I knew this book didn't pick up right after Planetfall, and that it followed a different set of characters and story, but I didn't quite expect it to be quite so radically different. If Planetfall reads like anthropological sci-fi After Atlas reads like a cottage mystery with a dose of cyberpunk. The tone has that signature cyberpunk bleakness, which I found blended very strangely with the English countryside cozy inn mystery angle. The writing is still sharp and engaging, but I never really felt completely sucked in. (Probably because while I do enjoy cyberpunk stories I don't generally enjoy mysteries.)
I also had some trouble connecting with the main character. He continually told us how curious he was, and how he couldn't leave a mystery unsolved, yet over and over again he did things that demonstrated the opposite - for example he habitually deleted messages unread, and failed to follow up on suspicious behavior in both friends and suspects. This drove me nuts. If I, the reader, am curious about these things, then I find it maddening that the so called "curious" character (who would presumably be affected by these things) doesn't care. I could never decide if he was just lying to himself about who he was, or if it was a blindspot for the author.
Also...the ending. I'm not going to go into specifics, because I try to write spoiler free reviews, but do be prepared for it to be weirdly paced, and to pull the rug out from under you. I felt like I was reading a different book the last 100 or so pages, and the last two pages left me reeling. Planetfall also had some ending weirdness, so I thought I was prepared, but I was not.
All of this makes it sound like I didn't like the book, but that's not the case. The world building Newman has done remains intriguing, and she has a lot of interesting things to say about people, technology, and potential futures. While I didn't love this book the way I did Planetfall, I do respect how different it was, and what she was doing. I don't think she failed, I just think it wasn't as much to my taste. There's a lot in here to think about, and I'm quite interested to read her next book set in this world.