Quick show of hands–did you enjoy The Martian, the book or movie? I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like one or the other, and I’m torn between the 2015 movie (with Matt Damon playing the lead character, Mark Watney) and Andy Weir’s 2014 debut novel. The novel was witty and fast-paced and filled with a mix of extrapolated tech (the story takes place in 2035) and REAL science. I read it in one day; I was that taken with the story and the technical details that Weir included. Turns out that Weir did a TON of research for his story (starting back in 2009) and wanted it to have as much authentic science as possible. He nailed it (IMO), and much of the success of the book and the movie is probably due to fans feeling the same way as I do. And I imagine that many fans have been anxious to see what Weir would do for a follow-up. Well… the follow-up is here. It’s called Artemis, and this fan was not disappointed.
I do NOT want to provide spoilers, so I’m going to offer up the basic story concept that provides nothing that you wouldn’t get from the blurbs on the inside flaps or back cover of the book. I’ll follow that with a little more detail for those who want it. If you don’t want to know anything more, just read the next paragraph ONLY:
Jasmine (Jazz) Bashara is a porter on the Moon’s only city, Artemis. She’s also a part-time smuggler, obtaining goods for both those who live and work there, as well as for the tourists who can afford the trip up. She’s poor, and always looking for a good score. So when she is given the opportunity to make a serious load of money, she jumps at it. But committing a crime on the Moon isn’t easy, and Jazz is about to find herself in the middle of a dangerous fight for control of Artemis.
Andy Weir does for the Moon in Artemis what he did for Mars in The Martian–that is, he incorporates a solid mix of known technology and science with a bit of tech-fiction to further enhance a great story. In this case, however, it’s a great caper.
Alright… that’s all you get if you want maximum surprises and minimal spoilers. Want just a LITTLE more (while still avoiding major spoilers)? Okay, keep reading.
**** MINOR SPOILERS BELOW ****
Jazz has lived on the Moon her entire life. She knows her way around all five of the major habitats that connect to form Artemis. She’s also trying to go legit (well, mostly legit) by getting her EVA license so she can take tourists outside the bubbles… big money in that! But Jazz is a rule breaker, and she fails her test because she thinks it’s okay to bend rules here and there. That’s not acceptable on the Moon where a single mistake can kill you or even everyone else. Because of this, many of her goals are put on hold… and she’s in need of money once again.
Artemis is a science fiction crime story, and Jazz agrees to commit a crime that will make her a LOT of money. And remember–she lives on the Moon where everything is expensive, so when I say a LOT of money, you get the idea. She really cannot say no. Does the crime go off without a hitch? Of course not. If it did, the book would be over in the first 125 pages. Instead, readers are going to get to squirm right along with Jazz as she gets deeper and deeper into trouble with all the wrong people.
Jazz’s survival depends so much on her understanding of how things work on the Moon. And that’s where Weir’s story-telling shines again. It’s the technology and science that often saves the day (or ruins it), and I must admit I had a hard time knowing when Weir was providing real science and when he was just making stuff up. I know just enough about welding, for example, that the discussions of welding on the Moon made me smile as I learned about the difficulties welders might (will?) encounter on the lunar surface. I also found myself reaching out to Google for a few bits of info on the Moon when I wanted to double-check a fact about certain elements and whether they truly can be found on the Moon. (In true Weir fashion, he’ll surprise you with the amount of real science you’ll find that you THINK is made up.)
One things I most enjoyed about the book that I would never have picked prior to reading it were the discussions related to actually living on the Moon. The basics of eating and breathing are obvious, but stuff such as being able to discover where a leak might be or safety features that would need to be designed in case of fires or chemical spills. Reading Artemis showed me that living on the Moon (or Mars) is not going to be easy. These are environments that are deadly, and forgetting for a single second where you are could be the end of you.
But there are rewards, no doubt. Weir’s Artemis is a believable place because it prefers to spend time in the trenches, not the bright lights. Weir’s workers are hardened and resourceful, and those traits can lead to success given how Weir’s Artemis works. If we ever have a permanent base on the Moon, there will be those who get rich from services and resources, and it’s not hard to believe that crime will also exist once mankind has a foothold there.
Artemis covers all these bases (dangers, rewards, and crime) with a story that won’t take long to make it to the big screen. (Read it now and avoid the inevitable reveal of secrets in the movie trailers.)
Artemis releases on November 14, 2017.
Note: Geekdad was provided with a review copy of Artemis.