Well, it looks like it’s been almost a month since I last posted, but the hectic days of midterms and Thanksgiving break are behind me, now, and I can give this blog the attention it deserves. I’ll start things up again with a review of the newest book on my shelf: Andy Weir’s Artemis. This tale of lunar survival made waves in the sci-fi community when it came out, being the second novel from the mind behind The Martian, and I put off reading it entirely too long. Now that I have, my feelings are… mixed.
I adored The Martian. I read it during the car ride to a high school robotics competition, and it had me laughing all the way to Oakland and back. The mixture of a high-stakes, scientifically accurate plot with Mark Watney’s oddball sense of humor really sold the story for me.
Artemis is The Martian, amplified. And that does not work to its advantage.
Now, here’s the premise: Jazz Bashara is a porter and part-time smuggler working in Artemis, a populous (and brilliantly described) lunar colony. She’s just barely able to make ends meet. After all, Artemis is a libertarian utopia, with exactly one police officer, few restrictions on business, and a massive gap between wealthy tourists and destitute laborers. So when a Norwegian billionaire offers Jazz the chance to make a killing through some subterfuge and industrial sabotage, it seems like the perfect opportunity for her. Then things get complicated, and people start dying, and the future of Artemis itself hangs in the balance.
The plot is fun, even if it didn’t dazzle me. I liked its take on lunar economics. This being Andy Weir, the science was magnificent throughout, and the details—everything from firefighting in a closed space, to producing oxygen as a byproduct of aluminum smelting, to evading shrapnel in an airless environment (one of the many, many ways you can die on the Moon)—were the main thing that kept me reading. Weir’s technical descriptions are at least as involved here as they were in The Martian, and he deserves credit for the immense research and creativity that must have gone into this. That said, he definitely goes overboard in places. There are easily ten pages’ worth of material in here devoted to the finer points of welding. I have to admit, I skimmed a little.
And while Weir gets a little carried away with the science, he gets extremely carried away with the humor, which is overly sexual and often downright cringeworthy. Jazz Bashara’s voice certainly doesn’t sound authentic when it’s just an exaggerated version of Mark Watney’s from The Martian. Really, there several times that I thought Watney’s ghost had somehow crossed over and possessed this book’s protagonist, with an added injection of humor that was last spotted in a middle school cafeteria. It gets grating after three hundred pages.
All right, I’ve done my duty as a reviewer and given this book flak. But, would I recommend that you read it? Possibly, depending on how you weigh its positives and negatives. For me, the depth of the science in Artemis was incredible, and just for those juicy hard-sci-fi details I put up with everything else.