Artemis by Andy Weir Is A Bumpy Ride

Some authors become notorious for repeating themselves. When you read a Stephen King novel, chances are you’ll encounter things that you’ve seen in other Stephen King novels; black people with magical powers, an average looking middle aged schlubb with a smoking hot wife, a writer protagonist, etc. With Dan Brown, well, you’re going to get Dan Browned. There will be assassinations, conspiracies, and the most dubious presentation of fact that a simple google search will refute. Artemis is only Andy Weir’s second book, but after the success of The Martian he seems to be on track to repeat a formula that makes bank.

Jazz is a smuggler living in the moon city of Artemis. After failing to qualify as moon tour guide in an attempt to set up caches outside the multi-domed city, she is offered a very dubious job of committing corporate sabotage — cutting off the city’s supply of oxygen to allow a competing supplier to swoop in and save the day.

For the first half of the book Jazz is our tour guide and explains how a city on the moon could function. This is undoubtedly the strongest part of the book. It’s fun to think about, and fun to have it explained. Jazz in this part is witty, but unfortunately her humour turns juvenile and grating halfway through.

The social science of the book just doesn’t work very well. Nothing is technically illegal, Jazz says. No age of consent, just go too far and you’ll get beaten up for sleeping with a 14 year old or beating your wife. But said abused wife is presumably left with her abusive husband, who will certainly be more careful in making sure no one finds out rather than actually stopping. The pedophile is still free to do as he pleases. And yet the one cop in town is gunning to deport Jazz for smuggling in things like cigars, and she mentions being homeless is illegal. Is it intentional, then, that cigars and homelessness are more unforgivable on Artemis than domestic violence and sexual abuse? Probably not. Weir is here to tell you how a city on the moon could physically function. How it functions socially is far less thought out.

The plot depends on all the characters being super geniuses. Jazz can learn in an afternoon what most people dedicate years of academic study to learn. Artemis’s one and only cop Rudy puts Poirot, Sherlock, and Columbo collectively to shame, solving crimes instantaneously and without effort. Side characters have graphic calculators for brains and whip up solutions within seconds of thinking. This wasn’t terribly irritating in the first half of the book, but in the second half it becomes more and more unrealistic, and then conveniently when the plot needs to thicken they overlook obvious things.

Jazz is also a bit of a emotionally stunted psychopath, almost utterly incapable of empathy. Other character’s motivations are an utter mystery to her unless it’s spelled out for her. Other character’s feelings simply aren’t acknowledged or quickly dismissed. She does not stop to question as to whether the insanely dangerous sabotages she commits might be perilous to the city (spoiler: they are). Mostly, she just snarks at the reader about how attractive she is, how the domes of the city like boobs, and how the reader can stop pretending to know what a niqab is, you ignorant uncultured swine. The whole narration is a conversation between Jazz and the reader, and while at first I was rapt with attention, by the end of her story I was tired and knew she was full of shit. Andy Weir thanks a slew of women for helping him write a female narrator, but I’m not sure why when he just slapped the personality of a male teenager on Jazz and called it good.

Artemis is an entertaining read that suffers from poor characterization and overindulgent exposition. It has an excellent start but in the end when the fate of the city is at stake, I couldn’t help but wish that the entire book was about the first caper. When you know by the third caper that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, it gets a little difficult sitting through meticulous details of welding and the 100th slut shaming joke to get there

Megan “Spooky” Crittenden is a secluded writer who occasionally ventures from her home to give aid to traveling adventurers.