by Andy Weir
‘Dude, I don’t know where you’re getting info about girls but you’re WRONG. Girls like boys who are nice and make us laugh. We DON’T like boys who get in fights and we don’t like boys who are stupid. Trust me on this. I’m a girl.’
The problem with writing a first novel that becomes a sensation overnight is that expectations are high. Andy Weir’s The Martian was original, believable, funny and successful. It was turned into a brilliant movie which – for a change – stuck pretty closely to the novel’s storyline.
Artemis, Weir’s second novel, published this month, has the same kind of hero – innovative, a quick thinker – a survivor. This time, the protagonist is a girl – Jazz Bashara, Saudi Arabian with a Muslim father. She’s a smuggler – and she lives on the Moon. Artemis is the lunar city built by Kenyan money. It consists of double-skinned aluminium modules named after some of the big names of lunar expeditions – Armstrong, Aldrin, Collins etc. The city has 2,000 inhabitants of all races and nationalities.
‘Everyone knows me at the port. I was there every day and my sparkling personality was hard to forget. That’s not ideal when you’re trying to sneak around.’
Nothing is more critical to the ‘loonies’ than oxygen – and that’s why aluminium is so important. Oxygen is one by-product of the moon’s major industry, harvesting the naturally-occurring ore and smelting it to make the metal. Sanchez, the company that does the mining and smelting, gets its power free in exchange for the oxygen.
As I said, Jazz is a criminal. She is hired by Trond Landvik, a ‘businessman’, to sabotage Sanchez’s operation so that he can buy it. Don’t expect me to go into detail – that’s all in the book. Anyway, Jazz needs money, so she accepts the job. She nearly pulls it off – but not quite. She is spotted sabotaging the harvesting machines and has to go on the run from Rudy (the law in Artemis) and the South American mob, current owners of the Sanchez company. Rudy has meantime to solve a gruesome double murder.
‘Okay, so a guy was coming at me with a knife. He had a wounded arm ….That meant he wanted to kill me too. What chance did I have. I can’t fight for shit.’
When Jazz tackles the Sanchez operation again, she has help. A major crime syndicate is a much greater threat than a petty smuggler. But putting an end to the smelting plant takes a different sort of plan and some of the dangers are life-threatening. [Well, they would be! Living your life within a couple of feet of zero atmosphere that would boil your body if exposed to it is kinda risky, you might think.]
And running alongside this operation are questions about something with the initials ZAFO, something that threatens a different sort of danger – or maybe an opportunity.
‘Dear Jazz, According to the news, something’s very wrong with Artemis. They say the whole city went offline…..’
Artemis is another original sci-fi by Andy Weir. Comparisons are difficult, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Martian – probably an eight-and-a half to the latter’s ten. Once or twice I had difficulty grasping what was going on, and had to go back and read again. I think maybe that had to do with Weir’s unusual language style. He has managed to make Jazz a totally different personality from Mark Watney and in doing so makes her more difficult to “get” and a little less believable.
I enjoyed this novel too, but not as much as its predecessor.