By Andy Weir
Note to readers: I spoil as the mood takes me. Understand this in advance. I will not point out when spoilers appear. Assume they start now and continue, willy nilly.
I really enjoyed Andy Weir’s first book, The Martian, which seems to have been a bit of an internet phenomenon that went on to huge mainstream success (4.5 stars, 30k reviews on Amazon, which compares to my favorite scifi of the post 2k era, Old Man’s War, which has 4.5 stars but less than 3k reviews and no movie), followed by a movie deal. The movie deal may be the reason for that huge mainstream success, but that’s another story. I wrote in my review of The Martian that it was the best book I’d read in 2015. That was true. It was also the only reason I bought Artemis. I enjoyed Mr. Weir’s last novel, so I was willing to pay for a hardcover to read his newest.
Normally, when my expectations are this high, I am disappointed. Let me just start by saying that I was not, in fact, disappointed with Artemis. I think that Weir was smart to write something very different from his first novel. He could easily find himself in a situation where he is obligated to write what the public expects of him, rather than what he wants, or what will give him freedom. By throwing out a different genre, he ensures that he isn’t typecast.
Artemis is a detective story, though it plays with conventions and stereotypes. Most of the stereotypes are standard, while a few are slightly varied. For example, our hero, Jazz, is a small time smuggler with street smarts and a wise cracking attitude. She’s also young, beautiful, Arabic, and nearly a genius. If only she would just work up to her potential. She smuggles contraband to the rich. One of her clients asks her to do a job for him, sabotage. The job goes wrong. She is pursued by a cop who has wanted to deport her since forever, but has never had the solid evidence to actually convict.
The threat of deportation is big for the denizens of Artemis. If our hero, who has lived on the moon since she was six years old, was deported then she would have to get used to the full g of gravity on earth. Life would not only be hard and lonely, but it would be torture, forever.
Weir uses science to create his story. I am no scientist, so take this with a grain of salt. But there are pretty convincing economic reasons for the city on the moon, and the motivations of its underworld. There is a McGuffin, in the form of a new fiber optic technology (don’t worry about the specifics) called ZAFO that can revolutionize the communication industry on Earth. The way it is manufactured and what materials are needed are the motivation for the sabotage. Jazz gets mixed up in all of it, and she has to use all of her smarts, her friends, family, and ingenuity, to correct her mistake and save the moon from a fate worse than death.
I like mystery capers. I like science fiction. I like snarky humor. I like big impact stories. If you like these, then you’ll probably like Artemis. Oh, and if you want an additional backup opinion, check out this brief recommendation from a friend.