Friday, January 19, 2018

Artemis by Andy Weir

Reviewed by Kristin

Andy Weir dazzles with Artemis, which hit the bestseller charts instantly upon publication in November, deservedly riding on the coattails of his earlier sensation The Martian.  Humans in the near future have migrated to the domed lunar city called Artemis.  With five huge spheres (named Armstrong, Aldrin, Conrad, Bean and Shepard,) Artemis was built and is controlled by the Kenyan Space Corporation—KSC for short.  It’s a relatively small place and there isn’t much crime.  Exactly how many hiding places could there be on the moon?

Artemis is all that Jasmine Bashara really remembers.  She was born in Saudi Arabia, but came to the moon when she was only six.  Now she’s an adult and has wriggled out from under her Muslim father’s control, but she’s still trying to figure out exactly how to get what she wants out of life.  Jazz doesn’t necessarily want to be rich, but she’d really like to make enough money to pay back a few old debts and buy her own quarters with a little bit of space and her own bathroom.  Just a little more square footage would be so much better than her coffin sized sleeping space located 15 floors underground in the Conrad bubble.

Jazz works delivering packages to and from incoming and Earth-bound cargo ships.  Officially she’s a porter; unofficially she has a side business greasing officials’ palms and smuggling contraband to people who will pay her well for the pleasure of a good cigar, pornography, or other illicit goods.  When a chance to make big money for a little act of sabotage comes her way, how can she refuse?  Soon in over her head, Jazz draws upon her friends and family, not to mention a little arm twisting and deal-making with law enforcement and KSC corporate officials, just to make it out alive.

Once I started Artemis, I couldn’t put it down.  I read this book in barely more than a day, wishing that I had more time in the lunar city.  Jazz is a refreshing character, different from many of the usual tough cookies in science fiction.  She has goals and not that many scruples about how she will act to achieve them, but she is very likeable.  Even though she’s supposed to be about twenty-six years old, her attitudes remind me more of a younger adult, perhaps about eighteen.  She’s fierce about her independence, but she still cares what her father thinks of her even though she has rejected his religion and chose specifically not to follow him into the family welding business.

Artemis’ film rights were bought by 20th Century Fox and New Regency six months before the book was even published.  Even before I knew that, I could imagine the wide shots of the lunar landscape with Jazz bounding across the terrain in her EVA space suit.  (For which she has not yet passed the certification, but would that stop Jazz?)  I can only hope that the producers will choose an appropriate person of color for the lead role and several other key characters, rather than whitewashing the cast.

With a touch of lawlessness ( a la space western,) this latest novel by Weir may be an excellent match for fans of sci-fi authors Robert J. Sawyer, Becky Chambers, and James S.A. Corey, as well as enthusiasts of the short lived television show Firefly.

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