9780091956950Artemis, the sophomore effort by the author of The Martian, is a genuine page-turner, validating Andy Weir as a dependable entertainer capable of instilling his hard-science thrillers with humour and heart. But whereas those ingredients formed a delicious blend in The Martian, this time the result is blander, lacking the spice — the ambition, maybe? — and the unforgettable protagonist that made Weir’s debut unmissable. The Martian was unforgettable. Artemis settles for being merely enjoyable. Hardly a crime, and perhaps a consequence of vastly elevated expectations.

Set on a lunar colony several decades in the future, Weir is at his best when detailing the functionalities and technologies of Artemis, the multi-domed city on Earth’s moon. Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a 20-something porter, with aspirations of becoming a member of the elite Extravehicular Activity Guild, which would allow her to give up her illegal (but thriving) side business as a smuggler. One day she is hired by Trond Landvik, a wealthy businessman, to sabotage some of Sanchez Aluminum’s automated lunar-mining equipment. Jazz agrees, but things don’t go as planned, and she soon finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy  involving a Brazilian crime syndicate and a revolutionary technology.

The Martian was a smart thriller, littered with math-and-science problem-solving, made nail-bitingly exciting thanks to its simple premise — survival — and Mark Watney’s sarcastic, likeable personality, and his ability to simplify technical concepts for layman readers such as myself Artemis just isn’t as clever, even though its premise is grander in scale. Those “science thrills” that made The Martian memorable aren’t here, besides a couple of moments, like when Jazz figures out how to ignite an acetylene torch during a moonwalk. Andy Weir should be applauded for trying something different — how many eyes would’ve rolled if he’d presented another space-survival tale — but the caper narrative that propels Artemis just isn’t particularly compelling, and indeed, is a tad predictable. Highly readable, sure; just not riveting in the stay-up-all-night way The Martian was.

The humour here falls mostly flat; forced, overly crass, never realy rising above snicker-worthy. Is Jazz’s constant reassurance to the reader that she doesn’t sleep around supposed to be funny? A throwaway line when she’s about to blow up two harvesters impacts like a slap in the face because, ha-ha, we can interchange ‘blow up’with blow jobs. Really? That feeling again, when Jazz tells the reader she giggled like a little girl, but “Hey, I’m a girl, so I’m allowed.” Ouch. Watney’s humour could be overbearing in The Martian, but it never made me groan out loud, and there were more hits than misses. Artemis would probably be a better book — and Jazz would certainly be more likeable — if the jokes were cut, or at least toned down.

The Martian was a book that you wanted to hand to a friend, insist they read it, pester them until they’d done so, then talk about it. Artemis isn’t that. It’s a fun, fast-paced  sci-fi potboiler; unspectacular, but enjoyable.

ISBN: 9780091956950
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Imprint: Del Rey
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Publish Date: 14-Nov-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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