Conspiracy on the Moon drives this scifi heroine #bookreview #review #sciencefiction #scifi

Artemis book cover

Not the most exciting cover I’ve ever seen

If you enjoyed Andy Weir’s The Martian (the book or the movie) you’ll find his style carries over to Artemis. The story (with maps!) is set on the Moon, in an established (if small) lunar city. The main character, Jazz, is a young woman of Arab and Islamic descent. Her background contributes to the story, but she’s not observant and this isn’t a lecture on religion.

It’s a crime story, with more than one criminal, and some of them are willing to murder. What the criminals are after is satisfyingly wonkish and believable, but no spoilers here. You’ll see when you read the book.

Despite being in a completely different setting, Jazz shares some traits with The Martian’s Mark Watney. She uses technology in her schemes, never gives up, wise-cracks a lot, and swears. There are references to sex, though nothing steamy in the story itself.

But Jazz is not a sympathetic character. She’s a young smuggler ready to commit larger crimes. Weir gives her a backstory to explain her willingness, but it never made me like her much.

The story flows well. I enjoyed the lunar colony, which relies on imports from Earth in an economy based on tourism. The Apollo 11 site is a major draw and fun to see through the story’s eyes. The lunar city itself is well presented along with its inhabitants – exactly what I’d want on the Moon.

In an interesting twist on flashbacks, messages back and forth to Jazz’s Earth-bound pen pal provide background and then catch up to the story to participate in the action. Nice touch.

Details of the technology Jazz uses were fun through most of the book, but in the climax I skimmed along, wanting to see how the story turns out.

One odd thing: the story is described as a heist, but it’s not. At least, not in the usual sense of a robbery. My thesaurus claims the word heist can mean attack, so I guess it applies, but why use a secondary definition?

Here’s another thing I find odd. The title of the book is Artemis: A Novel. I didn’t need to be told it’s a novel – there are plenty of clues (read sarcasm here.) I’ve seen other books add “a novel” to their titles, so I guess it’s a fashion of some sort. Doesn’t hurt anything – I just think it’s odd.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who likes realistic science in their science fiction, and enjoys a bit of an anti-hero. And would like to visit a small city on the Moon.

What others are saying
At 3.9 stars, with over 1900 reviews on Amazon, it’s no surprise this book is in the top ten (not 10%, but top ten books) in its Amazon categories’ sales ranks. Although, in another oddity, the day I checked one of its Amazon categories was “time travel.” Huh?

Some reviewers had trouble following the science part of the story, while others thought it was too low-tech! Like me, some felt the main character wasn’t likeable, and one said Jazz was “what young boys THINK women are like.” Bit of an ouch there. But most readers enjoyed it,” Mr. Weir’s got humor, wit, snark” and “loved the plot, characters, and one liners.” Artemis by Andy Weir.

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Movie #TheMartian opens today based on a #FridayRead novel by author with his own Cinderella story

the MartianThe Martian tells the story of NASA astronaut Mark Watney, mistakenly left behind for dead when his crewmates evacuate the planet during a mission-aborting storm. We begin with Watney’s point of view: “I’m pretty much fucked.” While Weir also gives us chapters from the viewpoint of NASA on Earth and the crew who left him behind, I suspect Watney is Weir’s favorite character.

Story of the story
The story of how the book went from pen (or keyboard) to movie screen is Andy Weir’s real-life fairy tale.

  • He began writing the book in 2009, researching thoroughly so it would be as realistic as possible. Weir decided to blog the book online one chapter at a time for free. In 2011 fans of the website convinced him to self-publish the book on Amazon – originally as a Kindle book at the lowest price Amazon allowed: 99¢.
  • It soared to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction titles.
  • Podium Publishing signed for the audiobook rights in 2013.
  • Crown Publishing purchased the print rights and re-released it in 2014.
  • The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014.
  • Now it’s a major motion picture.

Rejections
I can imagine why traditional literary agents rejected Weir’s books if they’re all like this (The Martian wasn’t his first try.) Weir’s mission to Mars feels deeply “NASA” with chipper, brilliant, and brave astronauts. As the book promos say, The Martian is a tale of survival of the geekiest. You could have an Excel spreadsheet open as you read, to check Weir’s math. All this sounds too tech-heavy for any traditional publisher to try.

The Martian defies “tradition”
The possibly-doomed astronaut tells most of his story through log entries – “telling” rather than “showing” (a bugaboo in writing advice.) For every clever survival ploy and disastrous setback, you know he survived because he’s logging the sol’s adventures after the fact. There’s all the detail from Weir’s research – technical “backstory” the astronaut shares in his log – more anti-writing advice. There’s no villain, though Mars is quite an antagonist. Most importantly, there’s a lack of soap opera – Weir offers no dark secrets or betrayed loves – very little about the astronaut, his friends, or family at all.

Fun read
I’m an engineer and appreciate the sense of reality Weir creates in his story, and the brave plucky astronaut, but even I started skimming the math late in the book. That was because I wanted to find out what happened next – not because I wanted the book to end. Read the free preview and if your reaction is “I want three hundred pages of this,” read the book. You’ll be happy.

Real Settlers Can Learn From The Martian
Mars-One, real-life non-profit dedicated to placing a colony on Mars, takes lessons from the book:

“If you want to be the first, you have to like being alone. Stated in a more practical way, when you’re a settler in the first settlement on Mars, you have no neighbors when you need to borrow some folding chairs for your next party.”

But Mars-One wants to plant a permanent colony while The Martian mission does not. As they say, “The novel described some useful future-tech inventions, like nano-woven habitat cloth, nuclear spaceships, and durable life support equipment. But… where are all the robots? And 3D printers? And other tech for basic infrastructure?”

What others say
Amazon Kindle edition is up to $5.99 now, with over 13,000 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. Phenomenal. For a little balance, I looked at the few 3-star ratings. These readers disliked exactly what everyone else loved: “This is a nerd’s book. It is driven almost entirely by the mastery of technical details.” [M. Milligan] The optimistic, wisecracking castaway sounded juvenile to some. It did remind me of the type of dialog from science fiction’s pulpier era, with the modern acceptance of an occasional “fuck.” Can you imagine Neil Armstrong texting to JPL “Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)? I’m curious to hear how the movie presents Watney’s monologs and dialogs.

The story behind The Martian is at Wikipedia. SPOILER ALERT – Wikipedia includes a plot summary.