Getting sucked into bookish hypes is so easy, but often not worth it. Esmée will look into these hyped novels for you, so only she has to potentially waste her time.
What’s this hype everyone’s talking about?
We’ve built a city on the moon! Maybe not ‘us’, but humankind. Jazz lives on Artemis, the only city in space. She’s a smuggler and makes sure that anyone who wants something on Artemis will get it through her. But Jazz is always just scraping by, living in a capsule house no bigger than a coffin and always looking over her shoulder hoping she doesn’t get caught. When a big-time businessman on Artemis offers Jazz a million slugs (space money deserves a strange name) she sees a way out. Of course, things don’t go entirely as planned.
Artemis is the second novel by Andy Weir and if I really have to tell you who Andy Weir is, I’ll be a little sad. His first novel The Martian was the talk of the town after it came out. It was universally loved and then turned into a movie with Matt Damon. It’s an action-packed novel, filled with realistic science, funny quips and duct tape. The hype around his first novel was real and actually deserved, so you can imagine the anticipation for his sophomore novel. Let’s see if the wait was worth it.
Don’t Believe it
This is a very weak ‘don’t believe it’, because I did actually enjoy reading Artemis, but the book just doesn’t live up to its expectations. Now to be fair, these expectations were unrealistically high, and second novels are always hard, but even without all that Artemis still falls short.
Unlike in The Martian, Weir has to balance multiple characters in Artemis. Jazz does spend a lot of her time alone, quipping to herself, but there’s still a much larger cast for her to interact with. Writing one compelling character is difficult enough, but it takes a skilled writer to write a whole bunch of them. To me, Weir didn’t succeed in this. Many of the characters were so similar to me, that I kept confusing who was who. Reading the audiobook version of the novel did help because Rosario Dawson did a great job with all the accents, but whenever one of the many male characters in the book had a general American accent, I had a hard time figuring out who was talking.
But having non-interesting side characters is a fault of many books. As long as the main character is intriguing enough, you can forgive the book everyone else. Unfortunately, Jazz isn’t the most likable heroine either. Jazz is selfish and mostly obsessed with money and getting rich. She doesn’t really care how she gets that way, if she has to destroy someone else’s source of income for it, that seems just fine by her. Jazz isn’t inhuman though. She has a father who’s disappointed in her, a friend back on earth who relies on her and a former best friend who broke her heart, all showing how her hard exterior is just a way of coping with the emotions that she’s feeling inside.
I thought Jazz and Watney were just too similar as characters. If Artemis was Andy Weir’s fist novel, I might have enjoyed it more, but now it was just a rehash of what he’d already done before. There are minor differences between them, but they do have the same sense of humor, the same constant ego tripping self-degradation and science know-how. Both characters are insanely smart, very capable and get think their way out of any tricky situation.
However, it’s their situations that are different. Watney was fighting to survive. He was stuck on Mars through no fault of his own and all he could do was find a way to survive. Jazz on the other hand gets herself in trouble. She’s rash, makes bad decisions and gets the entire city hurt. Her actions have very large consequences, and although she gets redeemed at the end, she still put a lot of people in danger. Weir shows us that she cares about this, but not enough to excuse whatever it is she has done.
I didn’t mind that Jazz was a little juvenile or blunt, but she never felt like a character I wanted to root for. Throughout the novel we’re hit on the head with remarks about how smart she is and how much potential she has and all she puts this towards is quick money schemes that are just a big hassle for everyone.
I did have a lot of fun with the novel as well. Jazz gets into trouble a lot, and whenever she does, Weir’s excellent writing kicks in and he starts sciencing the fuck out of Artemis. He explains how stuff works on the moon, how many things wouldn’t work there and gets really geeky about aluminium. I have no idea if the science is accurate, but it all sounded plausible to me and hella interesting. It was like a novel version of Flash Forward and I just wanted to know more about how Artemis worked and what we could and couldn’t do while living on the moon.
Weir is really good at making science sound exciting, even in stressful situations. I didn’t even mind when he stopped the action to explain to me how something worked. Those parts are the reason I like to read his books, it’s where his strength lies. On the other hand, doing plot, character development and all that other literary stuff isn’t his forte, at least not in Artemis. The story was filled with cliches and plot holes and the characters were often nothing more than caricatures.
This all sounds a little more negative than I had intended because I did enjoy listening to Artemis a lot. It was the equivalent of a fun action movie where you shouldn’t think too hard about why this is all happening and you should just sit back and take in the spectacle. At least with Artemis, you still learn a whole bunch of science in the process.
Artemis gets a solid three stars from me and I’m definitely going to read whatever Weir writes next. Did you buy into the hype of Artemis and did you think it was worth it? Share your experiences in the comments!