Saturday, 5 August 2017

Review: Artemis

Artemis Artemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this author's book The Martian, despite the abundance of infodumps (and the annoying habit he has of using an exclamation mark as well as a question mark in the same sentence, which, if I was his editor, I would not allow). This book has the same faults, and many more, but is lacking the main thing I liked about The Martian: a viewpoint character I could really get behind and cheer on to succeed.

Jazz, the viewpoint character in this book, is like Mark Watney in The Martian in that she's a smartass. But while Mark's emphasis is on the smart, Jazz's is definitely on the ass. She tells us three or four times that she makes poor life choices, and demonstrates that this is true even more often; she refuses to fulfil her considerable potential out of, as far as I could tell, immature rebelliousness; she's a petty crook; and her main story goal is to commit major sabotage on vital infrastructure (there is a good reason, but still), while Mark's straightforwardly laudable goal is to survive and escape against the odds.

Artemis is a kind of heist, something I normally enjoy, but for me to enjoy a heist it needs to be more clever than this and pulled off by a lovable rogue - and I just didn't find Jazz lovable. Yes, she has one area of ethical firmness (she will always deliver on a contract), and she eventually acts heroically (to fix something she has broken), but it didn't make up for the other issues with her character. Her arc is that she learns to trust and work with other people, which worked for Lego Batman, but is a bit cheesy here.

She's supposedly Saudi, by the way, but is effectively American. The moonbase is owned by the Kenyans, but is effectively American; all the domes are named after the first American astronauts to land on the moon. None of the nods to cultural diversity were quite believable to me; it all just seemed American. Not to mention that Jazz isn't entirely convincing as a woman, either. Men can write convincing female characters, and Americans can write convincing non-Americans, but it's harder than many people (including most male American writers) seem to think.

The infodumps, too, as well as being annoying in themselves, are sometimes too close to breaking the fourth wall, in that Jazz thinks to explain things that a reader of today would find remarkable but she would not - for example, the lack of a drinking age on the moon. And then there are the ones that are just unnecessarily detailed. "How much do you know about aluminum?" says a character. To myself, I mutter, "As much as I want to. Less than I'm about to."

After all of the dull expository lumps of Space! Science!, the McGuffin seemed to me, as a layperson, to break or at least unconvincingly bend the laws of physics with regard to transmission of light through a non-vacuum. And while there are references to the original American moon landings being about a century before, which places us at least in the 2060s, the technology isn't (apart from the unconvincing McGuffin) anything that we couldn't build today; nothing really seems to have advanced, and the world hasn't changed a great deal.

What really sunk the story for me, though, was the ending. I'm going to have to use spoiler tags here to talk about it in detail.

(view spoiler)

So the author writes himself into a scenario where, by all logic, the main character would be in a near-fatal amount of trouble, and gets her off by fudging severely and, to me, unconvincingly.

Overall, I thought this book caught fire on the launchpad. It didn't succeed in terms of craft, character, plot, or setting. I give it three stars only because it's amusing in places, and occasionally clever.

I received a copy from Netgalley for review.

View all my reviews

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