After Atlas by Emma Newman. ★★★★
After Atlas is a novel set in the same universe as Newman’s stellar science fiction novel, Planetfall. However, the two books are completely distinct and can be read independently. In fact, After Atlas is actually a mystery novel in addition to a science fiction story.
After Atlas presents a very dark vision of the future. Democracy has failed, and the world is ruled by hybrid government/corporations – govcorps. Carlos Moreno, who’s mother left aboard the spaceship Atlas, had the misfortune of being rounded up and sold as a debt slave. For the next thirty years, he’ll belong to the Ministry of Justice, where he works as a detective. But a new case threatens the fragile boundaries he’s constructed to preserve his mental state. His uncle, Alejandro Casales, and leader of a religious cult has been found dead in a hotel room, and Carlos will be forced to examine his past.
One of my most constant thoughts while reading After Atlas was “wow, Carlos’s life sucks.” I’m not going to say too much here since a large part of the novel lies in you gradually finding out just how bad everything really is, but this is a seriously dark read. Oh, and then about 70% of the way through things get even worse. It felt like my heart dropped down into my stomach.
I say that the connection between Planetfall and After Atlas is tenuous, but one of the connecting themes is mental health. Carlos most definitely has mental health issues. He’s been under immense and constant stress his entire life and is constantly having to carefully regulate his emotions so that he doesn’t get sent for “reconditioning” by the Ministry. I’m no expert, but I’d guess he has PTSD.
While I feel like the ending was a completion to the story, I would love to see a continuation. I think there’s still room for more of Carlos’s story, and I would like to see how his character develops.
While I don’t think After Atlas reaches quite the heights of Plantfall, it is still a very strong science fiction novel. If you’re willing to venture into a dark future, this is a book I’d recommend.
I received an ARC of After Atlas from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.