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Artemis by Andy Weir

BOTTOM LINE: Disappointing

Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: 14 November 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich.

Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. Rich enough to pay off a debt she’s owed for a long time.

So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no. Sure, it requires her to graduate from small-time smuggler to full-on criminal mastermind. And it calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions—not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the ‘swagger’ part down.

The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems. Because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself.

Trapped between competing forces, pursued by a killer and the law alike, even Jazz has to admit she’s in way over her head. She’ll have to hatch a truly spectacular scheme to have a chance at staying alive and saving her city.

Jazz is no hero, but she is a very good criminal.

That’ll have to do.”

My Thoughts: Reading Artemis is a tricky business. You know there is no way Andy Weir’s second novel can be as good as his debut efforts. Yet that does not stop you from hoping that you are wrong, buoying up your expectations only to have them dashed as you realize that you were, unfortunately, right all along.

Some of the problem is that it appears as if Mr. Weir is trying too hard to repeat his success by using a very similar formula to his novel as he did last time. Instinctively, this makes sense. People fell hard for the wise-cracking genius stranded on Mars and the supporting cast of characters on Earth helping him. As is so often the case though, what works one time does not work again. Jazz is no Mark, and the Moon is not Mars. Jazz is neither alone nor struggling to survive in a hostile environment.

You can see where Mr. Weir tries to separate his two heros. Obviously one is a girl. He cuts down on the cussing. He has made Jazz’s life as unlike Mark’s as possible. Yes, there are still dangers on the Moon, but half of Jazz’s problems stem from trying to circumvent the safety procedures and equipment in place to prevent accidents like habitats being breached or people dying from exposure to the vacuum of space. She may be poor, but she has more than Mark ever had at her disposal. That constant threat of life-or-death danger that made Mark’s story so compelling is completely missing in Jazz’s story.

The other problem comes from Jazz herself. She just is not very interesting. For someone who is in her twenties, she acts like a teenager. Her method of interacting with others is to deliberately bait or mock them. The attitude she exudes to everyone is grating, and you find yourself wishing one of her enemies would catch up to her if only to teach her a lesson. Instead, she bounces from self-induced catastrophe to self-induced catastrophe with seemingly no cares for others. That her rough exterior masks a vulnerable interior is neither a surprise nor all that interesting in the grand scheme.

The science this time around is equally disappointing. Gone are the fascinating chemistry, astronomy, and botany problems. Instead, the novel reads like one long love story to engineering. This means math and physics and more math. I might use math on a daily basis because of my job, but even I draw the line at reading about it in my novels. Plus, I am no engineer. Descriptions of structures, the ways they were built, are shaped, and are kept safe is like reading a car’s owner’s manual. How many people can say they enjoy that?

On one hand, Artemis falls victim to the dreaded follow-up anticipation generated by the next novel after any rousing success. People are going to be disappointed no matter how low expectations they think they have because there will always be hope that it will be at least as good as that blockbuster. On the other hand, there are some very real problems within Artemis that makes it a disappointment in its own right. A lackluster plot with a mediocre and annoying main character is not going to be successful in any instance. That the two coincide within one novel makes Artemis a novel that is doubly disappointing.

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