Posted on November 17, 2017
Artemis by Andy Weir is his long-awaited second novel after the runaway success of his debut, The Martian. This book also turns its attention to space, but this time the setting is a little closer to home: Artemis is a city on the moon, and Weir returns with his trademark mixture of science and action.
[This book was sent to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.]
Jazz Bashara has lived on the moon since the age of six. She works as a porter (with a spot of smuggling on the side) and her life’s ambition is to be rich; in Artemis, money buys you space, and luxuries like showers and rooms you can stand up in. One day she is hired for a shady job by one of her long-time customers, who will pay her handsomely for her assistance. The trouble is that the job is highly illegal and dangerous, and if Jazz is caught she could find herself kicked out of Artemis for good – and Earth’s gravity is not kind to those who have been raised outside it.
In Artemis, Weir writes in his recognisably upbeat, conversational style. We are inside Jazz’s head, for sure, but it feels like she’s chatting to us, working out problems in front of our eyes and making things up as she goes. Jazz is bright and quick, and she needs to be because the plot throws obstacle after obstacle in her way (just like Watney in The Martian), and she often has to come up with a solution on the spot, with time (and oxygen) running out. For that reason, Artemis is another page-turning read; you’re never sure how Jazz’s best-laid plans are going to collapse, you just know that they will.
Weir is also very good at stepping up the peril as the novel progresses. What starts out as risky for Jazz becomes outright dangerous, and then this danger extends to her friends and family, and eventually the whole city of Artemis. The book is peppered with well-researched and believable science, from the intricacies of welding (Jazz’s father is a welder and trained her in the art) to the practicalities of maintaining a permanent habitation on the moon. There is also a lot of politics (both earthly and lunar) as Jazz gradually uncovers the larger forces at work in her home; she is a small (but crucial) cog in an enormously complex machine.
There were a few things I really enjoyed about Artemis, aside from its fast-paced plot and dollops of science-y stuff. It’s great to have an Arabic female protagonist (especially in a book that marketers might pitch as being ‘for boys’) who is complex and contradictory without lapsing into stereotype. I also really enjoyed the moon tourism: the landing site of the Apollo 11 has been fenced off and a viewing gallery built so tourists can see the landing stages and footprints left behind from humanity’s first visit to the moon.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the book’s humour – some of the jokes landed a bit flat – and a few of the characters did feel a little clichéd. For example, Jazz’s relationship with her friend Svoboda felt like a typical ‘nice guy’ escape-from-the-friendzone fantasy, which jarred with me. The ending was very nice and wrapped up all the loose ends, which isn’t a criticism because it’s what I’ve come to expect from a Weir novel, so if that’s what you’re after then you won’t be disappointed.
All in all, Artemis is a cracking space adventure story with plenty of problem-solving goodness, but I don’t think it’s as good as The Martian. With this book, I expected a fun ride tied up neatly with a bow at the end, and that’s exactly what I got.
“Who doesn’t want to come to Artemis? It’s the greatest little city in the worlds.”
Have you read this book or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Want to read this? You can buy the book here.