I’m often of two minds when it comes to sequels. Especially when I love a book that’s something new–the stakes are so high. What if the sequel sucked? At the same time, I’d prefer knowing that, when I read a book, there’s something else out there that carries the torch and perpetuates that world or those characters. Sometimes I purposely wait until a book has more than one entry in a series before picking it up, just so that I won’t have to wait longer to revisit the story.
After Atlas, though, is something unusual. Last year, Emma Newman released an amazing novel called Planetfall. That was the story of a group of people who believed they were hearing the voice of God telling them to build a spaceship and go to a specific set of coordinates. When they got there, they found something unusual. Planetfall is primarily the story of what happens when they get there. It’s also a profound meditation on what you would do if you believed your creator wanted you to journey light years from Earth based upon faith. Beyond that, it’s a story about what that faith can lead us to do, for better or worse.
Planetfall is a science fiction novel full of great technology and even better philosophical musings. I read it immediately upon its release, and have found my mind drifting back to it multiple times since last year. Imagine my surprise to find out a sequel was being released this November! I was thrilled.
Now that I’ve read After Atlas, I’m still thrilled. Like I said, this is a special sequel: it doesn’t take a paint-by-numbers approach to continuing the story of the Atlas and those who left on it. No, this is a sequel that ignores almost all the events of the first book. And that’s unusual. In After Atlas, we find out what happened on Earth to those who didn’t get chosen to leave on the Atlas. The genre has changed, too–I’d classify this book a hardboiled detective novel, for the most part. Our protagonist is the child of one of those who left the planet in the first book, and he is charged with investigating a murder. Which might not be a murder at all.
Decades after the Atlas left, our world has devolved into a scheming patchwork of countries that are (literally) corporations. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots has widened considerably. Those who can’t afford to pay for their everyday necessities (like food and housing) are indentured servants of those who can. Everything you buy adds years on your “contract”. Into this hellish (but plausible) landscape falls our hero, Carlos, who isn’t always all that heroic. Even more interestingly, a sealed time capsule left by the crew of the Atlas is nearly ready to open itself. Carlos moves from clue to clue in an increasingly whirlwind ride, and I found myself reading in longer and longer stretches as I progressed through this book, almost finding myself unable to stop for sleep and work until I’d reached the (amazing) end.
It’s difficult for me to describe much more of the story without giving any of its twists and turns away. Suffice it to say, if you’re a fan of speculative fiction or detective novels, you will probably really enjoy this one. Do you need to have read the first in the series? Not really–I would consider it stand-alone enough. Sure, the events of the first book play a role. But you really don’t need to know more than those left behind on Earth do–some people left on a ship. What happened when they arrived is not relevant to this story, which I feel is an immensely creative choice. I’m assuming there will be a third book in the series, at this point. There’s more than enough narrative room in the story to continue it, and I’d be surprised if Newman didn’t do so. But this time, I’ll be dying to pick up a sequel (and that’s different for me!)
To pick up a copy of this fantastic novel, go here. I’d strongly recommend it!