The Martian was one of my all-time favorite books, so when Artemis came out, I bought it without so much as reading the blurb first. I had high hopes for this book, and maybe it was destined to fail to live up to them, regardless. That being said, Artemis was genuinely a mess.
Artemis takes place in its namesake, the first and only city on the moon. Jazz, our protagonist, is a smuggler, using her contacts back on Earth to sneak in forbidden parcels for anyone who can make it worth her while. One of her wealthy repeat customers talks her into a mission far outside her normal work: a highly illegal and risky act of sabotage. Things get even more out of hand than Jazz could have ever anticipated, and she ends up on the run for her life.
The concept here was fun, but the execution left so much to be desired. First and foremost, Weir seems totally lost writing a female protagonist, and any and all references to sexuality seem completely awkward and forced. At no point did Jazz feel like an actual human woman. I was painfully aware through the whole book that I was reading a male author’s interpretation of a woman. This was only enhanced by her similarities to Mark Watney, the protagonist of The Martian. Both characters have the same kind of sass and use humor as a coping mechanism while stressed in a really similar manner. Both are brilliant and adaptive, but are made to feel accessible through their overly casual manner of speech.
Speaking of similarities to The Martian, that brings me to another weakness in this book. The Martian contains loads of exposition and info-dumps. This worked because of the format; we were reading Mark Watney’s log that he was writing while stranded on Mars. Info-dumps made sense. In Artemis, Jazz is constantly explaining things to us; we don’t get much of the world building naturally, by simply experiencing Artemis with her. She has to tell us how everything works. What worked in The Martian just feels lazy here.
All that being said, the concept was fun. Despite the glaring weaknesses, I did finish the book, and not solely out of an aversion to giving up on books. I genuinely wanted to see where the plot would go and see Jazz come out of it unscathed. Artemis was an interesting environment with compelling antagonists. The sci-fi tech was interesting. Jazz, while wholly unconvincing as a woman, was a fun character to join on this weird little adventure.
All in all, I still have high hopes for Andy Weir, and I’ll continue to follow his work. I hope he’ll write another book I can love as much as The Martian.