REVIEW: Artemis by Andy Weir
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.
Dear Mr. Weir,
Though I’ve seen the movie, I haven’t read “The Martian” so I can’t speak to how similar this is to it. I do agree with several reviews I’ve read at Amazon in that this character reads more like a YA teenage boy to me than female. But while this is engaging and entertaining, it has some quality control issues once I start really thinking about it.
Several reviews I’ve read of “The Martian” mention the science and here the engineer/science porn is continued with loving, detailed explanations of key things that Jazz knows – and we need to know – to understand what’s going to happen. This is repeated to the degree that it almost felt like giant neon arrows pointing towards key knowledge. “IMPORTANT – PLOT POINT.” I’m not sure about the tech and specs but it all sounds nifty neat and Jazz uses her brain to figure out how to blow stuff up instead of merely blowing stuff up.
Jazz is smart-alecky, very confident, and very smart – gosh everyone says so. It’s great to see this in a heroine but even with all her knowledge and moxie, almost every move of the original crime had Jazz telling us or muttering to herself “I had to hope” — this wouldn’t be seen, or this would happen, or that wouldn’t. Jazz mostly stays just snarky-funny but with a few snarky asshat moments thrown in. She’s not perfect though and admits she’s done some dipshit things in the past.
This makes her a difficult character to love and I had to stop myself from judging her juvenile mistakes. Hey, we were all young once though some people never seem to outgrow an attitude. We’re told that she jumps at the chance to earn fuckloads of money – she has a specific amount she’s been working towards – but initially the reason seems to be she just wants to be rich and move to a better neighborhood. Okay so there’s nothing wrong with that but it’s not exactly emotionally stirring motivation. Later on she does repay an old debt which moves her reasoning more to the positive end of the scale.
A lot of time is spent setting up this world and the tons of characters in it. New details are revealed along the way but it feels more like an attempt to keep from info dumping and info overload rather than trying to extricate the plot from a painted-in corner. But I had to wonder why Jazz would be explaining all this stuff in terms that are directed to a reader from 2017 – I mean IRL who goes through their day mentally explaining things to a person from 1917?
The conflict actually sounds interesting and something that could spring-board the plot into action. It’s also a reasonable impetus for a Richfuck to get involved with it to become an even Richerfuck. But as nifty as all the science porn is, it does go into explicit – ahem – detail when for the sake of moving the story along it could be tightened. Yeah, I might have learned a few things but I also got a touch bored at times as yet more details got unloaded on us squashing the action flat.
Still when the troops need to be mobilized to put Jazz’s plan to save their city into action, Jazz delivers a great “rouse the followers” speech.
“Dammit, Bob,” I said. “I don’t want to spend time on the ‘will you or won’t you help me’ part. If you don’t understand why we have to do this, go stand in the corner until you do.”
“You’re such an asshole,” said Bob.
“Hey!” Dad shot Bob a look that made the burly marine draw back.
“He’s right, Dad. I am an asshole. But Artemis needs an asshole right now and I got drafted.”
I walked to the middle of the room. “This moment—this moment right now—is where we decide what kind of city Artemis is going to be. We can either act now, or let our home degenerate into syndicate rule for generations.”
I looked each person in the eyes. “I’m not asking you to do this for me. I’m asking you to do it for Artemis. We can’t let O Palácio take over. This is our one chance.
I can almost hear the stirring music. Then – with the clock ticking – she has to figure out how to save the city from the unintended outcome of the caper they all take part in. More science and chances for our anti-heroine to save the day.
There is a lot I like about this book. Lunar diversity in terms of POC – which could have been more fleshed out, a Saudi heroine – though one who isn’t exactly religiously observant, working class as well as rich characters, and Kenya has developed Artemis. This last one is the most well developed angle to me and I loved the Kenyan director of Artemis. I’m all for science if the momentum of the plot can be sustained while explanations are offered. Jazz isn’t all soft and cuddly and I like that her dad makes her think things through rather than mansplaining them to her. It’s not a masterpiece – to echo what Janine said of her review of “The Martian” – but it is entertaining for what it is. B-/C+