When I first read Andy Weir’s blockbuster novel the Martian, I was blown away. I had heard such good things, but I really went into it more curious about its history. Weird basically self published the novel after writing it piecemeal on his own website. And, as someone with aspirations of writing novels and with some ideas regarding utilization of the internet to accomplish those means, I was intrigued. So, I was pleasantly surprised when the novel itself was a lot of fun. It certainly had some issues from it’s serialized format, where the novel had a bit of a problem with things too many things going wrong for the protagonist in a row. But, regardless of that the novel was full of delightful characterization, inventive plotting, and some truly fascinating science and world-building. It was a really wonderful book that made for a truly excellent film, and I became very interested in what Andy Weir would be up to next. And, when he announced it, I was a little wary. The initial plot description of Weir’s second novel, Artemis, seemed a little too far on the “fiction” spectrum of science-fiction. But, I felt like Weir deserved a shot, and went into Artemis with as open a mind as I could. And, more or less, this novel was a lot of fun.
Artemis takes place in the eponymous city, the first and only city on the moon. It’s the near-future and the people of Artemis live in a well-designed city that runs primarily on tourism and aluminum manufacturing. The story follows Jasmine “Jazz” Bashira, a woman who has spent most of her life in Artemis and who runs a smuggling operation in the city that brings all sorts of contraband. She leads a pretty meager life, just keeping her head above-water and away from what passes as the law in Artemis. But, her life gets much more complicated when she’s given a new job. A powerful industrialist named Trond who has retired to Artemis has decided to take down the aluminum manufacturer in Artemis and supplant them. He just needs Jazz to help him destroy the machines that harvest the ore needed in the manufacturing. Jazz is a little worried that this is above her skill-level, but she decides to give it a shot. So, working with some friends of hers in the city she devises a plan that will destroy the harvesters. And, it mostly works. She gets caught, and one of the harvesters survives, but she makes a serious dent in their production.
There’s just one problem. It turns out that things weren’t exactly as they seemed. Trond wasn’t interested in taking over this industry just because he was bored. He’d recently learned that there is a revolutionary new industry heading to Artemis that can create a new type of cable that will change the telecom industry on Earth forever, and it can be only created on the moon, using the smelting methods on Artemis. And Trond wasn’t the only person who knew about it. Because that aluminium factory was also run by a Latin American mob, and they are not pleased with Trond trying to push them out of the market, and have sent some killers to Artemis to stop them. So, Jazz and her friends are forced to make a decision. They can either stand by and watch these mobsters take over Artemis, and turn it into a criminal hotbed, or they can find a way to ruin their operation. They of course chose the latter, and work together to plan a massive heist that will forever destroy the aluminium smelter and push the mob out of Artemis. Jazz gets together a group of Artemis citizens and they get to work. In true Andy Weir fashion things keep going wrong, but eventually they succeed and the city is safe from the mob and allowed to enter a new golden age.
Overall I enjoyed myself with Artemis. It was structured like a series of daring heists, had a really fast-paced and rollicking plot, and was stuffed with that sense of scientific accuracy that I loved in the Martian. I have no idea if all of it adds up, and if Weir stumbled upon some brilliant methods to have a functioning moon colony, but it was presented in a way that made sense in the narrative. But, I think the novel’s biggest flaw, and the reason that I liked it much less than the Martian is the fact that it felt too similar to the Martian in one big way. The protagonist. I liked Jazz Bashira, but I liked her even more when she was Mark Wattney. The characters are virtually identical, even though they should have been. Ever single character spoke to each other in the same sarcastic manner, and it was hard to differentiate between their personalities. Andy Weir clearly has a very specific style of writing dialogue, both external and internal, and in the Martian it work, because we were primarily with one character. But when you’re given a whole city of people who act and talk exactly the same, it can feel a little weird. I still enjoyed this novel, and while I feel like the world-building in it was a little more ham-fisted and out of place than in the Martian, I think its biggest flaw were those characterizations. Weir has a skill of making really enjoyable and fun science fiction novels that tend to lean more to real-life, I just hope that in the future he can tone down on the snark and spend more time focusing on character.
Artemis was written by Andy Weir and published by Crown, 2017.
Categories: Page Turners