Andy Weir’s second novel brings us to the lunar colony, Artemis. Artemis is a small colony which serves both as a tourist destination and a place to immigrate for some skilled workers who call it their home. The main plot of the book concerns a heist (of sorts) and a smart, witty protagonist called Jazz Bashara. Andy Weir brings his trademark ‘science’ styled writing here and explains in detail how a colony on the moon could survive on its own. Is the book any good? Let’s find out!
Our protagonist, Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Bashara, is a resident of Artemis. She moved here with her father, Ammar, when she was 6 years old. She is of Saudi Arabian descent and quite a wild child. She often refers to herself as a non-practicing Muslim and constantly keeps reminding us of how her father would disapprove of her activities. She is probably the only character with a somewhat fleshed out back story. We move from when she made a pen-pal who lives on Earth to her troubled teen years and then to the now poverty-stricken life she leads on the moon. Her ‘coffin’ apartment is a constant reminder of her choices in life that led her to living a life of a porter managing to earn a measly 12000 slugs a month. She smuggles goods from Earth and supplies it to a variety of characters on the moon to earn a quick buck. This is how she comes across her ‘once in a life time opportunity’ which is the main plot of the book.
Other than Jazz, all other important characters felt weak. They are shoe-horned characters who fit a role that the book needs and that’s we get to see of them. There is very little detail provided about anyone else. Her father, Ammar, is described as a devout Muslim, a strict parent and the best welder on Artemis. She doesn’t seem to have any real friends other than Kelvin, her pen-pal from Earth with whom she has communicated since she was 9 years old. Jazz is a genius at whatever she does but refuses to acknowledge this part of her character. Other notable characters are Dale, her one time friend whom she hates because he stole the love of her life; Svoboda, a scientist stationed on the moon who is a tech wizard; Trond Landvik, a billionaire who relocated to the moon with his daughter Lene who while paralyzed in Earth gravity, is at least mobile on the moon. There are a few others but they don’t really play a big role.
The one place where the book is not lacking in depth is the science behind how the lunar colony was built and is maintained. Andy Weir’s descriptions and attention to detail really shines in this department as he describes how the colony domes are structured, how life support works, how oxygen is constantly created on the moon in excess and supplied to the colony and how the industry works. The strictness in how EVA’s work, the way airlocks can only be opened by professionals, the danger of moon dust is all meticulously explained and constantly hammered in throughout the book. The rich economy of the moon and the way their currency works sounds plausible. I feel I could make a good settler on the moon after reading this book!
The plot of the book can be described as Ocean’s Eleven on the moon or how I like to call it, Artemis 7! Our billionaire friend, Trond, has early knowledge of a ground-breaking invention which can revitalize the industry on the moon and bring a lot more settlers there. He wants to use this advantage to corner the aluminum industry on Artemis and take over the facility from the Brazilians who control it. The Brazilians have links to organized crime back on Earth and enforcers on the moon to take care of their interests. Jazz is hired by Trond to cause some mayhem to the Brazilian operation and offers Jazz 1 million slugs to do it! Jazz, porter by day and smuggler by later in the day, accepts it as soon as she hears the magic words – 1 million slugs. Due to an event in her past, she keeps reminding herself that she needs 416,922 slugs for a particular reason. She needs the money and this job is the perfect way to get it.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned. This is just as true on the moon as it is on Earth. The plan goes awry and Jazz is on the run for her life after she realizes that the people who run the aluminum operation will stop at nothing to make sure it stays secure. Certain people die and Jazz feels she is responsible, which is true. With the help of her friends, smuggling contacts and a few other surprise characters, Jazz makes a new plan which puts the future of the entire Artemis colony at stake! It takes a special kind of talent to screw up your second plan worse than your first one but Jazz manages to achieve it causing all the inhabitants of Artemis to go unconscious. People will die in 1 hour and only Jazz can fix it!
The plot starts losing credibility about halfway through the book. The events just don’t seem important enough to me. There is a sense of urgency towards the end but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere which leaves you disappointed. While you might expect some big reveals about ZAFO, it really wasn’t so. The book moves at a fast pace, but the plot is a major letdown. Everything is very convenient. All loose ends get gift wrapped with a tiny bow on the top. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, the way it is done is a bit cringey. The end of the book was a major letdown to me.
Seeing how the rest of the book is filled with shallow characters, even shallower interactions and convenient plot tools in place for the protagonist, the book is not that great. It’s a good read for a Sunday when you don’t have much to do. You can finish this in a single sitting but you might have a bitter after taste. Nothing in the book hints that there may be a sequel to this but due to the excellent setting of Artemis itself, I feel more books could be possible. Ideally with a lot more depth in both plot and characters.
Overall, I feel it could have been so much better given the content available.