I loved The Martian, Andy Weir’s debut novel, and I totally fell in love with it’s plucky protagonist, Mark Watney. When I got the opportunity to review his sophomore effort Artemis, I was beyond excited. Did it live up to me admittedly high expectations? yes and no.
Jazz Bashara is a young woman who has lived in Artemis, a city on the moon, for 20 years. Despite having a huge intellect, she lacks conventional ambition and instead works as a porter while running a small smuggling concern, supplying contraband for the Artemesian rich. Never one to refuse a good deal, Jazz accepts a very illegal contract from a Scandinavian multimillionaire to destroy a smelting company in return for a cool one million slugs (local currency). She soon gets involved with the lunar authorities and organised crime and before long the lives of everyone in Artemis are in jeopardy.
This is a light thriller which just happens to be set in space. For me, the best science fiction is character driven and the story could be transplanted from space to earth with few differences. Weir achieves this perfectly. Yes, there is a lot of science and technology in the story. Some of it I understood, most of it I just accepted. The science is never dry and the author does his best to make it accessible without patronising the reader.
One of the standout features of The Martian was the perky, indefatigable character of the protagonist and Weir pulls this off again. Jazz is likeable, a rascal rather than a rogue. However, I can’t help but feel that her voice is too similar to Mark Watney’s and that perhaps too much of the author’s own voice is leeching into his prose.
Artemis has a cracking plot and well drawn characters with a very likeable narrator, so you’d think this would be a five star read. Alas, no. There is one major problem with this book that spoiled my enjoyment. In The Martian, a first person narration, Watney speaks to the reader via his audio journal. The fourth wall stays intact. In Artemis, however, we have another first person narrator who repeatedly crashes through that fourth wall by chatting to us as if she is telling us the story over a beer. While this was at first just mildly annoying, in the setting of a thriller it rather removes the belief that Jazz is ever in real danger as she would have to survive in order for her to tell us the story in the way she does. There is an argument that the tone of the book is light enough that we could infer that main characters are ultimately safe, but people do die and, for me, there is an imbalance in tone.
Ultimately, this is a cracking read. Will I read Weir’s next book? Yes, I think I will. But I’ll be hoping that it will be written in the third person or narrated by a character who is oblivious to the reader.