Andy Weir’s new novel ‘Artemis’ mis­fires

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Magazine -

But when the plan goes side­ways, Jazz is the one on the hook, and she’s fac­ing be­ing de­ported to her fam­ily’s home coun­try of Saudi Ara­bia.After nearly a life­time of liv­ing on a lunar city — not to men­tion lunar grav­ity — she’s not look­ing for­ward to the phys­i­cal and cul­tural shock. Mean­while, the fall­out takes her deep into crime syn­di­cates op­er­at­ing on Earth and its moon, and it means it will take a genius plan, with some­helpfromveryre­luc­tant al­lies,to get out un­scathed.

“Artemis” is a heist story at its core, and it is fas­ci­nated with the science of hu­mans ek­ing out a liv­ing in an alien at­mos­phere, down to how to use a weld­ing torch in the moon’s at­mos­phere dur­ing in­dus­trial sab­o­tage. But the ed­u­ca­tional in­ter­ludes slide from in­ter­est­ing to clumsy when it bogs the pac­ing down. In “The Mar­tian,” the ex­pla­na­tions were or­ganic be­cause the story was told as per­sonal logs from a man try­ing to sur­vive, de­tail­ing to NASA (which would find the records if he didn’t make it) howhe was able to, say, drink wa­ter and grow pota­toes on Mars’ land­scape. In “Artemis,” the story some­times fum­bles try­ing to bal­ance the fas­ci­na­tion with how hu­mans live and work away from Earth with try­ing to spina good ca­per.

As a pro­tag­o­nist, Jazz is re­fresh­ing — a scrappy, ir­rev­er­ent­woman from the Mid­dle East at the cen­ter of a gen­re­piece set on the moon. Sci-fi has fans from all back­grounds, so see­ing char­ac­ters that re­flect such di­ver­sity is morethan wel­come. And isn’t the genre tai­lor-made to ex­plore new ter­ri­to­ries and per­spec­tives be­yond the sta­tus quo?

In the ac­knowl­edge­ments, Mr. Weir notes that he had help in tack­ling the “chal­lenge of writ­ing a fe­male nar­ra­tor.”

Un­for­tu­nately, that chal­lenge shows up on the page in some some truly groan-in­duc­ing nar­ra­tion and di­a­logue. We know Jazz is both hot and smart be­cause so many char­ac­ters say so. Fre­quently. Not to be out­done, the nar­ra­tor wastes no op­por­tu­nity to comment on her own good looks and brains, in a way that’s awk­wardly shoe­horned into the story. Overall, it’s meant to be wise-crack­ing, but it ends up feel­ing con­trived, like a teenager who is try­ing very, very hard to seem more like anadult.

Overall, it’s worth ex­plor­ing a city on the moon — who would live there, why they­would, and how — es­pe­cially at a time when such travel for civil­ians might be at­tain­able one day. But “Artemis” could use a few more draft­sto feel real.

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