Review by E. Kirshe
Artemis is the latest novel by the bestselling author of The Martian, Andy Weir. Named after the novel’s location, Artemis is a sci-fi adventure that takes place on the first and only city on the moon.
Artemis is somewhat less heavy than The Martian in terms of scientific facts offered up but Weir does not disappoint in making the moon city seem believable. Everything from the actual layout of the city, physical construction, safety protocols specific to life on the moon (e.g. air closets in case of a breach, all flammable materials being highly controlled), and varied neighborhood details- make Artemis distinct. However, creating the novel’s physical landscape is where Weir’s creativity ends.
Based on the caricatures running across the moon it’s possible that Andy Weir has never met a person. Main character Jazz Bashara is a porter with a side job as a smuggler who has lived in Artemis since she was 6 years old. Jazz isn’t like other girls, she’s a Cool Girl. She’s good looking but really doesn’t work at it you know? She’s incredibly intelligent but doesn’t make a thing of it. That’s maybe the one trait she has- smart. But she tells us she doesn’t want to work at anything, despite working very hard at hustling.
Though she is in her late twenties she seems to think and speak like a horny teenage boy. It’s grating. There might be a point in there about arrested development, I guess, but it comes off more like we’re supposed to find this charming- it’s clear that the supporting cast does.
There are other characters yet they sort of blend together. Half of this is because of the time spent in Jazz’s head; the other half is that Weir writes people poorly. I’m glad he made a try at diversity but Weir’s inability to write human people makes it look like he was checking off boxes. Main character Saudi Arabian female, supporting cast ranging from gay Jewish man, “crazy Ukrainian”, Kenyan etc. I only know these things because he said it in words. All of these people are quite similar, they have very similar voices anyway despite coming to the moon from many other countries.
Weir is wordy. Where is your editor Andy? Someone cut this guy off. You didn’t need a paragraph to explain either combustion or airlocks. And you certainly didn’t need to do it again a few scant pages later. You already explained the principle now let it live!!! Speaking of wordy, characters will again and again speak in pure exposition. There’s a character named Rudy (described as a Hitler wet dream — and Weir’s tries at ‘charming yet gruff’ simile don’t end there) doesn’t like our main character. Why? It’ll be explained in paragraph form.
The plot moves quickly so despite the clunky writing pulling me right out of it, it wasn’t hard to read through. If you’re picking up Artemis for a quick read with some entertainment value you’ll be fine. The wheeling and dealing behind the scenes lead to murder and general mayhem. Our main character gets herself tangled in a plot way over her head. She is at her best when focusing on a task because when she isn’t we are stuck listening to her grating “personality”. The plot itself is filled with tired tropes, but Weir is able to wield his scientific knowledge creatively. Explaining how to pull off an operation on the surface of the moon was definitely fun at times.
There are many elements of this story Weir put a lot of thought into- the economy of the lunar city, the literal mechanics and the idea of a city with a true worldwide pull are all there. Weir is smart and there are many clever elements that made this an easy and at times intriguing read. It had the bones of great sci-fi but the backdrop of lawless, colorful city on the moon is lost in the hands of this writer.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of Artemis in exchange for a review.