Sunday, June 17, 2018

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis by Andy Weir
Published: Crown Publishers (2017)
Awards Nominated: Prometheus Award

The Book:

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself -- and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.”

After loving The Martian, my husband and I listened to Artemis on audiobook while exercising on training bikes.  The narrator (Rosario Dawson) was excellent, and put a lot of personality and emotion into the main character’s voice.

My Thoughts:

Artemis has some similarities in style to Weir’s hit novel The Martian.  The prose is written in a very casual, conversational way, with lots of jokes and pop cultural references.  The story involves living off the Earth, and the plot relies on creative problem solving. Also, like The Martian, this feels like a good-natured story. By this, I mean that Weir is not aiming for grimness, so you can bet that the main characters are fairly decent people (minor crimes aside), and that things are likely to work out in the end.  As in most problem-solving based stories, the fun is in the journey--in seeing what obstacles will hit Jazz and her friends, and how she will manage to overcome them. In terms of differences, this is a heist story, which necessarily involves the interaction of a larger cast, and it’s set far enough in the future that we get to see a completely new society.

I enjoyed hearing the story from Jazz Bashara’s perspective, because I liked her audacity and her enthusiasm for life.  Jazz may not have the hyper-competence of Mark Watney, but she is quite good at improvisational problem solving. She is also immature and reckless, has a crude sense of humor, and uses a lot of profanity. I found her at turns impressive and frustrating, but always in motion and interesting to follow. As a side note, she is an ex-Muslim woman of Saudi Arabian descent, written by a white man.  I obviously enjoyed her as a character, but I am also coming from an outsider’s view of her family’s culture and religion.

Jazz is a very proactive character, and as a result the story is propelled along at a fast pace.  She’s lured into the heist pretty quickly, and from there it is a constant progression from crisis to crisis.  The urgent present-day story is interspersed with a record of letters to her childhood pen pal. I felt that these letters did a good job of slowly revealing the full motivations behind Jazz’s actions without significantly interrupting the action.  In the present-day story, there’s also a fair amount of scientific explanation--both of the habitat and of stuff like welding and chemistry--but I never felt like it bogged down the action. I’m a big fan of Kim Stanley Robinson, though, so my tolerance for that sort of thing may be higher than average.  All in all, it was a very entertaining and fast-moving story, and it made the virtual kilometers fly by.

My Rating: 4/5

Artemis is Andy Weir’s latest novel after his popular debut, The Martian. It has a lot in common with his first novel in terms of the writing style, optimism, and focus on science, but it also breaks new ground as a farther-future heist novel on the moon.  I enjoyed the voice of the main character, Jazz Bashara, though she could be pretty impulsive and immature at times. She kept the story moving at a fast-pace, and it was exciting to see how she would deal with each challenge that came her way.  I’ll be interested to see what’s next for Andy Weir.

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