Atlas Alone

Atlas Alone

Hugo Award winner Emma Newman returns to the captivating Planetfall universe with a novel about vengeance, and a woman deciding if she can become a murderer to save the future of humanity.Six months after she left Earth, Dee is struggling to manage her rage toward the people who ordered the nuclear strike that destroyed the world. She’s trying to find those responsible, an...

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Title:Atlas Alone
Author:Emma Newman
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Edition Language:English

Atlas Alone Reviews

  • Justine

    Tense and tightly plotted, this fourth book in the

    series is unputdownable.

    Taking place six months after the events of the chronologically concurrent books

    and

    , Atlas Alone is set on the ship heading for the Pathfinder's world. Deanna, who we first encountered in After Atlas, is the POV character this time around.

    As usual, Newman demonstrates her peerless mastery of delving the emotions and sense experiences of her characters as Dee is confronted by her past

    Tense and tightly plotted, this fourth book in the

    series is unputdownable.

    Taking place six months after the events of the chronologically concurrent books

    and

    , Atlas Alone is set on the ship heading for the Pathfinder's world. Deanna, who we first encountered in After Atlas, is the POV character this time around.

    As usual, Newman demonstrates her peerless mastery of delving the emotions and sense experiences of her characters as Dee is confronted by her past while she investigates and plans for her future.

    Dee's trauma results from the way she lost her parents, her home and childhood, and ultimately her legal personhood, which culminated with a life of corporate indenture. The portrayal of the adult resulting from that trauma is unflinching and complicated, adding a tremendous layer of complexity to the story.

    There are no disappointments to be had here. The Planetfall series continues to be consistently excellent, and Atlas Alone is one of my favourite books of 2019 so far.

  • Veronique

    4.5*

    It was with trepidation that I started this new novel from Newman, expecting the usual focus on a mental illness combined with a thriller story. The author didn’t disappoint :O)

    is the fourth novel in this universe but the first that felt like a direct sequel, of book 2. The narration, this time shown from the point of view of Dee, meets her six months after the events of

    , where she is finding it hard to adapt to life on the ship. Dee, and indeed Carl, cannot forget th

    4.5*

    It was with trepidation that I started this new novel from Newman, expecting the usual focus on a mental illness combined with a thriller story. The author didn’t disappoint :O)

    is the fourth novel in this universe but the first that felt like a direct sequel, of book 2. The narration, this time shown from the point of view of Dee, meets her six months after the events of

    , where she is finding it hard to adapt to life on the ship. Dee, and indeed Carl, cannot forget the covert destruction of Earth upon their departure, but also all the horrors that they experienced in their lives of corporate indenture. That is until she gets the chance to find out more about the ‘culprits’, investigating them, and even infiltrating them through immersives (virtual reality gaming). However, nothing is as it seems...

    Dee’s narrative won’t be to everyone’s taste. Here is a broken person, barely holding together, but surviving by pushing her feelings away, not confronting them, and finding oblivion through games. Understandable to a certain extent. What is interesting is the difference between her and Carl, and their approaches to life. Both are beyond hurt, and yet. As for the whole notion of immersives, that is another fascinating topic.

    The resulting story is compelling and thrilling, with quite a bit of suspense. And yes, there is plenty of room for the author to carry on. Please write another one - I want to know what happens NEXT!! :O)

  • Bradley

    Over and over, I'm confronted with the fact that I'm in love with Emma Newman's writing. She keeps changing tracks with every novel, giving us completely different KINDS of novels while still intersecting them all in not very strange but emotionally impactful ways.

    I mean, JEEZE. I could just mention what big thing happens in the other books and let all my gushy bits come out, but that's spoiler territory. What I will mention is my total respect for the way she treats trauma, surreal virtual-real

    Over and over, I'm confronted with the fact that I'm in love with Emma Newman's writing. She keeps changing tracks with every novel, giving us completely different KINDS of novels while still intersecting them all in not very strange but emotionally impactful ways.

    I mean, JEEZE. I could just mention what big thing happens in the other books and let all my gushy bits come out, but that's spoiler territory. What I will mention is my total respect for the way she treats trauma, surreal virtual-reality/dreamlike states, and the descent into Borderline territory.

    And here's the kicker... I loved every single minute of it. Did I start rocking hard to the excuses, the feel of JUSTICE pouring through my veins, the visceral satisfaction of it?

    Yes. Hell, maybe I'm a bit sick in the head. But I can do nothing but praise the author. She writes excellent science-fiction. Period. From science to the imaginative bits to the implications in the SFnal tropes. And all of it is handled beautifully -- even sticking to the current philosophical zeal to AI questions! :) I particularly loved the mirroring between the modern slavery questions and the overall fears we have about Artifical Intelligence.

    And then there was the story taking place. :) Muahahahahaha what a kicker. No spoilers, but damn, what a great twist. :)

  • The Captain

    Ahoy there mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings.  While the other three books in the series can be read in any order, this book follows events in after atlas.  While I try to post no spoilers, if ye haven't read that one and keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . . .

    I read these books in publishing order and I do recommend that a person new to the series do so as well even

    Ahoy there mateys!  I received this sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings.  While the other three books in the series can be read in any order, this book follows events in after atlas.  While I try to post no spoilers, if ye haven't read that one and keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . . .

    I read these books in publishing order and I do recommend that a person new to the series do so as well even though the first three books be companion standalones.  But like I said, this fourth book should be read last.

    A brief recap.  Book one, planetfall showed the story of  a human colony on a remote alien planet far, far from Earth.  Book two, after atlas, is a sci-fi murder mystery novel set on Earth forty years after the colony ship Atlas has left the planet.  Book three, after mars, is about the an employee of a corporation based on Mars who has to solve a wicked bad case of déjà vu.  And then we come to the fourth book.

    Now I didn't read the blurb for this one and jumped in with blind faith that the author would give me an excellent story.  She did.  This installment involves the colony ship, Atlas 2 and picks up from where book two left off.  It showcases the familiar Dee, a dedicated gamer struggling to deal with the consequences of leaving Earth behind.  Dee's anger is making her want someone to blame.  She just has to figure out who and then get revenge.

    And that's all yer gonna get from me about the plot because of spoilers.  I think some readers will be surprised that this book did not take place on the colony planet.  I was.  But after a small mental adjustment, I was drawn right into this tale.  Like the previous three books, this is another character study where the plot (while fun) takes a backseat to the portrayal of the inner workings of a person and what makes them tick.  I read this in one sitting.

    The nice part about this book is that we already know so much about the other two main characters (Carl and Travis) and ye get to see them from the perspective of Dee who previously was a minor character.  I actually found Dee to be extremely sympathetic and wanted her to succeed and get out of the mess she's in.  I did guess one of the major plot points of Dee's troubles and also an aspect of the overall ending but it didn't bother me too much.  There were small issues about character development and the bad guys.  But I should have known the reasons would be revealed.  I just had to wait for it all to unfold.

    I loved this installment and highly recommend it.  I do hope we get at least one more story of life back on the colony planet.  While waiting to find out if the author is going to have one, do pick up any of the Planetfall books and treat yerself to a delightful story.

    Check out me other reviews at

  • Kaitlin

    * I read this as part of the OWLs readathon for the Divination prompt *

    This book was one of my most anticipated as Emma Newman is one of my all-time favourite people and authors. She always delivers something I haven't seen before and it's always fresh, vibrant, challenging and fun all rolled together. This latest instalment for the Planetfall series is no exception.

    This story can be read as a standalone, but I would highly recommend that you read the previous three before this as I do think tha

    * I read this as part of the OWLs readathon for the Divination prompt *

    This book was one of my most anticipated as Emma Newman is one of my all-time favourite people and authors. She always delivers something I haven't seen before and it's always fresh, vibrant, challenging and fun all rolled together. This latest instalment for the Planetfall series is no exception.

    This story can be read as a standalone, but I would highly recommend that you read the previous three before this as I do think that although you will no doubt understand this one, it makes more sense and gives more context if you have the understanding of the previous books to draw upon. In this story we're even following some of the characters we met previously, and some pretty major events have happened to humanity.

    Dee is our main character. She is fairly isolated and she has suffered through some traumas as a child when her father died. She knows that there is refuge in gaming, and so she frequently slips off into VR and games her nights away. She even has a friend, Carl, who she occasionally does this with.

    Dee is not a thoroughly likable character at first, and she does some pretty bad things later in the book, but her mental health, mindset and isolation are all well covered by Newman over the course of the story and I felt like I had a strong understanding of Dee and her motivations throughout. Really, she just wants to get to the bottom of the mystery of what is left on Earth, and also what they are doing on Atlas II (the spaceship they are all on, travelling away from Earth to a new planet) and who is in control. There are a lot of secrets still to be uncovered, and when a mysterious gamer turns up and shows her the ways of leet gaming (elite and super realistic) she delves deeper.

    Eventually the games and reality seem to merge, and she has to figure out what is real, how these things are happening, and who really is the 'good guy' here...is she even good?

    The setting of this world is cool, there are mersives and AI and all sorts of awesome gadgets I wish were real. Emma continues to intrigue and excite, and this is a future which somehow seems both far-fetched and also tantalisingly realistic. I definitely rate the world and the discussions of this world highly on reasons why I love this so much.

    Overall, superb once again and the audio which is done by Emma is highly recommended too. 4*s again and thoroughly recommended :)

  • Denise

    There were times when I felt like this was a 3 star book at best. I was rarely surprised by the plot twists until the end. As with the other books in this series there are intense psychological issues explored. I think this was not quite as convincing as a portrait of the thinking caused by trauma. Still, I kept with the book (audio with the author reading which I enjoyed) and I can see that the final scene will be crucial to the further story-so 4 stars.

  • William

    4-Stars

    Yes, you should read at least book #2,

    before reading this. And I recommend you read book #1,

    , as well.

    A very good continuation of the Planetfall series, and it would have been 5-stars except for the incredibly dull setups to the immersion video game play. I find video games pretty boring, and "reading them" is ten times worse.

    The opening is very good, especially after the terribly flawed

    . It's nice to be back with Carl, Trevor and Dee again. This story

    4-Stars

    Yes, you should read at least book #2,

    before reading this. And I recommend you read book #1,

    , as well.

    A very good continuation of the Planetfall series, and it would have been 5-stars except for the incredibly dull setups to the immersion video game play. I find video games pretty boring, and "reading them" is ten times worse.

    The opening is very good, especially after the terribly flawed

    . It's nice to be back with Carl, Trevor and Dee again. This story is first-person Dee, and she's a distinct character from Carl, Ren, Anna and Trevor - a big plus.

    After the terminal horror of

    , unknown to most of the passengers on the Atlas 2 ship, we find Trevor, Carl and Dee living with the horrific images of that catastrophe. Since this is Dee's book, we see and feel that horror and anger most powerfully from her.

    The book really starts about 6 months after they've left earth, and both Carl and Dee are feeling "at loose ends" with nothing really to do with their lives, and no access to any real data. After Dee is offered a data analysis trial from one of the entertainment managers aboard the ship, her world expands quickly, even during the trial task.

    Someone talks about the Atlas 2 spaceship being the size of the Empire State building, and this came to mind 😉

    Another few supporting characters are introduced, and Dee is mysteriously given an immersion game-player trial as well, that hits far too close to home to be a coincidence. The setup of this immersion game (from Dee's veiwpoint) is pretty dull and technical, and lasts for far too many pages before the real game action starts. During the game play, we learn a lot more about Dee's childhood and teenage years. Just like Carl's, it's awful and cruel.

    After this game, which has a huge twist as Dee awakes, one of the new characters challenges Dee about her feelings, and we know that character will test her far more.

    The mystery is nicely plotted, and Dee and the characters are much more fully developed. Carl appears mostly as a minor supporting character throughout, sadly. Instead of the endless dull game setup, I would have much preferred to see his detecting skills in play.

    Several other games are played, again with dull setups, but Dee's character and the events leading up to the atrocity on Earth, and it's perpetrators become more clear.

    The climax appears to be a bit predictable, but instead is very cleverly plotted, with several very satisfying twists. The last few pages close this book with some surprises that do not bode well for the sure-to-come fifth in the series. I can already imagine the coming title!

    Note: If you are a gamer and you enjoy how the games are set up, you can add half a star to my rating.

    Notes:

    28%

    Again, Newman's prose is superb.

    39%

    After a few long, mostly boring video game chapters.... BLAM... suddenly a huge twist. Very clever Ms Newman.

    41%

    One thing I don't buy ...

    Leaving that niggle aside, the pacing is now driven incredibly by Carl's murder mystery. Wow.

    57%

    An awful lot of this book is padded with pointless video games. Dull, dull, dull. And the endless set-ups for the games are awful. What's the point of this endless crap? I skimmed quite a few pages, without any apparent loss to plot or character development.

    Quotes:

    In John Brunner's

    the giant AI computer was forced to take a truth if you told it "I tell you once. I tell you twice. I tell you three times."

    Dee:

    -

    Dee remembers the horrors of "calibration" by the hot-housers:

    -

    The creed of any typical zealot religion, just replace "Christian" with whatever:

    .["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Lyn

    How good is Emma Newman’s

    series? I read them all four back to back over a few weeks. Could not put them down unless it was to pick up the next in the series. Now that I have read the latest, I guess I’ll need to get in line to wait for the fifth.

    Atlas Alone takes up where

    left off, but is really more of a direct sequel to

    . (Before Mars was something of a standalone though it referenced the other books, had some of the same characters and was in the same world

    How good is Emma Newman’s

    series? I read them all four back to back over a few weeks. Could not put them down unless it was to pick up the next in the series. Now that I have read the latest, I guess I’ll need to get in line to wait for the fifth.

    Atlas Alone takes up where

    left off, but is really more of a direct sequel to

    . (Before Mars was something of a standalone though it referenced the other books, had some of the same characters and was in the same world building universe.

    The mostly American crew and passengers aboard the Atlas have left Earth and are traveling the two decades or so required to follow The Pathfinder to her new world as described in Planetfall.

    Like Tana French’s intoxicating Dublin Murder Squad books, each of these stories have been a first person narrator and from the perspective of a character mentioned in a preceding book. This one is from the viewpoint of Dee, Carlos’ badass friend and gamer. Much of this narrative is in a gamerpunk kind of set up, made all the more attention-grabbing by the heavy-with-reality and backstory “Mersives” they play. This concept is even more intriguing by the inclusion of a very crafty AI that has gotten in on the fun.

    Another ubiquitous element in Newman’s fiction is her keen ability to use unreliable narration and to convey a character with some serious mental and emotional baggage. While all of the first person narrators have had some hang-ups and some issues, Dee has them all beat with her deeply troubled past and with some industrial strength behavioral disorders.

    Newman left this one ripe for a generational ship plot to follow and I am all in on this great series.

  • Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)

    I ultimately found Atlas Alone to be disappointing. Part of this is that the previous three books have set a high bar, the other part is that I wasn’t happy with the novel’s asexual representation. The majority of this review is devoted to Atlas Alone‘s depiction of asexuality.

    Atlas Alone is the fourth novel in Emma Newman’s Planetfall series. Unlike the others, it isn’t really a stand-alone — I highly recommend reading After Atlas first. This review will contain spoilers for After Atlas, so sto

    I ultimately found Atlas Alone to be disappointing. Part of this is that the previous three books have set a high bar, the other part is that I wasn’t happy with the novel’s asexual representation. The majority of this review is devoted to Atlas Alone‘s depiction of asexuality.

    Atlas Alone is the fourth novel in Emma Newman’s Planetfall series. Unlike the others, it isn’t really a stand-alone — I highly recommend reading After Atlas first. This review will contain spoilers for After Atlas, so stop reading now or hold your peace!

    At the end of After Atlas, Carl, Travis and Dee witnessed a nuclear war that destroyed civilization on Earth. Although the three of them are safe aboard the spaceship Atlas, heading to a new planet, they know that everyone they left behind is dead or dying. And what can they do about it? Dee wants to find out who was responsible for ordering the attack, but she’s got very little information or means of gaining it — she doesn’t even know who is in charge of the Atlas. Luckily, she gets a break when she’s given a new job as a media analyst and invited to join an elite gaming server, where what you can do in the game is limited by your real-life skills. But something weird is going on. An anonymous figure invites her to a different, disturbing game where she encounters the dead bodies of everyone she knows on Earth and details of her past that no one else should know.

    I listened to After Atlas as an audiobook, since I’d realized that Emma Newman herself was the narrator. I don’t have any complaints when it comes to the narration! Emma Newman clearly distinguished all the voices and effectively conveyed the emotions of the characters.

    I loved the way the immersive gaming was used in the novel to depict Dee’s past. It was so creepy, almost verging onto psychological horror. Plus, it’s a wonderful mystery — who is this game creator who knows so much about Dee? I guessed the identity before it was revealed by the narrative, but I still like how that concept was used.

    I’m also glad that Emma Newman decided to continue the plot threads of After Atlas. The nuclear war was one hell of an ending, and I wanted to see the ramifications! Atlas Alone certainly gives us that. I also enjoyed seeing Carl and Travis again, as I really loved them in After Atlas.

    With all that said, here’s the thing I need to talk about with Atlas Alone — Dee is asexual, and as an asexual woman myself, I wasn’t thrilled with the asexual representation in Atlas Alone. Actually, “wasn’t thrilled” is an understatement. I was fairly upset, in part because I was so excited to hear that the fourth Planetfall novel would have an asexual protagonist. One of my favorite series having a book with an asexual lead? It felt like a wish come true!

    In part, I’m writing this review for other asexual people, but I know the majority of people who read this likely won’t be asexual. And given the lack of visibility of the asexual community, I’m going to assume a lot of the people reading this review won’t know basic stereotypes about asexual (ace) people. So if you are asexual yourself and already know this 101 stuff, go ahead and skip the next paragraph.

    Asexuality is a sexual orientation like any other. People on the asexual spectrum don’t experience sexual attraction or experience it in lower amounts than people who are not asexual. Common stereotypes about asexual people are that we are cold, emotionless, robots/aliens/inhuman, broken, all asexual because of trauma, repressed, sociopathic/psychopathic, etc. Here’s a Tumblr post about common asexual stereotypes seen in fiction that provides more detail on the topic and

    A lot of the same stereotypes apply to aromantic people. While Dee is not explicitly stated to be aromantic, she seems to be coded that way.

    Dee is depicted as asexual within the text although the word is not used. The author has however stated on Twitter that Dee is asexual. The passage below is the one which I see as depicting Dee as asexual. There may be others, but as I was listening to an audiobook, I didn’t take down quotes as I was reading.

    We also get this scene where Dee says she’s not het. I have removed the character names to avoid spoilers.

    As I mentioned before, the narrative never uses the word asexual. There’s also no mention of what Dee’s romantic orientation is, and as far as I know there’s no Word of God on that front. I initially read Dee never using the word to be a sign of how she hasn’t accepted herself. And of course, books don’t have to use the identity label to depict an asexual character. However, I don’t like that other identity labels like gay, bi, and het are used, but ace/asexual never is. Also, how clear is it that Dee is asexual to readers who aren’t asexual themselves? My fear is that her asexuality could be perceived as part of her mental illness. While I don’t believe this was the author’s intentions, I think it is something some readers could come away thinking, especially as the word is never used and Dee’s asexuality is never explicitly separated from her mental health issues. This is of particular concern to me because the asexual community has a problem with people trying to treat our orientation. Ace people seeking mental health treatment for things like anxiety and depression may encounter therapists who seek to treat their sexual orientation. I was incredibly lucky that coming out to my therapist went well, but I know other ace people who have had much worse experiences.

    Dee’s mental health problems stem from her past as a “non-person,” as in this dystopian future homeless people are regularly rounded up and sold into corporate slavery. As a result of that and the death of her parents, Dee is quite traumatized, but she refuses to engage with her emotions. She’s unable to trust others and keeps herself emotionally walled off. In her interior monologue, she berates her inability to engage emotionally and expresses doubt in her own humanity:

    As “trained responses” indicates, Dee’s trust issues and emotional problems are directly tied to the brainwashing procedure corporate slaves undergo (this is called “hothousing”). Other quotes are even clearer in that regard.

    Dee’s own perception of her inhumanity and emotionlessness comes up again in a conversation with Carl, the closest thing she has to a friend:

    As I said before, I don’t think Emma Newman intended for Dee’s mental health issues, the discussions of Dee’s ability to perceive emotions, her coldness, or her trust issues to have any reflection on Dee’s asexuality. However, a lot of the language here is also found in negative stereotypes about asexual people — that we are cold, unable to feel emotions or create meaningful bonds with others, and somehow inhuman. I don’t think that a story about an asexual character who is cold and distant due to trauma and mental health issues is necessarily a bad thing — I think there’s a need for that type of story. But I think that it would need to be handled with a very delicate hand. Ideally, I’d want to see a clear separation between the protagonist’s asexuality and her mental health issues, as well as other asexual characters who are not cold and distant. I would also appreciate a healing arc. In general, I don’t think Atlas Alone sensitively handled the intersection of mental illness and asexuality.

    The rest of my discussion on Atlas Alone and asexual representation involves major spoilers for the ending of the novel. If you want to avoid spoilers, please quit reading now.

    While I don’t think any of this was done out of malice or ill intentions towards asexual people, it still winds up playing into negative stereotypes. Atlas Alone may be a book that some asexual readers want to avoid. However, I also worry about what perception it will give non-asexual readers of asexuality. Since we lack visibility, any one asexual character can have a disproportionate impact and may wind up being one of the only asexual characters a reader has encountered. Within Big Five, traditionally published science fiction and fantasy, I can name only a few books with canonically asexual protagonists. These are Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, Garth Nix’s Clariel, K.A. Doore’s The Perfect Assassin, and Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and Clariel and Vicious also arguably reproduce the same negative stereotypes.

    A lot of times coming out to people involves explaining what my sexual orientation is and having to actively combat these stereotypes. I was originally going to recommend against Atlas Alone just for asexual readers who feel they might be upset by this narrative… but I fear what impressions this book will give people who don’t know any better (which is most people) about asexuality. So I’m reluctant to recommend Atlas Alone at all.

    Again, I don’t think Emma Newman intended any of this, and I do love her work. I really appreciate how this series deals with mental health issues, but at the end of the day, more thought and care should have been put into the depiction of Dee’s asexuality.

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    So far, I’ve been really enjoying Emma Newman’s Planetfall series, but I have to say this latest one was a bit of a miss for me. At least compared to the last two books, the premise and story of Atlas Alone did not feel quite as captivating to my imagination, which is a shame. After all, I am such a sucker for books with a video game angle, and I had been greatly looking forward to this one’s unique take on immersive gamin

    3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    So far, I’ve been really enjoying Emma Newman’s Planetfall series, but I have to say this latest one was a bit of a miss for me. At least compared to the last two books, the premise and story of Atlas Alone did not feel quite as captivating to my imagination, which is a shame. After all, I am such a sucker for books with a video game angle, and I had been greatly looking forward to this one’s unique take on immersive gaming.

    Like all the rest of the books in the series, Atlas Alone is a stand-alone story. This time, the focus shifts to follow Dee, one of the passengers aboard the colony ship headed to a new planet after a nuclear apocalypse decimated Earth. Six months have passed since the ship set off, but Dee is still struggling with the trauma of witnessing all the death and destruction. To cope, she and her friends Travis and Carl escape into “mersives”, or highly realistic virtual games that immerse the user completely into its environments, but lately, her addiction to these games has been having an adverse effect on her socially and mentally. Paranoid and jittery, she is also beginning to question the circumstances around the nuclear strike that destroyed Earth, and vows to make those responsible pay.

    Utilizing the tools she knows best, Dee throws herself into mersives to try to understand the ship’s hierarchical structure. One of these games, however, is like nothing she has ever played before. While testing the mersive for its designer, she becomes rattled by the realism of the game’s environments and situations, and the fact that the in-game intelligence seems to know a lot more than it should. During one of these sessions, Dee’s character kills another, and when she emerges back into “meat space”, she is shocked to discover that a man, bearing a striking resemblance to the one she’d killed in-game, had in fact also died in real life. Knowing that it can’t be a coincidence, Dee continues to search for more information in her quest to figure out how everything is connected.

    Unfortunately, this was probably my least favorite book in the series so far. Granted, I had pretty high expectations before I started, considering the high bar set by the other sequels like After Atlas and Before Mars, but objectively, I also felt that Atlas Alone was not as well written or put together. For one thing, the info dumps. Boy, did they get tiresome. If the narrative wasn’t expounding on the characteristics and technicalities of gaming, it was going on and on about the psychological profile of Dee’s personality and behavior. Like, please, I got it. Enough already.

    Worse, once you subtract all that, what’s left of the story is decidedly thin. To its credit, I thought the mystery plot itself was overall compulsive and very intriguing, and it didn’t bother me that it was on the simplistic side. However, I did mind that it was made more complicated than it had to be. It felt intrusive and distracting, messing with the pacing as well as taking away from Newman’s usually smooth writing style. Even the gaming aspect of the story did not really help; in fact, it eventually grew exasperating for me every time Dee entered into yet another mersive, because it often meant we were in for a long stretch where not much really happens.

    Then there was the matter of Dee. So far, all the books in the Planetfall series have featured main characters who fall outside social norms, with mental health being a recurring theme. Many of them have also experienced issues with trauma, or are dealing with symptoms of depression, guilt, or anxiety. Up until Atlas Alone, I’ve always been impressed with the author’s ability to make all the protagonists in this series feel genuine and relatable, thus making it possible to connect with their personal stories, though this time, I think she might have missed the mark. Simply put, Dee didn’t feel like a fully realized character to me, almost like Neman herself was unsure of where to go with her personality. For instance, some of Dee’s thought processes and behaviors didn’t mesh well at all with what we’re supposed to know about her, and many of her decisions in the second half of the book left me scratching my head and wondering if I had missed something.

    In the end, I give this book a 3 out of 5—and just barely. I enjoyed it to an extent, though unlike a couple of the Planetfall books that came before which were full of meaning and emotion, Atlas Alone left me feeling ambivalent and cold. The ending also felt rushed and forced, which robbed it of a lot of its impact. Nevertheless, I’m chalking this installment up to a fluke, as the other books in the series have been so enjoyable. I’m still looking forward to more, and given the way this book ended, here’s hoping there will be at least another volume.

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