Andy Weir’s new novel ‘Artemis’ misfires
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.