I never took the opportunity to read The Martian. Saw the movie, tried to pick up the audio book once but it was a bad CD copy, and I just never got back to trying again. Recently, one of our illustrious fans requested that we read and review Weir’s next book, Artemis. Oddly enough, I also had to wrangle with a bad CD copy of an audiobook for this one (I love my library, but yeesh this seems to happen a lot) but I set my rocket scientist mind to the problem and figured out how to get it to work. And here we are. Interested in what we thought of it? I figured you might be.
ARTEMIS (Amazon) is Andy Weir’s second novel, which can sometimes be a difficult thing to pull off. Doesn’t matter if it’s the second book in a series or your second stand-alone novel, “Sophomore Novels”, as they’re called, are notorious for wreaking havoc on the author and on their reading public.
Jazz Bashara is living on the moon. She and a decently large population of people live in a habitat-city called Artemis. There are lots of things that are different for her, than for us normal Earthers. The gravity is significantly less, the atmospheric pressure is also considerably lower, and the large majority of everyone lives within the bubble-spaces and tunnels of the city. They’re closed off completely from the outside because, let’s admit it, the moon is a harsh mistress. 😉 There are also a lot of things that are really similar to Earth though. For instance, the social strata there is in full swing, there’s an underbelly to be found if you look close enough, and the drive of humanity in large measure and small is ever only all about one thing: money.
Jazz is a porter, moving items for people from one location to another, but she moonlights as a smuggler and sometimes thief, which is where she makes her real money. She’s tough, and practical, and pretty much only shows her rough side to those she interacts with. She’s also training to be one of the select few that is allowed to put on an EVA suit and actually leave the habitat as a tour guide of the lunar surface. And there’s a steady stream of tourists to support just such an endeavor. In fact, this new job is going to bring her a lot more money, and she has her hopes riding high on that goal, but plans don’t always go as… um… planned.
The strongest part of this novel for me was Jazz’s voice. As a person of interest she’s well-drawn, intelligent, and funny enough when she needs to be. Her plight as one of the lower class in this city on the moon was engaging enough to keep my interest, and the story is well-laid out and has a decent amount of world-building peppered throughout it to not make it ever feel too info-dumpy, even at the beginning. I did think that she could have been portrayed as slightly more sympathetic , as there were times when the good things the author does with her voice and the portrayal of her life just weren’t enough to carry me eagerly on to the next chapter. I mean, why should I worry if she doesn’t get the job, or if her boyfriend dumped her, or if there are suspicious people hanging out in the houses that she visits as a porter, if she’s even rubbing me the wrong way too much?
If I had to pigeonhole this one, I’d say that the story is closest in feeling to a heist story, although it takes a little while to get into that phase of the game. The writing itself was pretty decent, but there were times when I found the descriptions a little lacking. It was during those times that the whole “living in space” thing started to feel a little too simple and a little too mundane, and I missed having those constant, regular reminders that the space where she was living was DIFFERENT.
The thing that really kept the novel from being more than just mediocre for me though was the fact of how small the story felt. Only very few people are ever referenced in the chapters. When there are moments of wide-open choices to be made, there is only ever one possibility in the mind of the main character, and she always ends up being right. Everything pretty much moved in a single, straight line, and avoided most of the twists and turns that society at large can throw into the works. And I mean, granted, we’re talking about a relatively small city on the surface of the moon, but life just isn’t THAT simple.
I still think that this will be a book that people can enjoy. Call it a popcorn novel. Something that, if you read quick and don’t think too hard about it, just enjoying the ride and swallowing everything as it comes, you could decide was a pretty decent ride. Still, it’s not necessarily everything that I’ve come to expect from a Science Fiction novel. A little too easy and a little too small to be anything but ordinary for me.
- Recommended Age: 15+
- Language: Strong but infrequent
- Violence: Some fighting and some death, but nothing overly distracting or gory
- Sex: A handful of references and some conversation