The 2017 Clarke Award shortlist was announced at the beginning of May and, as I did last year, I want to read the entire shortlist.
If you have not seen the shortlist already, here it is:
- Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
- Central Station by Lavie Tidhar
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- After Atlas by Emma Newman
- A Close and Common Orbit by Beckie Chambers
- Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan
My goal was to read the shortlist before July 27th (the day the winner was announced) but I kind of failed so…
Well, I wanted to review the entire shortlist before July 27th but due to a very very busy month of July, I didn’t have the time to do so. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award and I am very glad it did, I think it was probably the best work on the shortlist even if I personally prefered Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If I had to rank the books on the shortlist, it would be in this order (from the best to the worst):
- Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee: an original, complex and very clever space opera book with awesome characters (objectively I think The Underground Railroad is a better book but I love Ninefox Gambit so much that I can’t put it lower in this list!)
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: a brilliant and thought-provocking book that 100% deserves the award.
- Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan, a very weird but innovative book that I discovered thanks to this year shortlist, it’s definitely one of the most surprising book I read this year.
- Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, a book filled with incredible ideas but that was lacking cohesion in my opinion.
- After Atlas by Emma Newman: a thriller with a couple of interesting ideas, I liked it enough but, overall it left me quite indifferent
- A Close and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers: I still can’t understand why it was shortlisted, I found it dull and quite boring to be honest.
Genre: Science fiction, Mystery
Length: 369 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Publication Date: November 8th 2016
Govcorp detective Carlos Moreno was only a baby when Atlas left Earth to seek truth among the stars. But in that moment, the course of Carlos’s entire life changed. Atlas is what took his mother away; what made his father lose hope; what led Alejandro Casales, leader of the religious cult known as the Circle, to his door. And now, on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of Atlas’s departure, it’s got something to do why Casales was found dead in his hotel room—and why Carlos is the man in charge of the investigation.
To figure out who killed one of the most powerful men on Earth, Carlos is supposed to put aside his personal history. But the deeper he delves into the case, the more he realizes that escaping the past is not so easy. There’s more to Casales’s death than meets the eye, and something much more sinister to the legacy of Atlas than anyone realizes…
I finished this book about a month ago and I debated reviewing it or not for a while. I finally decided to review it to get the final Clarke post out of the way so I can focus on other things but I don’t have many things to say about this book. I think it is an interesting work and I can see why Newman is appreciated so much but I don’t think this book was for me.
After Atlas follows the story of Carlos Moreno, a detective owned by the Neuropean Ministry of Justice in a close future where corporations are able to buy poor people off and turning them into perfect little slaves. Carlos can’t marry, be in a relationship or have children, as written on his contract. Even if he’s not extremely happy about it, he can still live with it (it’s not like he has a choice, he can’t take his own life anyway, it’s on the contract) because he loves his job and he’s very good at it. Well, until the day he has to find the murderer of, Alejandro Casales, a famous cult leader, a man Carlos used to consider as his father.
I will be quick here but I think this book made a poor thriller, it had loads of very interesting concepts and ideas that were used quite well but the mystery part was a let down for me. I don’t read a lot of thrillers but usually, the part where you learn who the killer is is supposed to be a huge thing, a great reveal or something that makes you say “oh god, I did not expect THAT”. Well, it wasn’t the case with this book for me at all, when we learnt about the killer and his motives, I pretty much rolled my eyes, the reveal did not answer most of the questions I had and I left me underwhelmed.
However, some other things in this book were done quite well. I was very interested to learn about the way Govcorps could basically buy human beings and how this whole system was put in a place in this world. Carlos’ story was fascinating, his perspective on his situation and his childhood experience with The Circle, the cult led by Alejandro Casales were horrifying and thought-provocking. The world Newman created felt real, and, in a terrifying future, you could imagine a society like that actually existing and that was one of the strongest aspect of After Atlas in my opinion.
So, even if I wasn’t blown away by this book, the characterization and the worldbuilding were very interesting and the ending suprised me enough for me to considering read the next book set in this universe. Because of those aspects, I can see why it ended up shortlisted even I don’t think it’s one of the best SF books published last year!
Other than that, I don’t have much more else to say, if it sounds intriguing to you, I would still recommend it, just don’t expect After Atlas to be the best mystery book ever.