RogerBW's Blog

Before, After, Alone, Emma Newman 29 November 2023

2023 SF short story collection in the Planetfall universe.

These are all quite short, typically a scene or two; so while they don't all show transformational moments, they do show a character's state of mind, and I find I don't mind the lack of plot as I might in a longer work.

"Albert and the Kraken": set around the time of the great collapse, the surviving crew member of a wrecked container ship learns to live with the monster that's keeping him on his island.

"Act of Kindness": a look at the man who sells vegetables to Carlos at the start of After Atlas.

"Inheritance": before Mack leaves on the Atlas mission, he deals with what he's leaving behind.

"The Letter": someone rejected from the Atlas mission comes to terms with what to do next.

"Primary Purpose": directly after Before Mars, a side story on the point of existence.

"The Generation Gap": the childhood of Marco, one of the colonists from Planetfall. (But also how not to recognise selfishness.)

"The Dangerous Choice": the pathologist from After Atlas and the way she thinks.

"Tailor Made": what gov-corp life is like, from the inside. And memetic warfare.

"What Travis Built": a little like "Primary Purpose": when the immediate struggle for survival is sorted out, what do you do, and why?

"Non-Person": hacking the system.

Like Newman's novels in this setting, these aren't comfortable stories, but they're very good. They always manage to show someone's state of mind, but also to go deeper on the big questions of life.

Also, if there were any doubt, she's One Of Us. Considering the very limited ideas that non-SF-readers have about the breadth of SF:

This is why I am always utterly dismayed when an author who has only written and read ‘literary' novels decides to write science fiction. I'm sure that they too hold these same outdated ideas [i.e. pew-pew and cardboard characters] about what the genre is, as the concepts they focus on are so tired, already having been thoroughly discussed in the genre-wide dialogue that science fiction writers have been conducting for over a hundred years!

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Previous in series: Atlas Alone | Series: Planetfall

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