Atlas Alone

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 May 2019

Member Reviews

Emma Newman has done it again! Atlas Alone, the fourth book in the Planetfall novels, is just as intense and tightly focused the first 3 books. Newman does a fantastic job telling highly personal stories, while slipping into an entire world of information. Building on the events of the first 3 novels, and picking up 6 months after The Catastrophe, Atlas Alone focuses mainly on Dee with a few interactions with former main character(s), Carl and Travis. Dee is put in some pretty terrible situations, forcing her to face her past and confront her present options. It is so fascinating to me how Newman can write such a detailed story about one character, yet it feels so full, rich, vibrant, and not at all lacking in complexity. Newman solidified her place as one of my favorite sci-fi authors with Planetfall, and will continue to be an author I stock my shelf with!
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Atlas Alone is an entertaining sci-fi.  Even though it was book 4, I felt it didn't matter that I hadn't read the first 3 books.  The thought of being able to go into a virtual game and see and act like it's real life is just crazy.  There was great suspense and mystery.  Very enjoyable story and the characters were believable.
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"Atlas Alone" eBook was published in 2019 and was written by Emma Newman (http://www.enewman.co.uk). Ms. Newman has published eleven novels or novellas. This is the fourth in her "Planetfall" series. 

I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. The story is set in the far future. A colony ship has left Earth with more than 10,000 passengers and crew. The primary character is the young woman Dee, an avid gamer and one of the few on the spacecraft that knows that Earth has been destroyed. 

She is angry and wants to take revenge on those who caused the destruction of Earth just after the colony ship departed. She is certain that those who gave the orders are onboard. She tries to lose herself in a 'mersive' game she is invited to play, but when she kills a character inside the game only to find later that the person is really dead, Dee discovers that there is a plot and she is at the center. There appears to be at least one other who wants revenge for destroying the Earth. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the 8 hours I spent reading this 317-page science fiction tale. I liked the characters and the plot, though the novel did not necessarily leave things totally resolved. While I previously read #3 in this series, Before Mars, this novel stands well on its own. I give this novel a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.

Further book reviews I have written can be accessed at https://johnpurvis.wordpress.com/blog/. 

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).
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5 stars - but I started out not liking this book. In fact, I wasn’t crazy about it for most of the duration of my reading of it. Two reasons:

1) The main character, Dee, spends a lot of time in virtual reality, or what it is called in this setting: immersives. Immersive games, educational immersives, or personal memories. I have never been all that interested in video games, and now, virtual reality, so having to read through so much of it in the book did not endear me to the story.
2) I did not like Dee. She is not a very empathetic character, therefore, I could not empathize with here. She had many challenges to get through, and I kept hoping that those challenges would be life-changing.

I won’t tell you everything that happened to Dee. Except that she did experience life-changing events. In the end, it was well worth my time reading Atlas Alone . What a great and perfect ending!

The ending suggests that there could be more and there are many possibilities of future adventures. Frankly, if there are no more, I am happy with Atlas Alone being the finale.

Atlas Alone is a novel in the Planetfall series. I have read 2 of the 4 novels so I can tell you that though they are loosely connected by a shared culture and society, they do stand alone. So don’t be afraid to pick this one up if you have not read the rest of the series.

Through Netgalley, the publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Atlas Alone was an exciting venture into a space, filled with suspense and advanced technologies that I’m sure will populate our shelves one day. It’s a look at a future for humanity that I desperately hope never comes to fruition. Newman takes the fear-mongering of religious zealotry and political extremism to a new level, showing us the most horrifying of outcomes for humanity at large. There’s a bit of everything here in terms of genres. Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and horror all come into play, making this a true rollercoaster of experiences.

It’s a unique book, especially given its confined setting. Much of it takes place in an immersive gaming world, giving us glimpses of what life was like in their pre-apocalyptic world. This is a universe where immersive gaming is the norm, a mix between entertainment and escaping from the horrors of a world lost to wars and zealotry. Early on, we understand our protagonist has a history of immersive gaming, both extensive playing and creation of actual games. Her gaming experiences on the ship take her to another level entirely, presenting her with games so intensely realistic that she often forgets they aren’t real. There’s so much to the primary game itself and its ultimate endgame, and I won’t reveal any spoilers. Let’s just say the gaming aspect is essential to the story and creates this separation from reality that’s both fascinating and dystopian. 

Spoiler below, but essential to the discussion…

The backstory on the CSA is truly terrifying, especially given the symmetry to our current political climate. This organization of few has destroyed the human race to further their own narrow-minded beliefs of what it means to be a human. Imagining that future is deeply unsettling, amplified by the details we continue to learn as the book advances. These are villains who believe they’ve done the right thing with have no regrets, and that makes them all the more evil. 

End of spoiler!

Overall, Atlas Alone is entirely entertaining, giving us unique settings, intense technology, a protagonist who wants to do right by humanity, and a set of villains straight out of my nightmares. It’s different from anything I’ve read recently, making it an exciting venture into futures unknown.
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Published by Ace on April 16, 2019

Atlas Alone is the fourth book in a series. Each is written as a stand-alone, self-contained novel, although they all occupy the same universe. The books occasionally refer to events that occurred in earlier novels, particularly a project by the Pathfinders to colonize another planet.

At the beginning of Atlas Alone, everyone on Earth is dead. Dee assumes that one of the more than ten thousand people traveling through space on Atlas 2 gave the order for nukes to be fired from America to Europe. She wants to find and possibly kill the person who did it, but she doesn’t even know who is in charge of Atlas 2. She lives in her apartment and wastes her time and hates her life as the ship powers toward its destination, still 20 years away. The destination is the Pathfinder’s colony.

Dee manages to score a job that gives her access to data about media consumption on Atlas 2. She also gets access to an immersive role-playing game that is reserved for elite players. Walking through the game triggers memories of her desperate childhood, allowing the reader to understand the events that shaped Dee’s life. But playing the game may have something to do with an apparent murder on the ship. Has game fantasy crossed the boundary with reality? Is Dee an inadvertent killer?

Her job allows Dee to discover that the elite passengers and crew members all belong to the Christian States of America. Emma Newman imagines an America that became passionately religious — meaning Christian — during the 2020s. I can understand why a European might envision that, given America’s current revival of intolerance, but the loudness of the intolerant is a panic reaction to trends that are moving in the opposite direction as America becomes more open to non-Christians. Science fiction writers are entitled to imagine the unlikely, however, and the value of science fiction is its reminder that what seems unlikely today may be reality tomorrow. The book sends a cautionary and timely message about religious extremism and its tendency to eradicate nonbelievers. At the same time, the novel suggests that extremism works both ways.

The plot challenges the reader to guess the identity of the person who keeps confronting Dee in the immersive atmosphere. Dee, on the other hand, is challenged to understand the secrets behind the population chosen to take the journey, including what seems to be a deliberate attempt to maintain stratification between the haves and have-nots. That doesn’t bode well for the society that the ship leaders intend to create on the new world, although it sounds exactly like the plan wealthy people would make when developing a colony.

Character development, particularly of Dee, is perfectly integrated with the plot. The story explores interesting philosophical questions, including whether and when it is justifiable to kill some people for the greater good of others. As that theme begins to drive the plot, the novel swerves in an unexpected direction to arrive at a surprising ending that is a study in irony — albeit an ending that is consistent with the philosophical underpinnings of the plot.

Newman has tackled challenging moral questions in each book in the series while telling interesting stories. She does that again in Atlas Alone, making this series one that every thinking fan of science fiction (as opposed to the Sad Puppies who just want to read about powerful white males triumphing over aliens) will want to consider reading.

RECOMMENDED
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Atlas Alone is the 4th book in the Planetfall series. The prior three books could be read as standalone novels. Each book told the story of the aftermath of a cult's exodus from Earth from a different perspective. Atlas Alone brings the prior plots full circle, bringing back characters from previous books and making references to events in all of the prior Planetfall novels. This isn't a standalone story a reader can jump into before reading the other books in the series. There are spoilers regarding the endings of a couple of the prior novels and characters whose back stories are essential to understanding the events in this book. 

I accidentally requested this review copy months ago. I don't usually jump in mid-series. The concept sounded so interesting that I backed up and started reading the Planetfall series from the beginning before starting this book. I'm glad I did. This is by far the best science fiction series I've read in a long time. The plots and characters are complex. The first three books showed the aftermath of one event from different perspectives. This fourth book brings it all together to move the storyline along in a way I didn't expect. 

Atlas 2 has left Earth, carrying what's left of humanity after nuclear strikes destroyed much of the planet. Dee speculates that the person who ordered those strikes is on board the ship. She contemplates revenge and submerges herself in "mersives''....complex video games.....to keep herself occupied during the voyage to the colony planet. I liked the gaming aspect of the plot. And as usual with this series the plot was quite complex and sucked me right in. I couldn't stop reading -- totally binge read this book!

Awesome book!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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The nitty-gritty: A mesmerizing and dangerous thriller where reality and fantasy merge.

Emma Newman’s Planetfall series has been a wild ride, but if I’m reading the ending correctly, that ride isn’t over yet. This is the first book in the series that actually feels like a sequel. The events start a few months after the shocking ending of After Atlas, so even though I’ve always said that each book in this series can be read as a standalone in any order, Atlas Alone is the exception to that rule. If you haven’t yet read After Atlas, I would not pick this up until you do. And please beware of minor spoilers if you haven’t read After Atlas!

It’s been six months since the Atlas 2 started its journey, fleeing a dying Earth and headed toward a planet colonized years ago by Suh-Mi, a messiah-like figure who envisioned a holy place where people could live self-sustaining lives in harmony with god and each other. On board are some 10,000 people, including gamer Dee and her two friends Travis and Carl. Dee has been suffering from depression, due to the cataclysmic event back on Earth and has abandoned her usual interactions with her friends in mersives, highly addictive games that make the user feel as if they are playing the game in real life. She’s also been wondering about the chain of command on the ship. No one seems to know who’s in charge, and Dee’s inquisitive nature won’t let her rest until she finds out more information.

One day Dee is approached by Carl’s father, Gabriel Moreno, about a possible job on board, analyzing mersive data. Dee jumps at the chance, since she knows she’ll be given access to classified files, and therefore can start her own investigation about the other people on the ship. As soon as she’s granted access, she starts poking around in the personnel profiles. But her inquiries draw the attention of someone, an unidentified person who pops up on a secret chat box and invites her to participate in a game he's designed. Dee reluctantly accepts, and is drawn into a world that looks and feels eerily similar to the real world of her childhood back on Earth.

But when she emerges from the game and discovers that a man she killed in the mersive is on board the ship and has actually died while she was playing the game, Dee knows that she has a big mystery to solve. Was this man connected to the events on Earth? How could something like this have happened? And even more worrisome, was Dee responsible for his death?

Things get even more tangled when Carl decides to investigate the death, and Dee has to hide the fact that she might be involved. 

Four books in, I’m finally starting to see how all the pieces are starting to fit together. Newman’s stories have jumped around from the colony established on a faraway planet, to life on Earth, to space and back again, in a meandering but ultimately purposeful way. The story’s scope is huge, and I’ve always thought that this is a world with endless story possibilities and characters to focus on. But despite this scope, each book feels very focused and tight, and Atlas Alone follows a similar format, focusing on one main character and her struggle to seek justice and solve a mystery that could impact thousands of people.

I loved the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped on a ship for twenty years, as it speeds towards another planet, and the fact that Dee has uncovered some terrifying secrets and is compelled to take action. On a spaceship there’s nowhere to go, except into the infinite world of mersives, and I thought Newman did a great job of going back and forth between the mersives and “meatspace,” as real life is called. And even though we don't spend much time with them, I loved seeing Carl and Travis again. Carl (called "Carlos") was the main character in After Atlas, a talented detective who gets to use his skills in this story as well.

I enjoyed the sections where Dee is in the virtual game space the most, especially her emotional trip back in time as she’s dragged into a mersive that forces her to face some terrible events from her childhood. The chapters inside the mersives were some of my favorites, although some parts were shockingly violent and hard to read. But we get to see a bit of Dee’s life as a slave, her days living in a “nest,” virtually homeless and starving. Dee is forced to confront people from her past, and this section was so well written and detailed and ultimately ended up being my favorite section in the book. Throughout the experience, she is wondering why this mystery person is doing this to her, dragging her through the past like this, but it isn’t until nearly the end that we find out who and why.

The story falters a bit for me near the end when Dee comes out of a mersive, blazing with anger and ready serve up justice to those responsible for the atrocities on Earth. She does some things that seemed out of character, and the final few chapters felt rushed, as though Newman were simply trying to get to the end so that she could reveal her big twist.

Newman seems to favor shocking, cliffhanger endings, and Atlas Alone is no exception. I had thought this might be the final book in the series, but after the ending there is no way she can leave us hanging, especially since the ending itself is rather depressing. The series overall has themes of making the world a better place and the downtrodden citizens of society rising up to topple the oppressors, so in my mind I’m hoping for an upbeat, optimistic resolution to the story. I’ve always thought of the Colony as a place of peace and serenity, and I do hope the Atlas 2 eventually makes it to the planet, because I have got to know what happens next!

This is an excellent series, and I love the way the author is slowly revealing her master plan. Newman's ideas are fascinating, and the emotional depth and resonance of her characters is one reason I keep reading this series. I do hope there will be at least a few more books, because I still have so many questions that need to be answered.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
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I loved Atlas Alone, as I love all of the Planetfall novels, each for different reasons. For me, this book was a character study, a deep dive into the age-old themes of faith versus fundamentalism, what makes us human, morality, and trust. Dee has some serious issues with all of these themes, all stemming from her hot-housing years, her brain rewired to achieve a specific purpose. And that leads to the tragic events on board the ship heading to meet the Pathfinder and her colony. I got to the end of this book and actually cried out that there were no more pages. Crossing all of my fingers and toes that we get more books in this universe.

On that note, I’ll be frank, shall I? I’ve seen reviews, and the author, speak about how these books can be read as stand-alones, and I don’t disagree, but feel that my experience with Atlas Alone was greatly enriched by having read the three prior books. My understanding of the nuanced world, the greater universe and characters, has allowed me to be immediately sucked into Emma Newman’s stories. I highly recommend new readers start with Planetfall and go through the journey from the very beginning.

On a personal note, I really found myself identifying with Dee (who knows what that says about me), and found myself truly conflicted by her actions. Also, I loved reading a book with an ace main character! The diversity Emma Newman brings to her books is what I love about science fiction. More, please.
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Sci-fi, gamers, and star fans alike, this one is for you. This is the latest novel in the Planetfall series, one of which I’m sad to be just learning about. I will say I feel like I would’ve benefited from reading the previous books before this one, but it did not ruin the reading experience for me. Stuck in a virtual reality, Dee is caught having committed a crime and has the most unusual co-conspirator. Just wait until you find out who it really is! This was a really cool and wonderfully adventurous read! Now I’m rushing to go start from the beginning! Thank you Ace Publishing for gifting me a copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Reviewing a novel four books deep into a series is always a little tricky, even if—as with Emma Newman’s Planetfall series—the novels are less a continuing storyline and more a sequence of standalone narratives in a shared world.

Planetfall, After Atlas, Before Mars, and now Atlas Alone all take place on different planets—or on no planet at all—and are told by four different first-person narrators. Up until Atlas Alone, the singularity of the voice and the triangulation of a certain event—the mission of a vessel known as the Pathfinder, which ferried a zealous scientist and her band of followers to an alien planet in search of God—have served as the connective tissue between one novel and the next.

That all changes with this fourth installment, which takes place in the wake of the events of Before Mars, and with a cast of characters we know from After Atlas. Even by the standards of previous Planetfall novels—which all conclude with brutal, perspective-wrenching revelations—the ending of Before Mars is a doozy, one that I don’t want to detail too closely, lest I blunt that final knife-twist. If you haven’t read the earlier books, I will attempt to tread lightly—but beware of spoilers (not that these are strictly the kids of books that can be spoiled, as preoccupied as they are with the twisting thoughts of their narrators).

The events of Atlas Alone are told to us by Dee—Deanna—who was sold alongside Carlos (from After Atlas) to the hot-housers of the post-democracy world they inhabit. To be hot-housed is to be brutally conditioned into a useful, indentured nonperson: Carl was trained to be a detective; Dee was trained in something like PR crossed with data analysis. It’s slavery in everything but name. The third of their small circle is Travis, once husband of the head of a powerful gov-corp. They’re six months into a 20-year voyage to the Pathfinder’s planet, all three of them reeling from calamitous events they witness upon liftoff. We first meet them in the midst of something of an intervention for the three of them: Carl is starving, refusing to eat 3D printed food; Dee won’t take up the immersive games that have always been her balm and succor; Travis is both inscrutable and twitchy. They are tearing themselves apart with what they know, and what they can’t tell anyone.

Dee is given a chance to find out more about the other people on their ship, the Atlas 2, when she’s invited to join an immersive game tournament by a member of another social group. For unknown reasons, social contact between groups, and even individuals, has been “deprioritized.” Carolina wants to hire Dee to crunch numbers and work out the most desirable game models. They have 20 years in space, after all; gaming will kill the time. But what Dee finds in the data is disturbing, hinting at intentional divisions between the passenger groups, from the older and wealthier gamers; to the members of the Circle, a cultish, low-tech group of people who rarely engage in immersives.

But before Dee can begin to explore Carolina’s social circle, she’s sucked into an immersive game by a mysterious agent. The content of the game is incredibly upsetting: Dee finds herself climbing stairs in the apartment building she lived in during a pivotal period of her childhood, stepping over the corpses of everyone she knew during that time. Nothing about the game runs according to the spoken or unspoken rules of game design. And horrible evidence suggests that violent actions that happen within the game have consequences in the real world—an impossible porousness between gaming and reality.

Heretofore, the Planetfall narrators have been prickly, damaged people, avoidant of their personal traumas by way of elaborate defense mechanisms. They are expert examples of the unreliable narrator, telling complex stories from complex perspectives, the kind where what they focus on is as important as what they avoid. Dee is no different, but she’s also our iciest narrator yet. Much of the overt plot is spent in immersive games—Dee’s true landscape and release—but she doesn’t treat them much differently from her real life. She’s always plotting the angles and reading the terrain. She says what she needs to say and projects what’s she’s supposed to feel to advance the plot (her life); otherwise her interior world is flinching and cold.


Atlas Alone ends with the same kind of gut punch that has become the series’ hallmark, but there’s something deeper and more difficult going on as well. The ethical test at the center of the narrative doesn’t have a name—it’s something like the prisoner’s dilemma crossed with a more terrible version of the Milgram experiment—but it’s a moral dilemma our protagonist fails utterly to solve. The hardest truth to swallow is that we know we might fail with right along with her, depending on how closely we align with her cold, rational way of approaching the game and rationalizing the traumas that made her who she is. Is it all just a game? Does that matter?

Atlas Alone is available April 16.
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Atlas Alone is the fourth in Emma Newman’s ‘Planetfall’ series, though (as I can attest) it also works as a standalone novel. There are some callbacks to the earlier works, but while they add additional flavour and context, you can quite happily read this book on its own.
This is a story which examines big ideas in a futuristic setting. And a story about one person, and the choices which they make, and why. And a story about the near future, and what it may look like. And a story about colonising other worlds, and what that may look like. All these facets of the narrative are wound together into a narrative which crackles with potential, and works hard to live up to that potential.

Our protagonist is Dee. Dee is clever, and driven, and very goal oriented. Dee also struggles with people, with the kind of social cues that most of us take for granted. Where people are kind to her, or affectionate, or less than selfish, Dee is always looking for their angle, trying to understand what their behaviour means, refusing to believe that everyone will not, at some point, fail or betray her. Part of this is due to events of her past, the sort of childhood trauma which could leave anyone on edge. Part is perhaps due to some more interventionist conditioning received as part of an (initially vague) corporate debt deal. The genius of the writing here is in giving us a character so wrapped up in containing their own past, and so affected by it as to be atypically non-empathetic – and getting the reader to feel empathy for that character, to understand them on their own terms.
Dee’s internal voice is an angular, precise, edged thing, which makes for sometimes difficult, but utterly believable reading. It matches perfectly with the self-contained emotional chameleon that Dee has perfected as an exterior – giving people what they expect, and hiding what remains of herself, past the façade, behind barriers of pain and emotional armour.

Given we’re in Dee’s head, I’d be hard put to describe her as a good person – but that’s one of the questions the text gives to the reader as it progresses. Whether the actions which Dee takes are the right ones is, it seems, a matter of moral perspective. Because Dee is on a spaceship, which appears to have barely escaped the ruination of Earth in a cataclysm of fire. And it appears that whoever ordered that catastrophe to unfold made sure they were also on that ship. Dee’s initial plan is to find that person, and to make sure they pay for their crime. Doing so will require intelligence, guts, quick thinking, and a mile-wide streak of ruthlessness. As the reader walks that long mile with Dee, we can see the decisions she makes in the face of moral expedience, deciding when enough is enough, shaped by her own remembered pain.

That moral journey is matched by an investigative one, as Dee delves into some rather dark corners trying to work out what happened, who did it, and how she can get to them. That investigation moves between the sterile corridors of the spaceship Dee calls home, and a variety of sweeping virtual environments. The corridors of the ship are described in a clipped, bare way which leaves them feeling cramped and utilitarian as much as their descriptions do; by contrast, the virtual environs are vividly imagined, richly detailed worlds – and they give us an opportunity to dig into our own future history – such as seeing the prelude to widespread riots in near-future London. In all cases, the world has its own feel; you can taste the smoke in the virtual air, and smell the tang of machined cleaning product in the sparse corridors of the ship around Dee’s compartment. The wider world is there in flashes, in cultural indicators in dialogue, in the studied disdain and flatly keen analysis Dee provides for most of her personal interactions.

Both edges of this world fit together seamlessly as Dee investigates what she believes is democide, and both feel real. Often bloodily, horrifyingly so. This is a world which pulls no punches, which wants both its characters and the readers to know that every action will have a consequence, and it may be swift and brutal, or it may be slow and corrosive. Dee begins as a prisoner of her past, of her past actions, the actions imposed upon her, and her reactions to them – shaped by trauma and circumstance into who she is – an open blade.

So, this is a really strong and intriguing character piece, and the world-building is plausible, tight and detailed. But is the story any good? I’d say so. The investigative threads are drawn ever tighter as the narrative progresses, until the tension is as taut as a piano-wire garrotte. There’s some snappy, visceral action scenes wrapped around that thread, and they’re not afraid to be dangerous or bloody or packed with narrative consequence. The threads were never quite going where I expected, which combined with the relentlessly paced prose to keep me turning pages to find out what happened next, and to see my questions answered.

In the end, this is a story which takes excellent characterisation with an interesting world and an intriguing plot that blends mystery and personal discovery, and combines them into a sterling piece of top notch science fiction.
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Picking up in the aftermath of the previous Planetfall novels, Atlas Alone was particularly dark and rather depressing. At its core, this was a story of revenge and the subsequent fallout of those actions.

All the books in the Planetfall series are loosely connected to each other and are largely considered to be companion novels, rather than direct sequels. However, this fourth novel was much more dependant on the setup of the previous books. In order to fully understand this story, readers should ideally read the three previous books before starting this one. As a warning, the first few chapters of Atlas Alone will completely spoil the endings of both After Atlas and Before Mars. If readers intend to read all of the books in this series, then they really should read through them in chronological order, saving this one for last.

Compared to the previous Planetfall novels, Atlas Alone most closely resembled the second book, After Atlas. The novel featured the same characters, including Carlos and his friend Deanna who was the primary perspective in this novel. I consider Newman to be an exceptionally strong author for creating well developed, multifaceted characters. Therefore, I was disappointed in the charazations in this novel, finding Deanna to read quite flat.  After Atlas was previosly my least favourite book in the series so unfortunately those similarities did not enhance my enjoyment of this novel. However, I know that many readers loved After Atlas and would, therefore, love this follow up novel a lot more than I did.. 

While not my favourite in the series, I would still recommend this novel to fans of the previous books. Furthermore, I would recommend the entire Planetfall series to any science fiction readers who enjoy character driven narratives. 

Disclaimer: I requested a copy of this book from the publisher for review.
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Ahoy there mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings.  While the other three books in the series can be read in any order, this book follows events in after atlas.  While I try to post no spoilers, if ye haven't read that one and keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . . .

atlas alone (Emma Newman)
Title: atlas alone
Author: Emma Newman
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Publication Date: TODAY !!! (paperback/e-book)
ISBN: 978-0399587344
Source: NetGalley

I read these books in publishing order and I do recommend that a person new to the series do so as well even though the first three books be companion standalones.  But like I said, this fourth book should be read last.

A brief recap.  Book one, planetfall showed the story of  a human colony on a remote alien planet far, far from Earth.  Book two, after atlas, is a sci-fi murder mystery novel set on Earth forty years after the colony ship Atlas has left the planet.  Book three, after mars, is about the an employee of a corporation based on Mars who has to solve a wicked bad case of déjà vu.  And then we come to the fourth book.

Now I didn't read the blurb for this one and jumped in with blind faith that the author would give me an excellent story.  She did.  This installment involves the colony ship, Atlas 2 and picks up from where book two left off.  It showcases the familiar Dee, a dedicated gamer struggling to deal with the consequences of leaving Earth behind.  Dee's anger is making her want someone to blame.  She just has to figure out who and then get revenge.

And that's all yer gonna get from me about the plot because of spoilers.  I think some readers will be surprised that this book did not take place on the colony planet.  I was.  But after a small mental adjustment, I was drawn right into this tale.  Like the previous three books, this is another character study where the plot (while fun) takes a backseat to the portrayal of the inner workings of a person and what makes them tick.  I read this in one sitting.

The nice part about this book is that we already know so much about the other two main characters (Carl and Travis) and ye get to see them from the perspective of Dee who previously was a minor character.  I actually found Dee to be extremely sympathetic and wanted her to succeed and get out of the mess she's in.  I did guess one of the major plot points of Dee's troubles and also an aspect of the overall ending but it didn't bother me too much.  There were small issues about character development and the bad guys.  But I should have known the reasons would be revealed.  I just had to wait for it all to unfold.

I loved this installment and highly recommend it.  I do hope we get at least one more story of life back on the colony planet.  While waiting to find out if the author is going to have one, do pick up any of the Planetfall books and treat yerself to a delightful story.

Normally I would post the blurb here but I think it be too spoilery.  Arrr!

To visit the author’s website go to:
Emma Newman - Author

To buy the novel please visit:
atlas alone - Book

To add to Goodreads go to:
Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous Log Entries for this Author
brother’s ruin - book 1 (On the Horizon - Fantasy eArc)
weaver’s lament - book 2 (On the Horizon - Fantasy eArc)
planetfall - book 1 (Sailing to the Stars)
after atlas - book 2 (Captain's Log - Sci-Fi)
before mars - book 3 (Captain's Log - Sci-Fi)
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Another strong entry in Emma Newman's SF series that began with Planetfall. The first three were only marginally connected, and could be read separately without confusion, even in a different order. Not so with this one. I suggest you not read it unless you have read at least the second one, After Atlas. I would have rated this 5 stars if not for the fact the final chapters were rushed, and the conclusion very abrupt.
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I've loved every book in this series and this one was no exception! The only thing I wasn't totally sold on was the ending, but other than that, it was a great read. I highly recommend this entire series with its fascinating world building, compelling characters, and gorgeous writing!

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkely Publishing Group for an advance reader copy.
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I've been reading along with this series ever since Planetfall. Unfortunately, I think this book was my least favorite of the series. And you should know- Atlas 2 and the colonists do NOT meet in this book. There had better be more in this series!!!!!!

So, each book has explored some sort of psychological issue. In this book, our POV character is Dee. She was a friend of Carl the Investigator (they played immersive games together), and he managed to get her onto Atlas 2 before the world blew up. I didn't remember anything about Dee, but you get to know her pretty well in this book.

Dee's issue is trust. She is a product of hot-housing, just like Carl, and was essentially a corporate slave. It looks like she primarily worked in the entertainment industry doing market and data analysis, because that's part of what she ends up doing in this book. Dee wants to get revenge on whoever blew up the earth, and she's convinced the culprit is on the ship with them. (I don't know why she thinks this; my first assumption was that government-corporations went to total war after Atlas 2 launched). To find this bad guy, Dee needs access to more detailed data than her clearance level warrants, and she gets this clearance through a hand-wavy expedience that doesn't come up in the plot again. 

A lot of this book is spent in an immersive virtual environment. Dee gets hooked into a game and ends up committing a crime, not realizing that her actions would have repercussions in the real world. Dee doesn't have anyone she trusts enough to confess to, so she's on her own with a creepy co-conspirator who only contacts her in virtual space. 

The end of this book is probably the darkest and most hopeless of the series so far, and that's saying a lot. As the author probably intended, I got swept up into Dee's point of view and agreed in principle with her actions but reading them being carried out really bothered me- Dee is borderline anti-social personality disorder and her moral compass is set to what is expedient and won't get her caught. This was well done on the author's part.

What threw me out of the story: in the immersive VR world, Dee is given very specific cues and touchstones. She sees people that she knew, or maybe only noticed a couple of times without interacting with them. The author tries to justify how specific VR worlds can get with a person's memory cues, but I just wasn't buying it. Here's the real spoiler part:

It turns out that Dee's co-conspirator is the AI of the ship, which ends up naming itself Atlas Alone. I had seen this coming from a mile away and was just waiting for the reveal. But that still doesn't explain just how specific the AI could be to the basement where Dee had to wait out the early 2030s London riots. There were smell, aural and touch cues. Or how it could know about Dee's last moments with her father. The atmosphere added to the spookiness of the book but I just couldn't believe it- it was too much like magic. There's no way the AI could have had some of the specific data it did. 

However, I still really hope that we get more of this series, because I have to know what happens when all of these characters finally are in the same place!
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Atlas Alone is a kind of cyber techno gamer story. I'm not a gamer, and honestly, I think that put me off the book. It's a good story and well written for the right reader. I couldn't get interested enough to care what happened. For fans of this genre, it's great. Unfortunately, I don't mix well with this story. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Elite gamer Dee Whittaker is 43 years old when she finds herself on a ship headed to the outer galaxies on a 20 year trip. She and the other 10,000 people on board are probably all that's left of humanity as a nuclear war was launched by someone on the ship as a parting gift.  Now she has just one mission left — find out who launched that strike.   She gets help from an unexpected place…

The novel is for gamers — most of the action transpires under the guise of mysterious games she plays on board at the invitation of “a friend.”  The games are very personalized — too personalized.  She finds herself in game situations that are far too close to her own traumatic past.  Our first-person narrative heroine has some real trust issues — her line: “I smirk at the way life always finds a way to remind me that I am fucked” says it all.  As we play the games with her and are treated to scenes from her past, we come to understand this sentiment.

Triggered by these unwelcome reminders of where she came from, she works towards her goal of identification and retribution while simultaneously and studiously *not* dealing with the emotional detritus of her experiences.  The ending is a big surprise (at least I didn’t see it coming) and there are some interesting themes of sentience vs programming for both AIs and human beings.

From a literary perspective, this is a good book.  Great pacing, a Heinlein-style straightforward writing style and story elements that remind me of Wool, Neuromancer, and Diamond Age.  From a “mood enhancing” perspective, it’s pretty sucky.  The author makes no bones about writing “dark” fiction, and this book is plenty dark.  There is more negative stereotyping than I like — Americans are all tarred with the religious nut brush:  “To be American is to be openly, passionately, religious” and “What exactly do they mean by the American way of life?  Hypocrisy? Lack of respect for anyone or anything that refuses to adopt its culture? Institutional racism and misogyny? Which Christian values exactly? What sort of religious observance?”  To be fair, I realized that if the “bad guys” had been Muslim fanatics I probably wouldn’t have noticed so that was an eye-opener for me.

Bottom line — a fast, engaging read.  Mostly action with threads of exploration of sentience, morality and ethics, and self-exploration.
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Atlas 2 hurtles away from Earth, leaving a broken planet in its rearview mirror. Passenger Dee knows that those responsible for the mass genocide they left behind are on board as well, but who are they and how can she punish them?

Emma Newman’s writing continues to be very smooth and easy to read. She explores Dee’s complex emotional state quite effectively and I was invested in her journey. Her VR-like “mersive” environments were incredibly vivid and fun to read, as well.

The story itself, although dealing with big events and themes, is a little too straightforward and its perspective is so fixed on one character that I felt like I was reading about a ship of twenty people instead of the thousands that are supposedly on board. Because of this, some of the big moments lack the impact that they should have had.  

Luckily, Newman writes killer endings and this book was no exception to that trend. I wasn’t as intrigued by the buildup to the finale, but Newman certainly left me wanting more by the ending. I really hope there will be more Planetfall novels in the future as this continues to be a wonderful series with countless story threads left to explore!
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