that I find utterly beguiling. Whether the next book takes place on Earth or on the world of Planetfall, count me in.

~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest review. Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final version, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~

Cross-posted on BookLikes.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,253 reviews182 followers
February 28, 2017
"Everybody is on a leash. Some are more obvious than others."

Just finished the book and I’m still reeling… Newman’s writing style is just so compelling. Once more, I was completely immersed in this world of hers, with its horrendous socio-political landscape and fascinating technology.

While Planetfall dealt with the religious travellers’ space expedition to find God and Meaning, After Atlas shows us the Earth they left, one in a pitiable state where resources, both natural and human, have nearly ran out, governments have merged with ruthless corporations only interested in profit, and where indentures are not uncommon. Carlos Moreno is one of these ‘slaves’, one working for the Ministry of Justice as a highly-trained detective, and our main character. Like Ren, he was immediately interesting, likeable and moving.

This novel, although still dealing with psychology, is quite different to the previous one and this is not just because of the change of setting. The narrative takes the shape of a murder mystery, that of the charismatic Alejandro Casales, head of a religious commune, who had once been attached to the Atlas project. Newman combines this with a portrayal of this bleak future and Carlos' personal journey, each strand deeply tied to each other and creating a gripping story.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books752 followers
December 9, 2020
OMG this was good. COMPLETELY different from Planetfall. I think you could likely read this as a standalone, but I think it felt a lot more gutwrenching knowing how that went first. YMMV.


This was a fantastically convoluted far-future police procedural. My one real gripe about Planetfall is that it fell apart in the end. This kept me from doing other things because I had to know how it would end. While that is fixed, the extreme depth of characters and trauma-driven health disorders I loved from the first book take center stage here as well, and just like before, it's compassionate and honest in its portrayal.

Yes sometimes it tried to hold my hand a bit too long through some of the revelations, and yes some of the narrator's turmoil was a bit melodramatic, but I love a brooding boy with no good options when it's drawn well and, well, long story short I think I'm now in a triplet with Carl and his crush. Love finds us unexpectedly sometimes, that's all I'll say.

Really, a riveting, dynamic story that flips so much of what we thought about in Planetfall on its head. Conversely, a really extremely good detective scifi story. Either way, this one's a winner.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,143 followers
November 21, 2020
4.5 stars. I almost decided not to continue with this series and I am glad I didn't. A scary but almost too realistic near future world looming in the background, while the main plot basically a detective story. I can't help but comparing this with Asimov's Robot series, but Carlos was a far more interesting (and sympathetic) figure than Elijah. What I loved most about this book are the little details of world building that played organically within the story and actively added to the tension right till the very end. It started quite slow and methodical, but, let's just say if this is a musical passage, it would be a crescendo. Definitely will continue to the next books.
Profile Image for Mieneke.
782 reviews85 followers
March 20, 2017
Let’s not bury the lede here: Emma Newman’s After Atlas is brilliant, you should all read it and I nominated it for a Hugo. Done. Everyone can go about their day. Or you can read on and find out why I loved this book so much.

As stated many times before, Emma Newman is one of my absolutely favourite authors. She can write fun and fluffy, she can write dark and deep and everything in between and have it be great—she’s that talented. After having loved her previous novel Planetfall , I came to After Atlas with high expectations. And while I was by no means disappointed, the book certainly wasn’t what I had expected based on its predecessor. Planetfall is definitely a mystery, as is After Atlas, and both books explore mental health themes. Yet where Planetfall is a mystery centred on what happened after First Planetfall and what exactly God’s City was, After Atlas is more of a straight murder mystery, which also explores the effects on those left behind by the pilgrims to God’s City.

After Atlas is set in the same universe as Planetfall, but doesn’t have any overlapping characters and is completely set on Earth. The situation forty years after Atlas left the planet is dire. Earth has been completely corporatised, with governments being run as corporations with a ruthless drive for profit, leaving those who cannot fend for themselves in a terrible lurch. Those who are caught as indigents are sent to “hot-houses” for reprogramming and after they’ve gone through the system they are sent into indentured servitude to pay off their “debt” to society. It is a horrible system and the indentured servitude is nothing more than slavery with the illusory hope that one can gain their freedom by paying back their debt. With surcharges for most basic human necessities, it is almost impossible for those in the system to earn their way out. Meanwhile, the gov-corps have complete control over their indentured servants and can force them to comply through a chip implanted in their head. Newman shows us the dangers of unchecked capitalism and how the well-being of the many will always be sacrificed to the interests of the few.

The implants are a fascinating element in both the plot and the world building. Newman deftly plays with the tension between the benefits such a chip can offer and the many ways it can be used to your detriment. The chip may allow you be constantly connected, but that also means you can always be monitored, if not through your own chip then through someone else’s. It’s the surveillance state taken to its ultimate extreme. Yet the chip also provides amazing things, such as the ‘Mersives, immersive games, and your own personal assistant in the for of an AI. In Carl’s case his AI is called Tia and she is fantastic. I loved how she really had her own personality and how she and Carl truly had a bond.

One person caught in indenture is Carl, or Carlos Moreno. His contract has been sold to Norope, where he’s been put to work as a SDCI with the Ministry of Justice. But the reason he landed in indenture and his history are intimately connected with the Atlas. Carl’s past is as important to the mystery of Alejandro Casales’ murder as is his present and I found the way Newman intertwined the two fascinating. We never learn much about Carl’s mum, who left on the Atlas; we don’t even learn her name. She is an unspoken, unaddressed, but inescapable presence in the narrative. Her actions drive much of what happens to Carl and certainly define his bond with his father and his connection to Casales.

Alejandro Casales is the murder victim, but he is not just a victim, but also a villain. He’s the elusive head of a cult called The Circle, in which Carl spent some of his youth. And it’s hard to pin his character down. Is he truly the benign surrogate father he sometimes seems in Carl’s memories or is he the highly manipulative power-broker intent on creating his own fiefdom? A strong part of Carl’s character arc is his journey to really get to know who Casales was and why he did what he did. At the same time as he needs to solve the murder, Carl needs to come to terms with his traumatic past. I enjoyed how this played out and I loved the characters he encounters along the way.

After Atlas contains so many layers and intrigue that it is a book that I think will merit and reward rereading, just to mine all of it. In many ways, I loved After Atlas more than I did Planetfall, something I wouldn’t have believed possible before reading it. Also, without any spoilers, After Atlas has the most epic ending I’ve read in a fair while. It was one that left me with my mouth hanging open, I really hadn’t seen it coming. I cannot recommend After Atlas highly enough; it is brilliant and utterly captivating. Emma Newman has pulled off another winner and I cannot wait for more in this universe.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,899 reviews490 followers
March 21, 2019
Carlos Moreno, abandoned by his parents as a child, is owned by Govcorp. He works for them as a detective. His contract has decades left....with time added for any sort of an infraction or mistake. Even simple needs like a decent meal or new clothes can add time onto his servitude. He looks forward to the day when he will be free...but most likely that day will never come. His parents left Earth 40 years before on a spaceship named Atlas with other members of a religious cult dedicated to finding truth and God in the universe.This second book in the Planetfall series doesn't deal with Atlas or the cult that left....but with those left on Earth. A prominent, powerful man is found dead in a hotel room. Carlos is assigned to the case. The deeper he delves into the death, the more secrets and lies he discovers. Turns out that Atlas was a much darker project than he ever imagined.

This story is an awesome futuristic murder investigation! It adds a whole new dimension to the series. Carlos is a strong, intelligent, driven main character. Due to his background, he always struggles with memories and self-doubt though. I'm sure I would too if my parents had abandoned me to go seek God. The story builds slowly to a climax I really didn't see coming. This is a very powerful story. Awesome mix of sci-fi and mystery!

I listened to the audio book version (Tantor Audio) of this story. Narrated by Andrew Kingston, the audio is 13 hours long. Kingston has a pleasant voice and reads at a nice pace. I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book. Very enjoyable listening experience!

This series has a very classic sci-fi feel to it. The books are complex, well-written, and absolutely engrossing. There are 3 books in the series so far, with a fourth, Atlas Alone, coming out in April 2019. I have the new book on my review list...can't wait to read it! I'm moving on to book 3, Before Mars.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,119 followers
February 15, 2020
This author knows how to write an ending! I had been told I could read these our of order and this is so different from the first novel, Planetfall. This is on Earth and is more of a murder mystery in an era of great scarcity, corporate slavery, and magnified artificial intelligence linking people and working as assistants. Carlos is the son of the ship captain who led the trip off the planet but to survive is indebted to a corporation. Luckily he is a skilled investigator. There are some pieces especially near the end that tie back to book one but the ending of that one has remained unresolved.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,214 reviews3,216 followers
February 21, 2019
3.5 Stars
Emma Newman is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. Like in her other Planetfall novels, the characters in this story were complex and well developed with realistic quirks and imperfections. I particularly loved the main characters obsession with eating real food (rather than replicated nutrients). Likewise, the world building in this novel was fantastic. The technology introduced in the novel, like artificial personal assistants, felt plausible and interesting. Of thePlanetfall novels, this is my least favourite because I never invested in the murder investigation, which was the majority of the plot. Despite being an avid mystery reader, I just did not find this element particularly interesting. Yet, overall, I still found this novel to be a solid piece of science fiction and would recommend it to other SFF readers.
Profile Image for Nino.
55 reviews24 followers
December 4, 2018
After Atlas je proceduralni mystery cyberpunk noir triler, i to jako dobar. Iskreno, negdje u prvoj trećini knjiga počinje standardno kao i svaka iz tog žanra, i tu mi se malo pridrijemalo, ali kako stvari odmiču dalje, pisa... pisk... (piskinja?) piskinja Emma Newman uspijeva iznenaditi takvim slijedom događaja da se knjiga teško ispušta iz ruku, a sam kraj je spektakularno otkrivenje.

Knjiga nije nastavak prvog Planetfalla, nego više kao paralelno događanje rekao bih. Planetfall nisam čitao još, ali mi je uskoro na redu, s police mi stalno baca one poglede 'cut that shit and take me, asshole.' Naravno da ću čitati sad kad sam dodatno nabrijan za interstelarne događaje u njoj!

Carlos Moreno, detektiv Noropskog MoJ-a (Ministry of Justice europe skandinavskih zemalja i Engleske) glavni je lik ove knjige, s dosta neugodnom i burnom prošlošću. U djetinjstvu je bio ostavljen od majke koja se ukrcala na svemirski brod Atlas koji je imao zadaću pronaći Boga na jednom od planeta. Ostao je s ocem kojeg je to slomilo i oni su se pridružili religijskom kultu The Circle (nešto kao amiši. Nije, šalim se) koji predvodi karizmatični vođa Alejandro Casales - Carlosov 'novi' otac. Carlos nije mogao podnijeti život u kultu tj. odricanje od tehnologija, život bez čipa u glavi, sadnja voća i povrća motikama - dakle sve ono što ne vole mladi - i on bježi iz kulta, nespreman na okrutni svijet koji vode ogromne korporacije (gov-corps) i gdje je sve okrenuto na profit i iskorištavanje čovjeka. Ljudi se čipiraju i stavljaju pod ugovore s korporacijama gdje 'bruse' svoje skillove, pa se tako naš Carlos izučio za detektiva i biva kupljen od MoJ-a da riješi zločin koji ga duboko potrese - ubojstvo Casalesa, vođe Circle-a.

Rekao sam na početku da je ovo i s primjesom cyberpunka. Samo Carlosovo istraživanje je dosta zanimljivo. Kao čipiran istražitelj, ima pomoć od AI-ja ili APA kako se ovdje naziva (Artificial Personal Assistant) imenom Tia, koja mu može poslužiti u dedukciji ili stalno pretraživati internet u potrazi za informacijama. Pregled objekata i dokaza na mjestu zločina vrši se uz pomoć pop-up prozorčića, a cijelo mjesto se može snimiti i rekreirati naknadno u virtualnoj stvarnosti. Nešto slično ostvareno je u igrama poput Heavy Rain najviše i Watch Dogs, tko se zabavio s tim.

Radnja postaje dalje sve zanimljivija uvođenjem novih važnih likova sa skrivenim namjerama, a u cijeloj knjizi sve do kraja najbolje skriveno ostaje prava uloga kulta The Circlea. Reći ću samo da je 'religijski kult' samo fasada za ono što kult stvarno radi u tajnosti, a to otkrivenje će vam razjapiti usta.
Profile Image for Sarah.
733 reviews73 followers
December 7, 2016
Wow! This was even better than I hoped. I enjoyed Planetfall but it takes a couple of very odd turns so I was a tiny bit wary of this one.

This is a dystopian detective sci-fi with a likable and sympathetic protagonist. It takes place on Earth 40 years after the Atlas, whose story is told in Planetfall took off looking for God. Carlos is a man who fled a cult at the age of 16 and has gone through some truly horrific experiences in the meantime and is now owned by the Ministry of Justice. Yes, I did say owned. When the man who heads the cult is found murdered, Carlos, despite his former close relationship to the victim, is called in to investigate. His efforts are frustrated by several gov-corps (formerly nations or political unions) investment in tying things up quickly in a nice neat bow.

While it's not necessary to read Planetfall before reading this, this does assume that you know about the events that take place in it. What the Atlas is, what the deal is with the time capsule, and why the Atlas left in the first place are not explained here.

I have a fondness for both detective sci-fi and dystopia so this totally hit the sweet spot for me.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,197 reviews116 followers
June 5, 2019
Newman crafts a fascinating, dark near future world where corporations have supplanted nations, slavery in the form of indentured servitude has returned, and personal privacy is a thing of the past due to overly invasive and pervasive technology.

This incredible world building however seemingly takes a backseat for much of the book, as a murder mystery / crime procedural story becomes the focus. Newman has seemingly taken inspiration from Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel, putting a murder investigation at the core of a story more broadly about space colonization. The pacing is fairly slow as the crime procedural unfolds, though some unexpected twists keep it engaging. It's not really until quite late in the book, as a deeper conspiracy begins to unravel, that we get a sense of the bigger picture and the story hits high gear.
Profile Image for Emily .
779 reviews80 followers
December 6, 2017
A fast paced entertaining read. If you didn't read the first book (or don't remember it), you'll be fine with this one. It touches on very broad events from book 1, but not in anyway that will matter. The main character was really interesting, and the murder mystery kept me flipping pages. I definitely recommend this one.
Profile Image for Otavio Galileu.
78 reviews50 followers
January 6, 2017
Uhm... I won't be forgetting this end (or this phenomenal book, for that matter) anytime soon. Speechless.
Profile Image for William.
676 reviews339 followers
May 8, 2019
Wow! Truly extraordinary 5+ stars. Read this now!

(Note: Reading the first book, Planetfall, is advised but not necessary for After Atlas to be clear and fully understood. Personally, I always try to read series books in order. Book #1 Planetfall is an outstanding 5-Stars. My review.)

Ms. Newman has a terrific gift, and her prose, pacing and plotting are extraordinary. Quite wonderful!

After Atlas is a truly wonderful experience. It's really two parts: The tip of the iceberg, and the huge iceberg of deeper truth below the surface.

The first part is an outstanding sci-fi detective noir, with my favourite character type, "The Philosopher-Detective". The very credible sci-tech and semi-dystopian London and England are fascinating, totally believable and coherent. Even better, they support the mystery's solution rather than getting in the way. Carl is a highly skilled detective, and is backed by an amazing array of political support and technological marvels. Ms Newman's prose and pacing are superb, the intriguing characters are clearly drawn and speak with distinct voices, and the mystery is complex and multi-layered. Carl, with the local police team capably assisting, work through the murder timeline and events just as in the best detective-noir books you may have read.

The second part of the book begins as we think the murder mystery has been solved, and the case is rapidly closed by "those in charge" in Europe, Norope (northern Europe alliance) and the Americans. But there are so many hanging threads, Carl simply cannot allow them to dangle. In the true style of the detective-hero, be begins to dig deeper, driven by the central mystery in the first part of the book. These off-the-books investigations lead to danger and a huge twist in the plot, and on to the second part of the book.

The resolution is both shocking and strangely satisfying.

Notes and Quotes:

Our gumshoe appears to be a man alone, involuntarily, and even more so after the event with Dee.

The prose, dialogue and pacing are excellent.

Full size image here

The mystery substantially deepens. Never good for the politics...

And the mystery so far is just the tip of a superbly constructed iceberg of detective noir. Excellent!

Wow. A major twist in the plot. A lurking menace has now appeared fully realised. Yeesh.

A shocking climax. Americans are so American, don't you think?

Some terrific quotes:

Cooking with real, fresh food is the province of the rich. Rich enough to buy it, or rich enough to have the space for dirt to grow it, or rich enough to hire space and equipment to have other people grow it just for them.
... for the first time in years I choose to seek out eye contact with another real human being because I genuinely want to. He meets my gaze and nods and I smile. I actually smile at someone I don’t know. He looks away to serve the next customer and I’m left reeling from the body blow of the first act of kindness I can remember in years.
... that appalling gov-corp-sanctioned “solution” to the problem of nonpersons on the streets: the hell of hot-housing. On the first day there they told us that we were lucky. That we had a way to become part of society again, and with a place in society we would have rights once more. The hot-housers neglected to mention that those rights would be owned by whoever bought us at the end of our time there, when we’d been sorted and had a value assigned to us and the debt we’d accrued during our imprisonment had been fully calculated. Hot-housing was nothing more than a prison that had been monetized more creatively. Every aspect of our life controlled. What we did. What we ate. What we learned. Later, what we thought and felt.
It feels like something has been pulled out of my chest and left an aching hollowness. All these years later and I thought [a friend] was still watching my back, the only person in the world, literally, that I could call a real friend. The self-pitying misery twists into anger, settling into a more familiar shape inside me. What else did I expect to happen? This is the way the world works! I was stupid to think [the friend] would be different.
She’d grown up during the transition from pseudodemocracy into neoliberty, experiencing the varying crises caused by the shift from state governance to gov- corp management firsthand, while I’d been held in a cocoon of cult worship.
Back then, the corporates followed advice based on a social algorithm that apparently recommended allowing assets to have friendships and even date. It prevented long-term psychological issues or something. Then the corporates decided it was cheaper and less risky to allow assets access to gaming platforms where they could have virtual relationships instead. The same parts of the brain get stimulated without any risk of an asset falling in love and becoming difficult; problem solved. Only someone who has never been owned by another could balance that equation.
My contract has always prevented full-time cohabitation, as they call it. A tidy corporate phrase encompassing love, security, friendship and the chance to discover something special enough to make an asset rage against his contract. That’s what it comes down to in the end. And that’s only the first of more than fifty clauses detailing all the other things I’m denied. The right to have children. Discussion of my contract with anyone other than my owner or their representative. The right to own property... The list goes on.
It was the constant cognitive dissonance of being so desperate to get out yet too scared to leave. Of being so afraid to fail yet wishing I did so it would all stop. Of being told I was lucky when I was being abused. Of hearing I was a valuable asset when I was being treated like a fucking object.
“They’ll still own us,” I said, gripping the edge of the table I sat on.
“Dump that anger, sunshine. Someone always owns you,” she said. “No matter who you are. Deal with it."
A thousand unspoken conversations that I’ve imagined having with the man on the screen tumble through my mind like rubbish being tipped out of an industrial waste bin.
And then it hits me, right in the chest: the simple, immovable, undeniable fact that I will never be able to heal the wound between us and it will go on existing, outliving him and eating at me, until the day I die too.
America is not the place to police hypocrisy.

Profile Image for David Harris.
915 reviews32 followers
November 27, 2016
Emma Newman continues to impress me with her smart, slightly twisted takes on SF - in this case, she asks "what about those left behind?"

The earlier book, Planetfall, set in the same universe as After Atlas, focussed on human settlers to a new world some 20 years in. It showed how they had been drawn there by almost religious fervour, and what happened next - with a startling twist. The concept reminded me of classic Star Trek except for the deep, empathetic portrayal of the main character and her weaknesses which gave the book so much heart.

Now, we're back on Earth at the same time (I think) as the Planetfall events. We see the awful place earth has become, which the colonists on Atlas wanted to escape. The remorseless march or corporatism has swallowed governments, which have become "gov-corps". Everyone is surveilled all the time, most people have chips embedded and there seem to be no human rights, only contracts - and some are trapped by those contracts into something not far off slavery.

Carlos is one such. Owned by the Ministry of Justice in the UK, he's been trained and formed ('hot-housed') into the perfect criminal investigator. He will work to 80 or thereabouts to repay the cost of his purchase with any failure, any rebellion punished by extra years on the contract. Yet as we find out later he has an easy time compared to some.

Carlos is brought in to solve a high profile case involving the leader of a religious sect - the Circle - from the US. The Circle consists of the people left behind when Atlas flew - one of whom was Carlos's mother (Newman makes a telling point that there's more blame heaped on the mother who left her child than the many fathers). he used to be a member of the Circle so he's ideally placed to understand what happened in a remote hotel in Devon. (The case also gives him the chance to enjoy real - non printed - food: Carlos's love of good food is an enjoyable diversion against a fairly grim background).

The book then adopts the mode - if not the normal setting - of a police procedural, with forensics, pathology, the search for evidence and a rising sense that something is off, someone isn't playing by the rules. We gradually come to sympathise with Carlos more and more, not least the grief and anger which he is clearly bottling up - assisted by the lessons from his hot-housing. He's an awkward, slightly spiky character and so, so alone.

Then - things change. I can't say too much about this for fear of spoilers but the book moves into a different mode. Something awful happens to Carlos and the stakes are suddenly much higher. Then Newman redoubles the jeopardy yet again, boosting things both to a new level of danger but also changing the sort of book this is in a heartbreaking conclusion. I was left standing in the dark on a cold railway platform so that I could read the last few pages before I drove home - it's that compelling. This is, in short, a compulsive and disturbing read. As well as sheer, relentless story we get to see the lives of those shut out of the glamorous space adventure described in Planetfall. Of course we know how that turned out - they don't, and many are damaged: Carlos's father, driven to grief and despair, for example. That's an angle on space-faring and the Final Frontier that you don't normally see.

It isn't perfect - I wonder if perhaps that first twist might come a bit sooner, as there is relatively little time then to explore the consequences? Things then seem a bit rushed at the end. But it's a testament to the power of the writing that I'm only saying that in hindsight: when you're in this book you just want it to keep coming and coming.

The best thing of all is, though, that there surely MUST be more books to come now in the Planetfall universe? It can't just end like this, can it? Please Emma?
Profile Image for Denise.
364 reviews33 followers
November 20, 2016
Actually very close to five stars

Wow! This kept me turning the pages and guessing up till the end. It's a stand alone book but refers to Planetfall. While both books are character studies (and perhaps Planetfall is somewhat more believable) After Atlas handles the political details and mystery very very well. Very glad someone in the Buddy Reads group recommended this!
Profile Image for Kate.
1,626 reviews331 followers
September 27, 2019
I'm reading this superb series in such a strange order - 1 (Planetfall), 3 (Before Mars) and now 2. Not that this matters as each novel is connected but separate. After Atlas is different again. It's a brilliant detective novel that is as black as night and, at times, very disturbing, as we witness what our detective Carlos Moreno must endure in this future world. Carlos' mother left on the starship Atlas forty years ago and she left him behind, a baby. This is hard for Carlos to deal with and it's perhaps even harder for his father. Carlos must confront the past while also investigating the brutal death of the man who took his father and himself in, becoming himself a surrogate father to Carlos the child. Emma Newman writes beautifully, her imagination soars. This is a compelling novel, at times shocking and horrifying, even devastating, but no matter how hard it gets you can't put it down. Its world feels real, its situation appallingly believable, and it is full of humanity. Carlos is an incredible creation, a man trying to make peace with the world around him, just as the main characters of Planetfall and Before Mars try to do. I now have Atlas Alone to read - I can't wait. This is essential science fiction if ever there was such a thing. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.
Profile Image for Maija.
587 reviews164 followers
September 7, 2017

That's one powerful ending. I have a penchant for SFF police procedurals/mysteries, so this was a good fit for me. Like Newman's Planetfall, After Atlas has an interesting and multi-faceted protagonist, and a nicely developed world that was easy to imagine. Whereas Planetfall was outer-planet scifi, this was almost cyberpunk, set in a bleak future Earth.

I liked how Newman included this dystopian view of work life in the future – where things might go with many modern governments' excitement about coming up with different ways to force unemployed people into unpaid work.

Edit: I forgot to mention that After Atlas only has one character who is explicitly stated to be overweight (as far as I can remember), and he is a rich, lecherous old man. Extra fat is often used as shorthand for evil or disgusting, so not the best representation there!
Profile Image for Bee.
412 reviews3 followers
January 21, 2019
Bloody hell that was good. Emma Newman's Planetfall was a very interesting book, and the realistic characterisation, and wonderfully realized look at mental pathology kept me hooked. I didn't expect the sequel to be both a whole different story and outlook, but so much stronger and better.
Newman does inner dialogue like a pro.

Wonderful , broken characters. An Interesting crime. And the most entertaining and enthralling extrapolated technology. The main charter's internal AI is so much fun to read and think about.

I really enjoyed this book. And it got me to reread Planetfall, and enjoy it a lot more the second time. I'm already 25% into Before Mars. Which is also great
Profile Image for Nadine in California.
957 reviews99 followers
March 24, 2023
I loved the first book in this series, and started this one soon after, but DNF'ed quickly. As I recall, I was disappointed that it was set on earth rather than on the new planet. I'm glad I picked it up again a few years later without that bias, because this book is great and I will definitely finish the series - which is rare for me. I prefer series that explore a given world in more creative ways than just 'the continuing adventures of....' and Planetfall seems to do that.

The narrator/protagonist Carlos is a tight-lipped person living under pressure, and yet he gradually reveals a lot of himself and his history as the story goes on - as if he has to spend time with the reader before gradually opening up. He is also a meticulous investigator, and thus a perfect guide through the murder mystery at the heart of the story. The other characters aren't nearly as well-fleshed as he is, but this is to be expected from a first person narrator - we only see them as Carlos sees them.

The future tech in this novel fascinated me - especially the APA (Artificial Personal Assistant), which feels like a many generations advanced ChatGPT that can also dip into a sophisticated virtual reality environment. Although the tech is creatively imagined, the author never lets it steal the spotlight and detract from what is a very human story of trauma and resilience. The wider dystopian world isn't explored in detail - we get just enough to give context to the story - but the only hole I can see in this world is that it doesn't touch on climate change. Maybe that's because we didn't know just how rapidly our climate was deteriorating at the time the book was written.

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