Published by Crown Publishing Group (NY) on November 14th 2017
Genres: Science Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Andy Weir’s The Martian was one of my favorite reads from last year, so I was so excited to receive a review copy of his latest novel, Artemis. I wasn’t convinced that it could possibly live up to the thrill of The Martian because, seriously, how do you top a survival story about an astronaut who is stranded on Mars? But hearing that Artemis was a sci-fi thriller about carrying out a heist on the moon (!) gave me hope that Artemis would be just as entertaining a read for me as The Martian was. And I’m excited to report that it came pretty darn close!
Artemis is actually the name of the city on the moon where the story is set. Aside from the fact that it is covered by domes to compensate for the lack of gravity and to keep out troublesome space dust, Artemis is pretty much just like your average city or town on Earth. Artemis has touristy areas because of course going to the moon is a huge attraction for those who can afford it. It also has residential areas for those who reside on the moon full time. Artemis also has a similar class system to what is on Earth, where the rich live well and the poor do what they can to scrape by.
Jazz Bashara, the main character, is one of those poor residents who does what she can to scrape by. She works as a porter, delivering goods to residents all over Artemis, but the job barely pays her rent. Jazz has dreams of a bigger and better life for herself and so she has a side “job” working as a smuggler to bring in a little extra income. Street smart and incredibly resourceful, Jazz has somehow managed to corner the market on smuggling in contraband goods from Earth. For those who are willing to pay, Jazz can get them pretty much anything they want.
Jazz is a pretty fascinating character in the sense that she doesn’t really seem to have any qualms whatsoever about engaging in criminal activities. It is this quality that makes her the ideal candidate for a scheme that one of her wealthy regulars is planning. It’s a dangerous job, practically an impossible one, really, and one that could get her deported back to Earth if she were to get caught. That said, however, if Jazz can pull it off, the payoff is a truly life-changing amount of money. It may be “Mission Impossible,” but Jazz would do pretty much anything to secure that kind of income for herself.
She agrees to the job, but quickly realizes that she is in over her head. What starts out as a challenging heist soon lands Jazz at the heart of a conspiracy to take over control of Artemis itself. How will she get herself out of the mess she has landed in and what will happen to Artemis if the conspiracy is actually carried out? It’s a real nail biter!
Jazz was, by far, my favorite part of Artemis. I just found her so intriguing. Jazz, who is in her early twenties, has come to the moon from Saudi Arabia. She is living on her own after a falling out with her father over some poor choices she has made in her young life. Jazz is both intelligent and street smart, and she’s very resourceful. I loved that even though she was resorting to less than legal means to supplement her income, she totally owned it and was unapologetic about what she was doing.
I also enjoyed the father-daughter dynamic between Jazz and her dad. Jazz is not a practicing Muslim, but her father is and he’s very religious. Because of this, some of Jazz’s lifestyle choices have created friction in their relationship. I thought Weir did a wonderful job of portraying the nuances of this strained relationship: the awkwardness, the disappointment, the longing to reunite, and beneath it all, the unconditional love. I loved all of the father-daughter scenes. They were written very realistically and tugged at my heartstrings.
I also loved the action and pacing of the novel. Just like with The Martian, I devoured this book in about a day. Weir does a fantastic job creating an exciting balance between “science talk” and intense, action-packed scenes as Jazz sets out to complete “mission impossible” and then especially once that initial mission goes haywire and spirals into something else entirely. I always feel like I’m learning a lot while being thoroughly entertained at the same time when I’m reading one of Weir’s books.
Finally, the world-building was fascinating as well. I loved Weir’s vision for what a city on the moon might actually look like and I thought the shout-out to so many famous astronauts by having the different compounds named after them (Armstrong, Aldrin, etc.) was very cool. As Jazz walked us around the city of Artemis, Weir’s attention to detail was just impeccable. He really thought of everything when it came to how people could actually eat, sleep, work, shop, and otherwise function as a society on the moon. As much as I loved Weir’s attention to detail, I will confess I wish he had come up with more imaginative names for their main food staple (“Gunk”) and for their smartphone equivalent (“Gizmo”). I don’t know why, obviously a personal quirk with me, but those names just irritated me every time they came up throughout the novel.
As much as I enjoyed Jazz’s story, I did have a couple of minor issues with Artemis.
The first is that, at times, Jazz reminded me a little too much of Mark Watney, the main character from The Martian. It was especially noticeable when I first started reading because their use of humor and sarcasm was so similar. My first thought was “Hey, Mark Watney’s on the moon now!” Once I got to know Jazz better, it wasn’t as noticeable, but I still wish their voices were a little less similar. Some of Jazz’s jokes, in particular, sometimes sounded to me more like something a teenage boy would say rather than a 20-something woman. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story, but it did give me pause a few times because it felt like the joke didn’t quite fit the character, if that even makes sense.
Another issue I had was with Jazz and her pen pal from Earth. The main action of the story is periodically interrupted by letters to and from this guy in Kenya. Aside from establishing that he was her contact for the contraband she’s smuggling, I just felt like they were in the way and didn’t add much to the story. I’m sure they probably won’t bother others, but that element of the story just didn’t quite work for me.
If you enjoy good science fiction and badass protagonists, I’d definitely recommend reading Andy Weir’s Artemis. While fans of The Martian might not find it quite as riveting as Mark Watney’s survival story on Mars, they should still find Jazz Bashara’s lunar adventures to be quite entertaining. I’d also recommend it to those who haven’t yet read The Martian. It might prove to be even more entertaining to those who aren’t tempted to compare Artemis to The Martian.
Jazz Bashara is a criminal.
Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.