Saturday, January 13, 2018

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis by Andy Weir
Hardcover, 305 pages Published November 2017 by Crown Publishing Group (NY)

Goodreads Choice Award for Science Fiction (2017)

The Martian was one of the biggest hits in the field of Hard sci-fi I can think of. The Ridley Scott directed movie starring Matt Damon certainly helped but it is not every sci-fi writer that has lines out the door at signings.

I was really looking forward to this book since I heard the author Andy Weir promote it on five million podcasts. Into the Impossible, Weekly Space Hang Out and Star Talk to name a few. I also won a VIP ticket to see him speak here a UCSD, and met him briefly at the meet and greet. He did a really great job of selling the world of the book so much so that I worried I knew too much. Alot of the world building and the setting is the stuff that Andy Weir discussed in his many interviews.

Artemis is a heist novel that is set on the moon. The title of the book comes from the setting, a lunar city centered mostly around the tourist economy. Yes there is industry on the moon in this future but the majority of the people traveling there come to see the landing site of Apollo 11.

The main character is a Saudi born immigrant to the moon named "Jazz". She has lived on the moon since she was six years old and 1/6th gravity is all she really knows. Jazz has made a slow living for herself filling a vital role, she is a smuggler. She figured out a way to move product to the moon considered contraband. Officials look the other way because as much as no one wants to admit it they need Jazz. In a city with a population the same as a large high school, everyone knows everyone.

So it is a dangerous path when a rich industrial business man offers Jazz a million slugs (local money) to blow up a competitor's operation and take control of Oxygen production. She can resist and of course there are many twists and turns as Jazz tries to earn her money. What she didn't for see is a larger plot is about to unfold.

The city and the setting are vividly realized, it certainly is a strength. As it is Andy Weir so the science is key to the story, he seems to like this zone of smart sarcastic characters using their wits to get themselves out of trouble using knowledge and smarts. The setting of the Martian had a first person conversational narrative style that made perfect sense. For example the forth wall breaking sarcasm was understandable because it made sense that Mark left behind on Mars would likely write his story. He would talk to his readers.

Jazz wouldn't likely never sit down to tell a long first person narrative. She was involved in a major crime, maybe to set the record straight but I didn't buy it. I think a third person narrative with switching POV's could have made a more dynamic story. That being said I loved the setting, the story and the various twists that happened in the book. I liked quite a bit even if the method of prose was not my first choice. It is very much a crime novel that just happens to be set on the moon. Much like Outland was a western that just took place near Jupiter. The science and the details of the story work.

One problem Andy Weir has coming off the amazing success of the Martian is a very very high bar. One thing the book had going for it was that people liked and rooted for Mark to survive and get home. In Artemis Jazz is not quite as likable. Her personality doesn't come off that different from Weir's last protagonist. I am sure he was advised to keep the sarcasm as a part of his style.

Transferred from a astronaut desperate to survive to petty criminal it came off a little less likable. I really didn't mind personally. Jazz was entertaining enough of a character and I was rooting for her by the end. That said I could see why some would be turned off by some of the immature humor, and her habit of hurting her friends and long suffering father.

I liked Artemis but perhaps not as much as I wanted to. Hard Sci-fi readers and fans of the Martian should check it out. Check out a half an hour long audio review I did with fellow critic Marvin Vernon of the Novel Pursuit for more details below:

Here is the video of the event here in San Diego I attended:

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