Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: "Artemis" by Andy Weir

Although it has been a few years since Andy Weir published The Martian, he hasn't been missing from the literary world, thanks to his sharing a number of free super-short stories with the reading public. (Annie's Day remains my favorite of the bunch.) Even so, I was anxious for him to come out with a new novel.

Artemis is the first city on the moon. While wealthy tourists get to experience the city's luxuries, for the ordinary citizens living there, it's almost like any other city—the struggles between the haves and have-nots, corruption, violence, crime, the usual. (Almost like any other city except for the gravity, and the fact that everything is encased in bubble-type structures to keep the extreme radiation and space dust out.)

Jazz Bashara is a low-level porter on Artemis. She longs for a better life but doesn't have the motivation to do anything more than what she does, even though she has the brains and the talent for much more. Instead, she ekes out a living as a criminal, smuggling in contraband from Earth for anyone willing to pay her. She doesn't care that it's wrong; in fact, she's more than a little proud to be gaming the system.

One day, one of Jazz's wealthy regular customers offers her a part in a scheme that seems almost too good to be true, but her part of the spoils would be enough to give her the type of life she has always dreamed of. Of course, what seems too good to be true usually is, and it isn't long before Jazz realizes she's in the middle of something much bigger than a get-rich-quick scheme—there's corruption, and people are willing to go to any lengths to protect what they believe is theirs. Jazz is going to need more than just her street smarts if she's going to survive this.

Jazz is a pretty fascinating character. She's pretty tough, smart, wily, and not embarrassed about her sexuality or her general laziness. She knows she could achieve more, but for the most part, she isn't motivated to do so through legal channels. I love the fact that Weir created a multi-cultural cast of characters without batting an eye—Jazz is a Saudi Arabian Muslim (albeit non-practicing), and there are characters from different races, religions, cultures, and sexual orientations that don't adhere to stereotypes.

Until I read Artemis, I somehow forgot how science-heavy The Martian was. But while all that science seemed to work in The Martian it seemed to weigh this book down a bit. (And no, it wasn't the gravity.) Weir has created quite a world, and certainly the descriptions helped paint the scene, but I felt at times the lengthy scientific diatribes pulled the plot off course.

The other thing that frustrated me about the book is the fact that Jazz speaks and thinks like a teenage boy. Even though you're rooting for her, after a while her lack of maturity started to grate on me.

Those criticisms notwithstanding, Weir knows how to tell a story. Even though I thought the caper (and that's the best word to describe the scheme Jazz finds herself in) was a little silly, I couldn't stop reading Artemis. It's a fun and interesting book, and you have to wonder how close to reality Weir's vision of life on the moon will come, if it ever becomes a reality.

NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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