Andy Weir’s The Martian was one of the biggest breakout hits of all time by an indie author, and justifiably so, because it was a fantastic story. Weir’s strength is in the characters he creates, characters who feel real, who we identify with, whose motivations we understand. In Artemis, Weir takes on a female protagonist, Jazz Bashara, a young woman living in the first colony on the Moon.
Of Saudi Arabian origins, Jazz moved to the multicultural colony of Artemis when she was a child, and life on Earth now is utterly incomprehensible to her. She’s a space rat through and through, a smart kid who doesn’t quite fit into the rigid, unionized culture of her home. Looking for ways to make a quick buck, Jazz finds herself caught up in a plot to destabilize the entire society of Artemis, and must make the choice to be a mere bystander (and probably collateral damage) or step up and become a true leader.
There are a few things in this story which I can see as getting labeled Problematic by people who might then choose all the way to the end. Jazz gets involved in an explosive act of industrial sabotage, and I have to say this gave me pause. A woman of Arab origins setting off an improvised bomb feels stereotypical at best… but I considered the context of the rest of the story. Literally nothing else about Jazz is typical. She’s independent and self-sufficient, she drinks alcohol and has sex (though not during this story) and she has her own code of right and wrong - while she’s a smuggler, bringing contraband goods in for Artemis’ residents, she refuses to smuggle guns or hard drugs, for example.
By the end of the story, Jazz’s slightly murky motivations finally become clear. I won’t spoil the story by revealing how it ends, but I was really happy to discover that she was a heroine I could get behind. She’s clever, funny and self-deprecating, and I truly wanted her to come out on top.
The other strong point about Artemis is the science. Weir has very obviously done his research and there is some really great stuff in here, seamlessly integrated into the plot so it doesn’t read like info-dumping, explained in terms the layman can understand. Life in a sealed lunar module is complex and dangerous but for someone like Jazz, any other way of life is inconceivable.
I’m already looking forward to the movie. Five stars for a fantastic read.
Artemis is available now.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.