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Review: Artemis, by Andy Weir

This review was originally posted to my Patreon page  Please consider supporting me at Patreon to receive and stories at least thirty days in advance of other readers.

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Pity poor Andy Weir. After starting his artistic career writing and drawing the fantasy comedy webcomic Casey and Andy, followed by the lesser, unfinished comic Cheshire Crossing, in 2011 he began serializing The Martian on his website, mostly for his own amusement. After finishing it he self-published it on Amazon at the behest of his followers, only offering it for 99 cents because he couldn't figure out how to give it away for free.

  The rest, as they say, is history. After selling thousands of copies, The Martian was picked up by Crown Publishing for a print release, became a New York Times bestseller, and then a major film release in 2016. It was the most amazing publishing phenomenon since J.K. Rowling wrote her short little fantasy novel about a kid going to a magical English boarding school.

  Then, like Rowling, he had to figure out what to do next.

The answer turned out to be Artemis, a novel not set on Mars, but on Earth's Moon, in the titular city built by the Kenyan Space Corporation as a way of jumping ahead of other African nations in technology and innovation. At the center of it is Jazz Bashara, a twenty-six year old, a smart but lazy Artemisian native looking for a fast buck. Pretty soon she finds it, as one of her regular smuggling customers needs someone to take on a much bigger job, a touch of sabotage against the local aluminum smelting company, which (thanks to the magic chemical reactions) also has a lock on Artemis' oxygen supply business. Though the money sounds good, soon events spiral out of control into murder and mayhem, and Jazz is running for her life as she tries to figure out how not to either be the next victim, or end up being deported back to an Earth she hasn't seen since she was six years old.

  While still a thriller set in an off-Earth location where the environment drives much of the world-building and plot, Artemis owes more to caper films such as Ocean's Eleven rather than The Martian's man against nature Robinsonade. If the results are a bit shaky, well you can blame Weir for stretching his wings a bit. For one thing, while Jazz is still foulmouthed, snarky and good at engineering like Mark Watney, she has an actual character arc in the story. Watney was our Everyman stand-in, but looking back at him it's remarkable to see how little we actually find out about him. We don't even have a physical description beyond that he's shorter than his fellow astronauts Martinez and Vogel. Jazz is far more fleshed out, her snark and attitude coming back to bite her in the ass several times. While she's got a good engineering skill set (she learned the trade of welding from her father), and is predictably clever, Weir isn't afraid to show her falling flat on her face several times as plans don't work out or she fails to consider alternatives.

  The results aren't perfect. Some of the secondary characters are little more than cyphers, there's a running gag about creating a reusable item you really don't want to ever reuse that's just painful, and the climax is rather unlikely, but overall Artemis is a successful sophomore novel, and a good followup if you enjoyed The Martian. 


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