Artemis by Andy Weir. ★★★1/2
Confession: I didn’t finish The Martian. Look, I blame it on the audio book, okay? I might have done better if I’d read it as text.
Anyway, the good news is that I got more enjoyment out of Andy Weir’s second novel, Artemis. Sure, it’s not without its flaws, but after a somewhat slow start things really pick up.
Jazz Bashara is a petty criminal and smuggler in Artemis, the only city on the Moon. She’s grown up there and can’t imagine life anywhere else, not least because a childhood in low gravity have left her bones and musculature unsuited for Earth. But Jazz has big plans; she wants to be rich. When she gets offered a job to sabotage some mining equipment, she knows it’s risky… but the payoff is so big she can’t help herself. Unfortunately, plans have a way of going array, and she soon finds herself neck deep in a lot more than she counted on.
I really enjoyed the setting of Artemis, which I found realistic and well developed. It’s in effect a small town geared towards tourism but located in a remote and hostile environment. There’s a clear divide between the haves and have nots, with Jazz living in what’s essentially a sealed off bunk (a “coffin”) while the rich have expensive and roomy penthouses. There’s also a lot of science bits that tie into the world building well.
Where Artemis fails for me is with the characters. In general, they could stand to be better developed. In particular, I would have liked for Jazz to have a stronger motivation. She also felt pretty immature. There was one moment where I calculated the chronology wrong and thought she might be nineteen. I was immediately like, “Oh, this makes so much more sense!” Then it turns out she’s really in her late 20’s.
Also, Jazz was clearly a female character written by a man. If you’re a woman, you’ll know what I mean by this. Basically, there’s some points in the story that felt a bit weird or awkward where Jazz’s gender feels very forced or with how she thinks about herself, her sexuality, her appearance. That sort of thing.
On a similar, Jazz is of Saudi Arabian ancestry, but Artemis feels like it’s written for Westerners not familiar with Islam. There’s this one bit where Jazz’s internal monologue says something along the lines of, “You can stop pretending you know what a niqab is.” Like? I’m not even Muslim and I know what a niqab is? Like with how Jazz’s gender is written, it just feels a bit strange and off. However, I did like Jazz’s relationship with her father. He’s an observant Muslim while Jazz is very much not. It was the most well developed relationship in a book where character relationships were generally pretty weak.
I don’t think the diversity in Artemis is super well written, which could be a byproduct of the other problems with character development. Still, I do appreciate it being there. I’m glad the author’s trying to be inclusive even if things aren’t 100% perfect.
After about the first third, the plot really kicked off and I had fun with Artemis. I may even be willing to read a sequel.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.