Skip to main content

After Atlas (SF) - Emma Newman *****

If, like me, you read Emma Newman's first Planetfall novel and expected After Atlas to be a direct sequel, it is initially a little off-putting to discover that it involves a whole new set of characters - but after a little bedding in, this proves to be an advantage as the plotting in After Atlas is much tighter than the first novel and it works brilliantly both as science fiction and as a murder mystery.

The setting is Earth, decades after the departure of the Atlas spaceship that carried the colonists who featured in Planetfall, with a central character who is related to one of the Planetfall characters. For me, the Earth setting worked significantly better than the Planetfall one and the whole thing slotted together better, actually making the first novel seem better than it did on its own, as now we got a lot more of the context of the people involved.

The only small negatives here were weaker versions of the problems of the first novel. The central character seemed irritatingly self-centred and self-destructive, turning against his only friend without any thought for what she was going through. And once again, Newman seems to have felt it was a good idea to hold back a piece of information from us which the central character knew (in this case, which of the Planetfall characters was his mother), a technique that is irritating rather than suspense-building.

These are small issues though it a truly engrossing novel with a series of linked mysteries to unravel and a shocking ending. The corporate future, set alongside both the best and the worst of the implications of IT developments, is grimly realised and the whole thing pulls the reader along at a cracking pace. This is without doubt one of the best SF books I've read this year. I had expected to wait a little after reading this before starting the next in the series, Before Mars, but after After Atlas I had to plunge straight in.

Paperback:  

Kindle:  


Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Bits to Bitcoin - Mark Stuart Day ***

When I saw the title of this book, I got all excited - at last we were going to get an explanation of bitcoin for the rest of us, who struggle to understand what the heck it really involves. There certainly is an explanation of bitcoin, but it comes in chapter 26 - in practice, the book contains far more. Almost every popular computer science title I've read has effectively been history of computer science - this is one of the first examples I've ever come across that is actually trying to make the 'science' part of computer science accessible to the general reader.

I don't mean by this that it's an equivalent of Programming for Dummies. Instead, Bits to Bitcoin takes the reader through the concepts lying behind programming. If we think of programming as engineering, this is the physics that the engineering depends on. This is a really interesting proposition. Many years ago, I was a professional programmer, but I never studied computer science, so I was only fa…

How to Speak Science - Bruce Benamran ***

I can't remember a book where my mental picture of what the star rating would be has varied so much. At first glance, it looked like a solid 4 star title. It looks fun (despite the odd title - it sounds like it's a book on public speaking for geeks) and a flick through showed that it covers a huge amount of science topics, mostly physics - so it was promising as a beginner's overview. There is one small issue to be got out of the way on the coverage side. There's a whole lot of physics, with a gaping hole that is quantum theory. More on that later.

After reading a few pages, I had to downgrade that score to 3 stars because of the writing style. It oozes smugness. All became clear when I read the words 'For those of you who aren't familiar with my YouTube channel.' How to Speak Science reads like a transcript of a YouTube rant. The reason I love reading books and can hardly ever be bothered to watch videos is to get away from this kind of thing. However, I ac…

By the Pricking of Her Thumb (SF) - Adam Roberts *****

Sometimes a sequel betters the original - think Terminator 2 - and Adam Roberts has done this with his follow-up to The Real-Town Murders. (It's sensible to read the first book before this: while it's not essential, there are plenty of references you will miss otherwise.)

Ostensibly this is a murder mystery, or, as Roberts tells us, a combination of a howdunnit and a whodunnit-to, as the central character Alma is called on to work out how someone found with a needle stuck through her thumb was killed and which of a group of four super-rich individuals is dead when all claim to still be alive - though one of the group who hires Alma is convinced that the death has occurred. 

However, this is anything but a conventional murder mystery - far more so than the strange crimes suggest. Alma and her partner Marguerite (the latter still trapped by an engineered polyvalent illness that requires treatment every 4 hours and 4 minutes) don't do a lot of detecting. In fact Marguerite hard…