In 2011, author Andy Weir blasted onto the Sci-Fi scene with his first novel The Martian. Some may say that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but as we who read often find, there are authors who seem to have a gift and can crank out one good story after another. Weir would seem to be one of those authors who has found his gift and proves it with his second novel, Artemis.
Artemis is set completely on the Earth’s moon around the year 2080 which has been colonized. The small city known as Artemis is made up of a complex of large dome units that house its residents and provide workspace for numerous craftspeople that work to make a living in the hostile Lunar environment. Artemis is located in the Sea of Tranquility very near the landing site of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission that also affords a fairly active tourist trade. The story centers around a character of somewhat questionable character named Jasmine Bashara who is commonly known as “Jazz” to her friends.
A “porter” by trade, someone who delivers packages to people in the Artemis complex, Jazz also runs a small but mostly harmless smuggling operation. She barely makes enough money to live in Artemis and is under the constant scrutiny of the stations security officer. She has learned how to work the system to her advantage, but also has a reputation for being a bit dishonest and somewhat promiscuous in her personal life. While most serious crimes are punished with deportation to Earth, Rudy, the security chief, handles minor crimes in his own way. While Rudy keeps Jazz under loose scrutiny, he also seems to overlook a lot of Jazz’s petty criminal activity.
For those who have lived their entire life on the Lunar surface, deportation to Earth is the worst possible thing that could happen. Imagine living in an environment that had one-sixth the gravity of what we here on earth live our lives in and then suddenly having to adapt to the full gravity of our panet. So Jazz has managed to avoid doing anything that would sentence her to live the rest of her life as an invalid. That is, until she gets caught up in a plot for a hostile takeover of the Moon’s biggest industry, the mining of aluminum.
Jazz is offered a very large sum of money to perform acts of sabotage against the established company so a new company can take over operations. While she has an idea of how much trouble she will be in if caught, she agrees to take the job. When the company holding the contract sees through Jazz’s very carefully designed plan, she learns that she has gotten in to a situation that is way over her head. What follows are murders and threats to life in Artemis making this story a great sci-fi thriller and a fun read.
For the most part, Artemis does not follow the same formula as the Martian in that this is a thriller involving a lot of people. However, at the same time, There are some similarities in that Jazz is concerned with survival, just as Mark Watney. Once again, as in The Martian, Artemis’ author uses explanations of science that Jazz has access to in her adventure is well within reach of the common reader. Along with that, the main character has a great sense of humor and the same snarky attitude affording the story to inject a little humor into even the most grim situation. Many of the interactions between the characters had me laughing out loud.
Weir seems to enjoy writing about a single character and going well into their development. I found that I did care for Jazz as the book went on, while at the same time not being impressed with her behavior. Let’s face it, she is a criminal and is committing crimes of various levels from very petty to an incredible attempt to sabotage the work of a company that was responsible to providing all of the oxygen to the Artemis community. The characters plan was well thought out by the author, but he left plenty of holes for the antagonists to see through. There is no doubt that Jazz is a very intelligent individual as well as a strong female lead for the book, but she is not all knowing and does make some almost fatal errors. As to the other characters and their development, there isn’t much there, they just seem to be supporting characters that are either there to help or hinder Jazz as she goes about the business she chooses. I would have been interested to see a few of the supporting characters get a little more growth in the story.
The most impressive part of Artemis for me was the elaborate depictions of the environment of the moon, both inside and outside the station. Weir seems to have a huge fascination with surviving in space and explains the construction of the Artemis station domes and the other fixtures with great detail. The author would seem to have gone to great lengths to make the science believable and easy for the common reader to understand. He goes into great detail on the tasks that Jazz does to avoid problems as she moves through the story.
As mentioned earlier, Jazz seems to have a well known reputation around the moonbase of being quite sexually active. Everyone seems to know it and there are numerous references to it; perhaps too many. No matter where she goes, or who she meets she, and the reader, are reminded of this and Jazz seems to not be a bit put out when someone makes reference to it. Funny thing is, during this entire story, Jazz has no intimate contact with anyone and seems to not think about it very much. I found myself wondering why this was part of the story, it had such a large presence and not a lot of substance. It felt to me like it might have been part of an attempt at humor. For me, these parts of the story fell flat and were unnecessary. Fortunately though, it didn’t overshadow the real meat of the plot and I was able to overlook them in retrospect.
The overarching theme of Artemis would seem to be one that is becoming more popular as time goes on; how will those who are outsiders or disadvantaged to be treated in the future? We have seen it in other feature films including The Force Awakens. We have seen it in recent television shows such as The Expanse, Defiance, and even Star Trek: Discovery. It hasn’t been long since all we had in sci-fi was a more utopian view from shows such as Star Trek in which there is no want and everyone is more interested in bettering the human condition than in obtaining wealth. In Weir’s story, Jazz is a subservient character who is relegated to getting minimal compensation for delivering goods to her betters. Her personal living space is so small that she can barely stand upright and she envies the more affluent tourists and residents that can afford such things as food not grown in vats and a private bathroom. She then learns to live a little better by performing petty acts of smuggling until an ambitious customer dangles a carrot in front of her where she is then all in for some major criminal activity. How will this actually play out in the future? Only time will tell, but I am thinking that the ideal of a Star Trek-like utopian future is not what the future holds. Rather the opposite is what I think, and as it is now, the gap between the haves and the have nots will only become wider. So it is with Jazz; she is not greedy, she just wants something better for herself and finds the only possibility of advancement in illegal activity
While not perfect, I was not in the least disappointed. I did enjoy Artemis and was entertained all during the time I read it. I would recommend it to readers who appreciate good sci-fi with solid science, and a good story, but aren’t too absorbed in well developed characters beyond the star of the show.
[Well, there it is…
Edited by Benjamin Arrowood