RogerBW's Blog

After Atlas, Emma Newman 08 May 2021

2016 science fiction, in the same universe as Planetfall but not a sequel to it. Carlos Moreno's mother abandoned him to go on the Atlas mission; forty years later he's a detective, looking into the murder of the leader of an anti-tech cult… of which he used to be a member.

Mostly this is dystopian SF: perhaps as a result of the economic depression caused by the cost of Atlas, governments have been largely replaced by "gov-corps", with all the implications. Carlos himself is indentured for the cost of his training and has many decades before he can even think about having a choice of job, or being allowed to do anything more than trivially dangerous, or having a cohabitee, or not being subject to "recalibration" if he doesn't keep smiling for the masters. And of course like almost everyone he's chipped, with an Artificial Personal Assistant keeping an eye on him at all times.

If in 2016 you were still under any illusion that AppleGoogleFacebook had your interests at heart… well, I don't think you're anybody I know. This is very much dystopian noir SF for most of its length, and even a slight brightening at the end… well, let's say it's a very sudden brightening.

So there's the murder investigation, which it rapidly becomes clear is treading on some very powerful toes. There's something big behind that, which of course as a competent investigator Carlos can't help digging out. And there's Carlos' personal trauma, not only from the slavery but from his life before that. This manages to be a novel of worldbuilding, and one of character, and an effective whodunnit in a world with pervasive surveillance, and it quite makes up for my profound disappointment at the ending of Planetfall when every mystery seemed to be destined for the most obvious and banal explanation.

It's not at all a happy book, and I'll probably wait until I'm in an overly optimistic mood before I tackle the next one, but it's a very good book.

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