Andy Weir and the City on the Moon
Colonization seems to be one the thing mankind strives towards collectively, setting their sights on the vast collective of planets out there that could one day host human life. After all, wouldn’t it be amazing for a country to expand onto a whole planet? In reality, we’re still very far away from the iron dream of colonizing space and conquering the void, still preoccupied with doing so down on Earth. With the imminent mission that NASA is preparing for Mars though, it seems that the gears have slowly begun turning. Andy Weir chooses to turn the clock forward a bit in his new novel Artemis, and take us to a time where humanity has managed to build their first (and titular) extraterrestrial city, located on the moon. Needless to say though, human ambitions run deep and can seldom be contained, often turning the dream into a nightmare.
The story opens as we are introduced to Jazz Bashara, a porter living and working on the moon, occasionally dabbling in smuggling in an attempt to make ends meet. She only takes on small-time stuff, the kind most people would roll their eyes at. One day though, a regular proposes a job to her, one with such a lucrative payout that she might finally be able to break free from her unenviable position in society. However, as the heist is coming to fruition, Jazz comes to realize that things are actually going off the rails and that she may very well have stumbled into something much bigger than herself and her ambitions: a grand conspiracy for the control of Artemis, a lethal game played by the rich and powerful at the very top.
A Different Look for the Author
Those of you who remember Andy Weir’s breakout novel, The Martian, will have certain expectations as to what they will see in this book, and so I should give a fair warning that you would do well to manage your assumptions. Whereas that novel was aiming for extreme realism through a purely scientific scope, this is a story that focuses a bit more on the entertainment factor rather than rigorous mathematical explanations. In other words, it’s closer to a traditional science-fiction story than the other book, and is certainly not a sequel to it; it stands very much on its own in terms of style and content.
With that being said, does the book actually do justice to what we know the author is capable of? I would be inclined to say yes, for the most part at least. Weir has a great knack for wordsmithing and it just showed that he had a lot of fun diverging from his path and trying something different, something that he wants to do rather than simply deliver for the fans. It does feel like the cold rigours of mathematics suit him best, and while they are sprinkled intermittently throughout the book, they are far from being the main focus. Rather, Weir tries to focus on moving the story forward and developing his characters to set them up for whatever decisions they’re trying to make… and that’s probably my main complaint about this book. Jazz makes some decisions that will make you raise your eyebrows as they are pretty terrible and just feel out of character. It’s almost like we’re missing some pieces of the puzzle to understand her thought process and motivations, which makes for a few weaker moments. Nevertheless, I sustain that they don’t go nearly far enough to ruin the book in any drastic way.
An Exciting Life on Artemis
With what I believe the main weakness to be out of the way, we can start focusing on what this novel does much better: the plot itself. In my opinion Weir manages to strike the perfect balance in terms of storytelling, creating something expansive that is nevertheless not too far-reaching and remains logically cohesive. If you can will yourself to ignore the few missing puzzle pieces that come up along the way, then it’s definitely a very fun ride from the beginning to the end. It feels like the author’s main concern was preventing the reader’s boredom, and he certainly managed to achieve that by subjecting his characters to twists and turns not every reader will expect. Additionally, his descriptions of Artemis and the way in which its society functions are always enthralling, and they made me beg for more development than would be reasonable.
With that being said, I’m afraid that predictable moments do exist in this book and a few of the twists you’ll see coming from miles away. Additionally, the pacing isn’t the best and there are a couple of moments where the plot almost comes to a screeching halt. In other words, despite Weir’s best efforts and superb talents we’ve already witnessed, he is still obviously developing himself as a science-fiction writer and tried to go out of his comfort zone on this one.
The Final Verdict
With everything taken into consideration, Artemis is an interesting effort on Andy Weir’s part. It’s certainly a novel that stands aside from The Martian as a thing of its own, with its unique strengths and weaknesses that need to be addressed. Despite its flaws (character thought process and missing puzzle pieces included), I still argue that this book is one worth reading for science-fiction fans who prefer stories that focus on events rather than concepts that need to be explained in great detail. It ultimately makes for a fun and entertaining read, one that will keep you busy for a couple of afternoons. There’s definitely some promise for the author and I am quite hopeful that this will be an important stepping stone in his soar to sci-fi greatness. If you’re a fan of the genre, I recommend you give this book a try at some point.