Review: Atlas Alone

AtlasAloneTitle: Atlas Alone (April 16, 2019)
Author: Emma Newman
Pages: 336
Series: Planetfall #4 (Series Tracker)

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!

★★★½ out of 5

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Before Mars

BeforeMarsTitle: Before Mars (2018)
Author: Emma Newman
Pages: 320
Series: Planetfall #3 (Series Tracker)

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Upon landing on Mars, geologist/artist Anna Kubrin is immediately suspicious of her surroundings after spotting a series of ominous clues scattered in and around her Martian research facility. She’s unable to ascertain whether she is actually in danger or if it is all a paranoid delusion. Either way, she’s at risk, but nothing will keep her from uncovering the truth.

This was a wonderfully captivating read that I really enjoyed. Author Emma Newman has a masterful way of imbuing her protagonists with vulnerability and emotional depth. It is clear, based on her dedication and acknowledgements, that Newman’s own personal experiences greatly shaped and informed how she painted Anna in this novel, which adds a refreshing layer of authenticity to the narrative. The first half of the novel focuses heavily on Anna and the life she left behind on Earth. At times, the story is bogged down by her internal monologue and crippling self-doubt, but this serves to establish the character and makes way for a strong second half filled with the story beats and action that I knew was waiting to be unveiled.

Although less haunting than Planetfall (2015) and featuring a less complex crime story than After Atlas (2016), Before Mars is a compelling mystery box novel and a worthy addition to the Planetfall universe. With three books released and another on the way, Newman is crafting a superb series of interconnected works, with each subsequent book sprouting a new narrative thread while building upon the stories of the previous books. These books have been excellent and each new one I devour further solidifies their must-read status for me. I hope the story continues well beyond the next installment that is due next year.

★★★★ out of 5

Review: Weaver’s Lament

51npSG1Xv+L.jpgTitle: Weaver’s Lament (2017)
Author: Emma Newman
Pages: 160
Industrial Magic #2 (Series Tracker)

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Weaver’s Lament, sequel to Brother’s Ruin (2017), brings us back to protagonist Charlotte in Victorian-era England, where she attempts to infiltrate a suspicious mill and expose the poor working conditions and nefarious magic at play there. This series continues to be delightfully British — with tea, cakes, cravats, and magic, of course.

The “gaslamp fantasy” environment of Brother’s Ruin was fascinating and rich for potential exploration, but there was never a satisfying level of sufficient worldbuilding. Weaver’s Lament does even less with this world, sticking Charlotte in a stuffy mill for the majority of the book. The story gets bogged down with more tedious discussions of looms than I thought possible in a novel, much less a novella. Proceedings are much more compelling when Newman shifts to discussing Charlotte’s personal conflicts and her interactions with the alluring Magus Hopkins. The ongoing chemistry between Charlotte and Hopkins is the best part of this series, so far.

I’m a bit unsure if each one of these novellas is a one-off adventure or if each subsequent novella is a continuation of a cohesive story, but Weaver’s Lament does little to push the overall plot forward, much to my chagrin. If there’s another novella in Charlotte’s world, I’d hope for more worldbuilding, more magic, continued love triangle romances…and fewer looms.


★★½ out of 5

Review: Brother’s Ruin

brothers-ruinTitle: Brother’s Ruin (2017)
Author: Emma Newman
Pages: 160
Industrial Magic #1
My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Royal Society of Esoteric Arts provides stability and prosperity to Great Britain through the tireless work of their Magi. Latent magi are highly sought after, but, once discovered, must forgo their normal life for one solely in service to the Crown. With her autonomy threatened, Charlotte, a young mage, hides her abilities from the world. When her father foolishly offers Charlotte’s feeble brother up to the Royal Society in desperate hopes of landing the large windfall that comes with selection, Charlotte must use her abilities to save brother, her family, and her entire way of life.

This novella, very much a Part 1 to a larger story, did not hook me from the start. It seemed that Emma Newman’s flair for storytelling was not on full display at the outset and may have been hampered by the novella format. Slowly, but surely, as the narrative unfolded, I was more and more invested…until it all ends abruptly — just when I was ready for more!

With such an interesting gaslamp sandbox to play in, I had hoped for more worldbuilding and a wider scope. Hopefully that comes in future installments, as Brother’s Ruin feels like the appetizer to a (potentially delicious) five-course meal.

★★★ out of 5

While I was reading this I was delighted to see the news that Emma Newman will pen two more Planetfall novels. I first discovered Newman through those novels, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next in that world.

Review: After Atlas

28361265Title: After Atlas (2016)
Author: Emma Newman
Pages: 384

Planetfall (2015) has stuck in my mind since reading it last year. It had a haunting quality that I could not shake. After Atlas is a pseudo-sequel that takes place after the events of that novel, but exists adjacent to the original story. It certainly can function as a standalone novel, but knowing the backstory and outcome of Planetfall adds another layer to the reading experience that ended up being quite satisfying.

In the near future, technology has advanced to a point where everyone has their own virtual assistant, food comes out of printers, virtual reality is ubiquitous, and corporations (overtly) control governments. Some long for a simpler time, including those in the Circle, an anti-tech cult. When their messiah-like leader is found dead under mysterious circumstances, Carl Moreno, a detective and former Circle member, must solve the case while multiple nefarious factions attempt to stop him.

In this police procedural, let’s call it CSI: VR, author Emma Newman deftly lays out the clues and mysteries in a straightforward way, but the way the puzzle and solution come together is unexpected, yet makes perfect sense. The pieces fit together snugly and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Another strength of After Atlas lies in Detective Moreno, the chief protagonist. He has so many forces acting and pulling on his psyche, from his own internal demons, to his tragic past, to his unending indentured servitude to his employer, and to unseen external forces that are conspiring against him. He is a complex hero who has a gratifying character arc.

The ending of After Atlas was final in a certain sense, but opened the possibility for a follow-up that would explore the continuation of the same story, but would switch up the genre yet again. I, for one, hope that comes to fruition. Emma Newman has emerged as an impressive voice in science fiction who writes interesting stories with depth and nuance. I look forward to seeing whatever else she cooks up in the future.

★★★★ out of 5