Reviews

Review: ARTEMIS, by Andy Weir

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

My first experience with Andy Weir’s writing, his acclaimed The Martian, did not work out well: although the story’s potential was amazing (as testified by the huge success of the movie inspired by the novel), the delivery failed to engage me, and the book ended up in my ‘unfinished’ pile.  Still, I’m a great believer in second opportunities, and when the first synopsis for Artemis surfaced, I was intrigued enough to give it a try: this time around, things went a great deal better…

Artemis is the first (and so far the only) organized community on the Moon, a collection of interconnected domes named after famous astronauts: the city, with a resident population of around two thousand people of varied ethnicity, is mostly an industrial settlement and a tourist resort – a place with few written laws and a good number of unwritten ones.  Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a young woman of Saudi descent, the daughter of a respected welder she had a falling out with some time prior to the start of the story: Jazz works as a porter, a low-income occupation she uses as a front for her smuggling operations, and it’s because of her non-official job that she becomes involved in an industrial take-over scheme that suddenly morphs into a bloody gang war, turning her into a target for both the police and the members of a ruthless Brazilian cartel.

The pace is lively, carried by Jazz’s mordant, impudent tone, while the city of Artemis comes alive before our eyes thanks to her first-person narrative, whose scientific explanations (clearly the main staple of Andy Weir’s storytelling method) come across as lightly informative rather than pedantic: unlike what happened with Mark Whatney’s voice logs, Jazz ideally talks with the audience rather that at them, and this made a huge difference for me as far as my connection with the character was concerned.  The mechanics of living in microgravity, and in a hostile, airless environment, are explained in a discursive manner that makes it sound more like an interesting chat between acquaintances than a pedantic lecture – one of the most fascinating pieces of information being the effect of reduced gravity on the boiling point of water and therefore the temperature (and taste) of hot beverages.

Another characteristic Jazz seems to share with Whatney is her flippancy, with the difference (from my point of view) that with her it works well and it feels natural, an integral part of her psychological makeup, and what’s more it suits the character and the situations she finds herself in, while that same cheekiness sounded wrong for Whitney and his dilemma. Moreover, the book’s chapters are interspersed with the mail correspondence Jazz starts as a child with an Earth boy, Kelvin, and through these exchanges we learn much about her back-story without need for lengthy infodumps. There is a not-so-subtle veneer of pain and resentment underlying Jazz’s character, a dark side that she seems to have accepted and makes jokes about, but at the same time you can feel it places her apart from everyone else, a remoteness that seems more a form of defense than a real wish for solitude.   

I guess it all boils down to the youthful transgression that caused the rift with her father, an event that still preys heavily on her mind and must be the reason Jazz constantly refuses to employ her remarkable skills to better herself: there are several instances, throughout the book, in which people point at her above-average intelligence and wonder – to her extreme annoyance – why she remains attached to what is essentially a menial job, when she could fare much better with work she’s more skilled at.  It’s easy to imagine it might be a form of self-inflicted punishment – unexpressed as it remains – that coupled with her sense of fairness, and her peculiar moral code, quickly endeared her to me despite the brash surface appearance Jazz presents.

Here, though, also lies my main contention with this story: as an independent, self-sustaining woman, Jazz exerts that freedom in many areas of her life, including her sexuality, something that is not at all strange in our present time, nor should it be in the near future period –  and frontier location – where Artemis is set, since the absence of Earth-style laws or morals allows that freedom in all its different declinations. As an example of that liberal mindset, we are told about a couple of siblings engaged in an incestuous relationship that chose to emigrate to the Moon to avoid condemnation for their life choices.  So, why does practically everyone have to remark on Jazz’s past and present promiscuousness? Why is she targeted as the Red Woman from Babylon, in a place where you can do almost anything as long as you observe strict airlock safety?   It’s a small thing, granted, but still it bothered me like an itching nose in a spacesuit…

Still, it’s a very minor quibble, and the story itself more than makes up for it, especially in the breath-stopping (literally…) final segment, where the words “compulsive reading” become quite appropriate.  As my second attempt at Andy Weir’s writing, Artemis worked like a charm and the news that it’s already been optioned for a movie picture made me eager to see how this one will translate to the big screen: hopefully they will find an actress that will do Jazz the justice she deserves.

 

My Rating: 

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22 thoughts on “Review: ARTEMIS, by Andy Weir

  1. Oh my God, I am so jealous of you. This is my most anticipated book of this year and I have preordered it. Happy to see that you liked this one and thought of giving the author another chance. Waiting for this novel now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now I am even more curious to read this book! It sounds quite different to The Martian, but like it’s still got his signature scientific detail as well as the flippant character tone. That’s interesting you weren’t sold on the delivery of The Martian… a few friends of mine also couldn’t get into it, but I loved it and was totally hooked from early on. I listened to it as an audiobook though, which usually means I do other things while listening, so perhaps I could allow all the science-y stuff to wash over me without caring how much I actually managed to absorb. Anyway, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this one, I worried it might be a disappointment after The Martian but now I have higher hopes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My impression – and it might be horribly wrong, I admit it – is that the author did take into account the complaints gathered from his first book (too much hard science, too many pedantic explanations), and chose to keep a lighter hand here. In my opinion it worked perfectly, and Jazz ends being a character one can sympathize with, not in spite but because of some of her hard edges. I hope you enjoy this one! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So jealous AND excited! I’m so glad that someone I knew got a review copy of this book. I’m tempted to pre-order it so this review is a good start.

    You thought Watney’s flippancy felt unnatural?…I guess I can kind of see that. For me some people get more flippant/snarky under stress so I just chalked up any awkwardness to that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whatney’s flippancy felt wrong to me in consideration of his quite dreary circumstances: granted, someone in his position needed some moral boost now and then but… all the time? And over the top all the time? But as I’m fond of saying, it was not Whatney, it was me… 🙂
      Jazz is simply amazing, instead.

      Like

  4. Gah, I can’t wait to read this book! Soon, soon, soon! I’ve got my copy waiting 🙂

    I’m so glad to hear this one worked well for you though, I know The Martian really wasn’t your cup of tea. This tells me that Artemis is different enough to be interesting indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of the themes from The Martian are there, but they are applied to more… practical circumstances, for want of a better word. With Jazz I found a more relatable, more… human character, and I could not help rooting for her, even when she was being slightly annoying. 🙂

      Like

  5. I can’t wait to pick this up – I’ve not read this properly and will return because, tbh, I don’t have any clues what this book is really about and want to go into the read like that. It’s going to be interesting to compare but I’m glad you gave this a 4 star rating.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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