I was given an eARC by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Artemis is the sophomore novel from Andy Weir, famous for his first novel The Martian, which was a hit movie in 2015, and boy is he suffering from the sophomore slump. I’m going to say this right up front, I did not finish the book. I made it through chapter 4 before I couldn’t read any more.
I have two major complaints about Artemis but before I go into them, here’s the publisher’s blurb.
Jazz Bashara is a criminal.
Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.
So, of course I read that blurb when I first heard of the book and expressed my interest in reviewing the book, but time passed between then and when I sat down to read, and I didn’t reread the blurb. I like to go into books as blindly as possible. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
The main character of Artemis is named Jazz, which is a fairly gender neutral name. I was SHOCKED when at the end of the first chapter someone refers to Jazz as a “gal” because up to that point everything Weir had written gave me the impression that Jazz was male. (This is problem #1) As I kept reading, Weir’s characterization didn’t get better. Jazz reads like Weir wrote the story with a male character in mind at first, got halfway through the book and then decided that he wanted to “add diversity to sci-fi” so he changed a reference and pronoun here and there and had himself a female character. It reads as though not a single woman read or edited Artemis throughout the publication process – or if they did Weir discarded any feedback they gave him. This is not the kind of diversity we want, for the record. We want BELIEVABLE female characters, not male characters with boobs pasted on.
My second issue is the lazy worldbuilding. While the scientific accuracy won Weir much admiration and praise for The Martian, I found the scientific details to feel really shoehorned in. In the first chapter, Weir goes on about the 1/6 gravity on the moon at least six times. And he continues to mention it FREQUENTLY throughout the next three chapters. He also adds little scientific details that don’t really add to the story. Additionally, Jazz has a lot of really random knowledge that doesn’t entirely make sense for her character to know, giving her a bit of a Mary Sue vibe, in the worst way. Finally, Weir uses a weird penpal letter exchange at the ends of chapters to add in more details about the world and to squeeze even more science into the story. It feels like Weir couldn’t figure out a better way to fit ALL THAT SCIENCE into his book.
Artemis might have been a good book with better editing – especially with regards to his female characterization, which is why it got two stars instead of just one.