After Atlas (Planetfall, A)
by Emma Newman
Cover Artist: Anxo Amarelle CGI
Review by Gayle Surrette
Roc Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425282403
Date: 08 November 2016 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Carlos Moreno is a detective for GovCorp. He's usually assigned murder cases that need to be handled by the book and solved quickly. He prides himself on solving his cases correctly so that justice is served, but GovCorp is fine as long as someone is being charged. He's just returned from a case when he's asked to take charge of the investigation into the death of Alejandro Casales, leader of the Circle cult. The case is rife with political consequences and entanglements as Casales is from America and he died in Europe (England).
This is a futuristic world where people have implants that allow them to immediately gain access to a worldwide internet and where their internal AI handles their schedules, address books, research requests, and much more. Moreno's AI also gains him immediate access to police databases and runs analyses on crime scenes and other tasks that would take days, weeks, or months to compile today.
Complicating things for Moreno is that he was, at one time, a member of the Circle and Casales was the person who recruited his father to join the cult. There's a lot of history and background that comes in flashbacks and Moreno reminiscences, filling in his backstory and how it connects to Casales and the Circle. I hadn't read the previous novel, Pathfinder, but had no trouble following the action in After Atlas.
At heart After Atlas is a police procedural, so we learn how police work is done in an age of implanted AIs, even more CCTVs, and near instant analysis of data and crime scenes. The setting, in some ways, is almost a bigger part of the story than the actual mystery of Casalas' death.
The world's resources have essentially been used up and there's very little left to be pulled out of the planet anymore. Food is mostly printed and not grown so real food is mostly for the rich and is a scarce commodity. It's a darker world than ours where everyone is watched and yet there are still people living in the small fissures where the cameras don't record everything. It's also a world where people are considered a commodity, especially people without documentation or papers. Put it all together and this is definitely not a utopia.
There's also some external pressures to close the case in a way that is neat and serves a political narrative that is easier for people to believe. There are plot twists, red herrings, sabotage, threats, and an ending that I sort of saw coming--but not clearly so I was still surprised.
After Atlas is not an easy read. Readers will be able to see that this world, while quite different from ours, is logically built on current trends and it's something to think about beyond the story being told in this setting. The technology that allows police to pull CCTV coverage to follow a suspect's movements is fascinating on the one hand and scary as heck on the other. It may be a future world, but it is also too close to our own to be comfortable. Nevertheless, the mystery to be solved will keep the pages turning and give the reader a lot to think about after you read the last page.