The fourth in a series of standalone science fiction novels, I was a bit worried that it might feel too much like starting in the middle of a series. But never fear, it works as a true standalone novel, and is thrilling and will keep you in its thrall – I am now in dire need of all of Emma Newman’s other books! Massive thanks to Will O’Mullane and Gollancz for providing me with a review copy for Atlas Alone‘s paperback release.
RELEASE DATE: 09/01/2019
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: 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, and to understand why the ship is keeping everyone divided into small groups, but she’s not getting very far alone.
A dedicated gamer, she throws herself into mersives to escape and is approached by a designer who asks her to play test his new game. It isn’t like any game she’s played before. Then a character she kills in the climax of the game turns out to bear a striking resemblance to a man who dies suddenly in the real world at exactly the same time. A man she discovers was one of those responsible for the death of millions on Earth.
Disturbed, but thinking it must be a coincidence, Dee pulls back from gaming and continues the hunt for information. But when she finds out the true plans for the future colony, she realises that to save what is left of humanity, she may have to risk losing her own. (from Gollancz)
OPINIONS: Stuck on a starship after the destruction of Earth, Dee is thrilled when she is invited to join an elite gaming server that will challenge her to play as herself – her own physical and mental limitations will apply in the game as well. However, at the same time, she is also approached through untraceable messages undetected by her AI, insistently inviting her into another game… Emma Newman weaves a masterful narrative around gaming, AI, and morality, as well as the consequences that may arise out of actions not believed to be lasting. It is an interesting conundrum to consider whether killing that is intentional and desired but not considered to be binding is still murder or whether it lacks the gravity to be considered as such.
The technologies crafted for the near future are fascinating, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the standalones in this series to learn more about them! For example, Dee has a study that she can change to look like any place she desires for as far as she likes, and most food is accessed through printers. Sadly, the one weak point are the minor characters: apart from Dee and the antagonist, about whom I can’t anything without giving away too much, the remaining characters are relegated to side action and are not fleshed out very much. It would have been interesting to find out more about Travis and Carl, Dee’s friends. They felt more like characters from a short story rather than side characters from a novel, if that makes sense.