The Cambridge Geek

Andy Weir - Artemis

Quick premise first. Jazz (short for Jasmine) is a citizen of the first (and only) city on the moon, Artemis. The city is primarily a tourist destination, but has significant infrastructure necessary to support it. Jazz is part of that infrastructure, havng a lowly job as a porter, though she has ambitions of becoming a EVA master. (All the professions run as guilds on the moon somehow.)

Moving the heavy loads of tourists isn't an easy life however (even in lunar gravity), and getting through the tests for wandering around in a vacuum is difficult when you don't have a working space suit.

I really wanted to enjoy this as much as I did the previous. Andy Weir's Martian was an excellent (better than the film), tale of a man trapped an astronomical unit away from safety, who had to pull a few technological solutions from almost nowhere in order to survive. It had an interestingly technical style, which worked well with the "steely-eyed missile men" concept, seen in things like Apollo 13. It was a bit unusual, and that made it worthy of note.

Unfortunately, that style didn't translate as well to this second book. That might be partly due to the change in protagonist (from a Tom Hanks style castaway), to a petty thief who tends to behave/speak a bit too much like a teenager, as well as it being more of an ensemble story.

The infodumps of The Martian were obvious, but felt reasonably natural as him telling the story of how he survived something it is not likely the reader is going to have experienced. Here, there are too many other people involved, and the telling is vaguely disjointed. All the exposition feels too much like something the imagined audience (people living on the moon) could be expected to know, so the explanation of how the moon city is put together feels out of place. Definitely a bit stilted.

My other major issue with this is that once again, we have a genius protagonist. She's a flawed genius, but she feels overpowered, in that every problem that arises has a solution she comes to, mostly without assistance. Also, she can oxy-fuel aluminium without a flux. I'm still unconvinced on that one.

It's a pretty good thriller, with the plot hanging together well, and enough side characters with sparks of their own that I was intrigued to see where it would end up. It's just a shame that Jazz was so generally unlikable.

It still occupies a reasonably small niche in hard sci-fi (at least as far as I've read recently), and it's worth picking up if you're a fan of the previous in that it is somewhat the same. However, it's not quite as groundbreaking as that, and is definitely not as polished. Decent, but not amazing.


Tagged: Book Science fiction Spacesuits and rayguns Novel Print