Since I’m reading so much anyway lately, never mind the fact that I’m an aspiring writer, I should actually look at some books (the Shadow review also went over well so here goes nothing).
In the near future, Earth has colonized the moon with the city of Artemis, a sort of research base turned tourist trap for rich idiots. Our protagonist, Jazz Bashara, is a small time smuggler tasked with industrial sabotage for a big payout. Then things go sideways…
People who know me or have read my output know that I am a massive fan of Andy Weir’s first novel The Martian. It was a brilliant hard-scifi book that combined meticulous research with a beautiful characterization for Watney and humanity as a whole. The plot was throwaway, another version of Robinson Crusoe/Castaway like we’ve seen many times before.
Artemis is a fun hard-scifi book combining meticulous research with cheesy capers and a plot that might as well star the crew of the Ocean’s Eleven movies. Come to think of it, a Chinese acrobat flipping through a security system in 0.16G would be awesome.
But you already see that Andy Weir has a type of story he likes. And that is fine. There is currently no other popular science fiction author who does well-researched near-future scifi as well as he does. If all he does for the next few years is to write more books in this vain I won’t complain. Though you can see why some people might have been disappointed by the book.
It does not help that critics of the book have focused a lot on Andy Weir’s portrayal of its main character Jazz Bashara, specifically on the fact that he writes a grown woman as a 16-year-old boy crossed with one too many viewings of the movie Mean Girls (I don’t know if that’s accurate, not my style). And they kinda have a point. Mark Watney would not disguise himself as a hooker to go undercover. Even then, it would be considered funny, not pandering, in the descriptions.
And I think I would have similar feelings on the matter, if I had not listened to Artemis on Audible. And that means listening to one of my favorite actors for a good 9 hours. Rosario Dawson is able to take the stereotypical plot and somewhat weak characterization and infuses it with so much fun and humanity that it becomes infectious to listen to. How this woman is not the biggest star in Hollywood and gets wasted in Marvel Netflix shows year after year is beyond me.
Once you combine a stellar performance by Dawson with Weir’s meticulous writing you end up with a scifi action story that actually teaches you about the moon, economics, and space flight in a way that I think not even The Martian could. But really Dawson’s performance is what makes this story stand out. Having read the reading sample of the book on Amazon, I can certainly see the negative and mixed reviews. Take out all the energy she brings and you end up with a somewhat stale, cliche caper that occasionally blows you away with the research.
Overall, I’m going to recommend Artemis, but only in the audiobook form. And I would actually say give me a return to Artemis colony in a future sequel, but please Andy: polish it up some more next time.