Thursday, 27 February 2020

After Atlas / Before Mars


I don't think I've talked about how much I love the Planetfall books by Emma Newman, partly because I've been devouring them during my lax blogging months. Whilst part of the same universe, each book has a self-contained story. You can read my review of Planetfall, which gives background to the religious cult that appears throughout, and can definitely be treated as a standalone. What I specifically enjoyed about After Atlas and Before Mars was how they spanned the same time period, but from different perspectives.

After Atlas is set on Earth and is a sort of noir, murder mystery. Carlos is an indentured slave, a non-person bought by a corporation, and is "working off" the lifetime debt as an detective. He is connected to The Circle through his father only, wishing to keep his distance from the cult, but when their leader, Alejandro Casales, is found dead he is brought in as someone with insider knowledge.

As well as having an intriguing mystery to solve, it explores what it means to be owned by someone, to never be free to make your own choices and to life with the threat of being sold. Carlos is drawn into a bigger game, where the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Before Mars is set on Mars, with Anna arriving on the base, an artist commissioned to make unique paintings using the minerals of the red planet. When she finds a note in her own handwriting warning her not to trust the base's psychologist, she starts to worry she's suffering from immersion psychosis, just as her father did.

Having left her child behind on Earth, she knows she should feel guilty but instead feels relief. The story explores how postnatal depression can affect a family, but essentially Anna loves her child very much. As the story starts to gather pace, you start to link things to what happened on Earth in the previous book, which is happening at the same time, only thousands of miles away.

All the books in this series have complex characters dealing with mental health issues at the same time as having gripping plots and mysteries to solve. They are full of questions about the future of humanity, inequality and faith. I'm looking forward to reading Atlas Alone soon, and I promise to write a review this time.

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