"Why two covers?" are you asking, "You never put two covers even if it's a series." Thank you for being so observant a regular reader (or if it's the first time you come here, welcome). Planetfall and After Atlas are both set in the same universe. They are both tied by one event: a ship called Atlas leaving Earth with humans aboard. But they can both be read as stand alone novels, you could even read just one and not the other. On the other hand, reading both as a diptych will certainly illuminate the stories more...
For all appearances, both novels are extremely different: while the first one is a metaphysical planet opera but above all a story about mental breakdown, the other one is a dystopian noir cyberpunk that moves from a Blade Runner like setting to Agatha Christie with more gore and virtual reality.
The themes and tones are different too: Planetfall is raw with grief. It strikes true and is gut wrenching. After Atlas is, for most of the novel, a grim social commentary through a murder investigation and reminds at times of The Stars My Destination.
But both have this common theme: how do you flee a life that's a sham and in which you try to hold onto appearances and find small ways to make it bearable?
The characters are certainly a highlight of both novels: Ren, in Planetfall, is written with an amazingly true intensity. Carlos, in After Atlas, has all the appearances of the hard-boiled detective and reveals, layer by layer, his anger and his drive.
By reading Planetfall first and then After Atlas, both endings will be even more striking and leave you wondering what will happen. But it will also make visible how both, despite such different stories and settings, are a variation on the importance of choices. Reading the diptych will make you ask for more of Newman's writing... And since she has also written a series of fantasy novels, Split Worlds, that wish can be easily fulfilled!
The author's website.
Update - 3 May 2017: After Atlas has been shortlisted for the 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award. An excellent choice!
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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