Book Review: After Atlas by Emma Newman |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #5 + AWARD UPDATE

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:

My goal was to read the shortlist before July 27th (the day the winner was announced) but I kind of failed so…

Award Update

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):

  1. 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!)
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: a brilliant and thought-provocking book that 100% deserves the award.
  3. 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.
  4. Central Station by Lavie Tidhar, a book filled with incredible ideas but that was lacking cohesion in my opinion.
  5. After Atlas by Emma Newman: a thriller with a couple of interesting ideas, I liked it enough but, overall it left me quite indifferent
  6. 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

Publisher: Roc

Length: 369 pages

Format: Ebook

Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: November 8th 2016


Publisher’s description

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…


Book Review

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.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: After Atlas by Emma Newman |2017 Arthur C. Clarke Shortlist Post #5 + AWARD UPDATE

  1. I really loved this book, but I think with the other books it was up against, I was surprised to see it on this list. It didn’t feel as “serious” as the others. I am now moving Underground Railroad up on my TBR because I definitely want to see why it won! Plus you loved it so I’m very curious. I even have a copy waiting:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it might be why I didn’t appreciate it as much, I might have been expecting too much from it. However, now I am very curious to read other books by Newman, I will definitely pick Planetfall and the other books set in the same universe! ^^
      Oh yes, please read it, this book is fantastic, I still think about it now and I have pushed it in many hands haha (I offered a copy to my father so I can talk about this book with somebody IRL 😛 )


  2. From your description I believe I would be more interested in the background the story is based on (the corporations literally owning people, the horrible contracts they have to sign, how the world reached that stage). It sounds like a fascinating (if horrifying) story, and I imagine how any kind of mystery would have trouble keeping up the pace – especially if it’s a “meh” mystery… 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Ah, so The Underground Railroad won? I guess I’m not really surprised to hear it, based on what I know of it from the chatter around literary circles. The other book I would have pegged to win is Ninefox, even though it didn’t work for me, but it has some really innovative and amazing ideas. Also, I personally loved After Atlas, and so far it’s my favorite book by Emma Newman, but it had that popcorn mystery noir feel to it that I had a feeling would knock it out of the running 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am that suprised either, for me it was either going to be Ninefox or TUG because they were the most innovative and clever books of the list for me. It’s funny to see that TUG won both the Clarke and the Pulizter, I don’t think it ever happened before (and now it’s nominated for the Man Booker!).
      After Atlas is a good book but compared to the some of the other works, it paled a bit in comparision, I liked it and I will read theother books in this universe but I wasn’t blown away.


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