Several times over the course of reading this book I questioned why it was even written. Some authors believe they have an original vision that they'd like to share with the world, or a way of presenting a specific element of the story that might stand out. "Atlantia" however was a big flop, and for one primary reason: it felt half-hearted, and as a reason very unconvincing, despite having an array of topics it touched upon that would've made for a potentially very powerful and moving book.
Most of the story was redundant and unnecessary, such as Rio's constant questioning out loud and the endless stream of 'should I trust Maire? But she's evil. But my mom went to her' etc. Most of the time I felt like Condie herself didn't know where the story was heading, hyping it all up with the sirens and the death of Rio's mother, and when the reveal came it was neither big nor impressive nor all that interesting really. It was dry, just like the rest of the book, which was very difficult to get to. As a result there were portions of the book that I skimmed, reading the occasional line to make sure I was keeping up with the plot. That's never a good sign, when you can take out a chunk of the story and feel like you haven't missed anything and don't regret the personal revelations in the story that have occurred in that amount of space. It was a strange attempt at a post apocalyptic somewhat sci-fi, somewhat magical, kind of survival story with a thrown in romance, where no one did a convincing job of their role. As a result, the message of the sirens, which was the common but very applicable to this day concept of all living together in harmony despite differences, this had no effect on me as a reader whatsoever.
True was the only character that I enjoyed reading about, and the only one I cared for. I thought his name clicked well with the personality Condie wrote up for him. Rio was boring, despite the unusual name that constantly had me thinking about Brazil. Bay and Fen felt way too underdeveloped to care about, although I still managed to form a dislike for Bay. Maire was a confusing character from start to finish, and sounded like a knock-off Chesire Cat, to be frank, with all her riddles and ominous declarations that she knows the truth, all the while being frustrating to keep up with.
The world-building was the only decent thing in this book. I got a clear grasp of what Atlantia looked like and had a general atmosphere of the place. But this was swallowed up by the unnecessary repetition of Rio's thoughts over and over again without adding to the story and spoiling the literary sightseeing. I wish the Above wasn't so rushed, as the description was much more poorly done compared to Below.
Which returns back to my original question: why was this book written? What was Condie trying to do with it? I really don't know. The ending was what sealed my opinion that this book was written on a sporadic whim with very little to no idea of where the story was going. It's not long, nor interesting, enough to fit into another money-making trilogy, so it could be fit into a standalone novel. But it didn't work, not with the dry and unconvincing story from start to finish, and especially not with an ending that felt more like someone's desperate last breath in an attempt to redeem themselves. I think it's best for me to avoid any more of Condie's work. I wasn't really into "Matched", as a result not bothering to pursue the entire series, and "Atlantia" was a flop. Her writing has an apparent pattern at dryness that isn't for me. There are better books I'd rather invest my time in.