By the way, we also hate it when people . . . call Artemis “the city in space.” We’re not in space; we’re on the moon. I’m mean, technically, we’re in space, but so is London.
Artemis was Andy Weir’s much-hyped second book, after the astonishing success of his breakout debut, 2014’s The Martian. I fell immediately and deeply for The Martian, and waited with bated breath for his next book. Given that, I cannot discuss Artemis without touching on this context simply because that context informed my experience with Artemis not only far before I picked up the book, but before Artemis was even announced.
You see, as I consumed all of the post-Martian content I could find (in the hunger for more that overtook me after reading the Martian twice and then seeing it in theaters), I found an article, then another, then a video, wherein Andy Weir said his next book would feature a new take on FTL travel. I was ecstatic! I reveled in the storm of eager anticipation.
And then Weir announced Artemis.
Where was my FTL travel?! More than that, how likely is it that Andy Weir (much as I adore him) can write a convincing and careful young woman? Turns out we lost on both counts.
Because for all the amazing things we can say about Weir as a writer, and for how excited I will remain for his content forever and ever, I don’t think anyone can claim that Jazz was a full, robust, believable female character. In addition, his female supporting characters were, with one exception, all flat characterizations whose internal motivations and actions throughout the story are riddled with inconsistencies to the extent that their very structure is compromised. (To be fair, I also think that most of his non-femme characters here have little substance.)
Leaving that behind for a moment, much of the rest of the book is filled to the brim with classic Weir. His exhaustive research marries forward-thinking creativity to present a world that is both absolutely possible and absolutely fantastical. His balance between loving scientific explication and character-driven narrative is excellent, here, without in any way feeling like a rehash of The Martian. It’s clear that Weir’s writing chops weren’t a one-off success with The Martian, just like it’s clear he’s not trying to relive the success of his first breakout in the publications that follow.
The patch was thin, so you’d think it would melt first, but physics doesn’t work that way. Before the temperature could get up to the patch’s melting point of 1530°C, everything that could melt at a lower temperature had to melt first. And the melting point of the smelter walls was 1450°C. So, even though the patch was thin and the smelter was thick, the bottom of the smelter would give out before the patch got anywhere near its melting point. Don’t believe me? Put ice water in a saucepan and cook it. The water temperature will stay at 0°C until the last ice cube melts.
One thing I really liked in The Martian (see, I can’t get away from the comparison for even a moment) that I didn’t enjoy in Artemis was the general level of irreverence Weir employs. When Watney cursed it was startling, funny, and humanizing. When Jazz curses, it’s childish, petulant, too much. The humor present in Weir’s narration was unchanged, offering color commentary and dramatic descriptions in lurid, bright detail. Perhaps this main character just wasn’t my style.
In general, I’m glad I waited to read Artemis until my excitement and disappointment had each dulled enough that I could come to the story with as few expectations as possible. It was totally enjoyable, exciting, hilarious, and heartbreaking – all Weir standards. But with such a glaring dearth of believable, whole, human characters Artemis ends up being not much more than entertaining fluff, without the substance we know Weir is capable of.