© 2017 Andy Weir
Jazz Bashara only wanted to engage in a little industrial sabotage to make a quick buck. She didn’t intend to poison her entire hometown. But that’s the Moon for ya. Andy Weir’s potent mix of hard science, space exploration, and a smart-aleck central character make a return with Artemis, in which a perfectly innocent criminal enterprise leads to a mob war. A heist novel in space, Artemis’ most attractive element is right there in the title: the city of Artemis, whose technical designs and economy Weir planned out before he wrote the novel. Artemis is an intriguing look what an established lunar colony might actually look like, and readers explore it through the eyes of a young petty criminal, a woman named Jasmine (“Jazz”) Bashara, who knows its systems as well as she knows its underbelly.
Jazz is an interesting character in her own right, an Arabian near-native of the moon. Artemis restricts immigration by age, but she arrived at age six with her master-welder father and together they forged a new life for themselves. Although Jazz didn’t follow in her father’s footsteps — she accidentally destroyed his shop and livelihood, long story — her welding background proves useful when she escalates from smuggling to sabotage. The book’s plot is inseparable from science and technical reality, but Weir also explore social structures. There’s no police force or prisons, just a constable, but ne’er do wells do meet retaliatory justice: a pedophile might be beaten by a crowd of incensed parents, for instance, or a wife-beater might have every blow inflicted on his wife imposed on him by the constable. Although I doubt I’ll see a lunar colony in my lifetime, the amount of imaginative and detailed knowledge that went into Artemis made it a fascinating place to explore and accidentally cripple.
Readers of both novels may grouse that Jazz sounds a little too much like Mark Watney. That’s actually fine by me, because they’re both amusing to spend time with. Besides, Jazz moved to a frontier town when she was six, she was raised by a single father and spent her youth working with him in his welding shop, and all of her friends are working-class guys. Is it really that shocking that she sounds like a guy?
I enjoyed Artemis completely, and if they make a movie of it I’ll be there when it opens.