Book Review – Artemis

Andy Weir’s Artemis gets 3.5 stars for its world-building; depiction of an engaging, resourceful protagonist; and fast-paced plot. At the risk of making a wild stretch, Jazz from Artemis reminds me of another heroine, Isabel Archer from James’s The Portrait of a Lady. These novels are literally light-years apart in style and intent, but both main characters make questionable decisions about others’ motivations that trouble them in their respective stories. Weir’s hero chases redemption after a series of poor life choices amidst an unforgiving lunar setting. The technology and sociology of a self-sustaining moon station are thoughtfully crafted as is a somewhat plausible economic basis for the colony complete with rapacious business groups.

Inevitably, but appropriately, Artemis will be compared to The Martian. Though the respective protagonists are superficially and, I suspect intentionally, quite different with regard to gender, ethnicity, and age, their sarcastic attitude and how they get pushed hither and thither by plot twists is similar across both novels. Mostly, this is OK since Weir is a capable writer and keeps the reader’s attention. However, leaving aside some concerns about the scientific verisimilitude of various fixes the protagonist finds herself in, this novel’s plot can occasionally feel overtly driven by the need to manufacture tension. Moreover, there are passages that read like technical manuals. Mostly, Weir is a clever enough writer so that this exposition is interesting and serves the story, but, paradoxically for such a plot-centric novel, all this explanation can sometimes encumber forward momentum. Also, the secondary characters could benefit from a bit more depth and agency. Writers are prone to settling on their favorite story/thematic templates and, after just two novels, Weir seems to be working comfortably within his niche. It will be interesting to see how far his third novel strays from this niche.

I write literary fantasy novels, a genre remote from Artemis. Nonetheless, Weir’s craftsmanship and vivid descriptions demonstrate good technique to any author as they set about constructing their own fictional worlds. Further, Artemis’s protagonist is nothing if not sympathetic despite her character flaws, again, a good example for developing a balanced and likable character.

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