Artemis – Andy Weir

Given my deep and abiding love of The Martian; given my nerdy geeky longing for space – the poster I’m looking at right now says “Someday I would like to stand on the moon, look through a quarter of a million miles of space and say, ‘There certainly is a beautiful earth out tonight.’ — Lieutenant Colonel William Rankin” – and I mean it, I really, really mean it … Given all that, it was inevitable that I’d instantly request Artemis, wait anxiously for approval, and hope like heck it was great. I’d seen reviews saying that it wasn’t in the same league as the first book. But that didn’t really matter. I wanted it.

Well, and those reviews – they were right. The Martian was, for me, almost perfect. Artemis had some wonderful things, but on the whole it fell short for me. The depiction of society on the moon was terrific. Weir did a tremendous job of world-building to make something that was utterly familiar and utterly alien at the same time. He was on one of my favorite podcasts (Make Me Smart, with Molly Wood and Kai Ryssdal) talking about the economics of living in space or on the moon, and the man has it all thought out.

It’s only after having finished the book that I’m a little wistful about the fact that, while there was a bit of “OMG” in the book – Jazz is reminded a few times of how truly awesome, in every sense of the word, it is to live on the moon, and the ability to look up and out and see Earth out there … still, I think what I missed in this book is that nerdy geeky rapture I wanted. Artemis has been there for a while. Jazz grew up there. She has never known anything else, and everyone around her has been there long enough that the novelty has, apparently, sadly, worn off.

And I think that’s a shame. I mean … it’s the moon. You can step outside and if the rotation is right look up and see the only place humans had previously ever lived, the classic blue marble. (Lene looked up to Trond like he put the Earth in the sky.) And that’s magical. I wonder if that’s why I’m not more of a science fiction fan in general – I love a lot of the trappings of the genre, but hardly ever read in it. The awe just seems to be so often missing.

And that’s not what the book is about. The book is about lunar economics and a heist and science and … economics … About murder and the black market and eking out a living and frittering away potential.

Honestly, I think that last part, and the whole heist storyline, are what kept me from loving this book. Jazz is hardly unrealistic in her insistence on letting all the very skills and intelligence she’s got get blunted and rusty while she scrapes by doing jobs almost anyone could do, or doing illegal jobs… but I found the end of it intensely frustrating. Given my life and situation and desires, and given her possibilities, I wanted to give her a swift kick for her perverse insistence on not doing anything with her abilities, for continuing to live hand to mouth when she had another option sitting waiting for her. If her father had hated her or abused her (which he very much did not: “Very few people get a chance to quantify how much their father loves them. But I did.” – One of my favorite bits) … if she had a fear of open flame, or claustrophobia, or something … if there was some even half-baked reason for it, I’d have had a much easier time accepting it. As it is, she just made me angry. Again, this is not unrealistic. But I don’t read fiction to watch people make the same kinds of mistakes I have.

Mainly, though, it was the adventure at the climax that made me a little tired and … not bored, exactly, but kind of patiently-waiting-for-the-conclusion. On the one hand it reminded me of a movie from the sixties – a madcap farce, a caper, something that should have starred Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. On the other hand, it was deadly serious – people could have died, lots of them (probably would have died, to be honest – children don’t have the tolerance of adults is all I’m going to say).

I appreciated the plotting; I appreciated the writing; I appreciated the depth of world-building (literal and literary). I enjoyed the humor where it came in (“like all good plans, it required a crazy Ukrainian guy”) and marked the change in tone; but the whole thing was not what I signed up for.

Still, it was overall very enjoyable. And Jazz (and therefore Weir) is a nerd. The reference to the first Lord of the Rings film was lovely.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. “I thank,” I said with a smile. “I thank many. Moon is much excitement!”

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