From the author: 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.
Artemis is a fun romp from the author of the bestselling novel The Martian. Weir’s book is dedicated to the Apollo astronauts who flew to the moon but didn’t get to land and walk on it, a nice touch.
The world building is good. I totally believed in a city on the moon. There are a number of ambiguous characters, neither good nor bad. The science seemed real enough to this non-scientist. I liked how currency worked on the moon and also how justice for minor infractions was handled by former Canadian Mountie Rudy. I’m not a big map person but the maps at the front of the book helped me visualize the layout of Artemis.
Weir has a way with words: “If my neighborhood were wine, connoisseurs would describe it as ‘shitty, with overtones of failure and poor life decisions.’” (p. 5 of the advance reader copy)
Although I’m sure I didn’t get them all, I enjoyed the references to pop culture (e.g., "Don't get me wrong, this wasn't the farthest I'd been from the Shire or anything....But this was the farthest I'd ever been from safety." (p. 102 of the ARC).
Artemis is not a perfect book. I kept forgetting the narrator was a woman; I don’t think Weir quite nailed a female inner voice. Although I applaud his attempt to add diversity to science fiction, Jazz also didn’t seem credibly Saudi Arabian. She acted and talked like a snarky American. (Although, who knows, maybe we’ll all think and talk like that in the future when we have a city on the moon.)
Jazz is on the run at one point and dresses up like a prostitute, which seemed like a clichéd choice. Also, there is romantic/sexual tension with a number of different men, and yet she is hung up on the gay ex-boyfriend who left her for another man.
The book was slow starting as Weir did his world building but once the action started it really drew me in. The biggest issue for me was probably the amount of science. I totally believed that scientist Mark Watney knew all the stuff he knew in The Martian, but Jazz is a porter and smuggler. Although several characters comment on how she has so much potential and could be doing more with her life, I had a hard time believing she understood all the complicated science that comes in to play by the end.
So, I can’t say Artemis is as good as The Martian, but it’s an enjoyable science fiction read if you think you’d enjoy a story about a slightly implausible adventure that contains a lot of detailed factual information about staying alive in a city on the moon.
I read an advance reader copy of Artemis. It is scheduled to be published in mid-November. It will be available at the Galesburg Public Library in print, as an audiobook, and as an ebook.