There’s a lot of grief out there for Weir’s sophomore novel. The problem is that The Martian was such a great book; it’s just not possible for another book to live up to expectations. Especially a book that had so many issues while being written. Had Artemis not been over hyped, then it would’ve just been a quirky sci-fi novel about a moon heist.
Artemis is a fun read, and like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, I cringed when Jazz did her thing. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief that someone who was supposed to be so street-smart ended up being such an idiot. I can grok that perceptions can color our lives, but Jazz seemed to be doing dumb things just to advance the story. Jazz reacted to the story instead of weaving it. She had no agency.
I found it interesting that in this near-future tale some social groups have achieved equity in society, others have not. We have gender and sexual equality. We have religious equality. We have cookie-cutter Mafioso. Yeah, I understand that we need a protagonist to counter the antagonist. The problem is that such strides to be inclusive were soured by yet more stereotypical caricatures of other peoples and groups. Many of the characters were generalizations of cultural norms, and even some main characters lacked depth.
I’d have to say that the best thing about Artemis is rich back-story and world building. I was more fascinated by the history of humans and their quest for the moon, and some of the tidbits of lunar lore, than if Jazz and her misfit gaggle could pull it off. The tribalism described in Artemis reminded me of the Silo Saga, by Hugh Howey. In Weir’s vision of humanity’s future, we trade nationalism for a caste system. People are divided up by their jobs in an almost Randian meritocracy.
Which brings me to the issue of how to rate Artemis. Despite my list of things that made me groan or cringe, it’s still a great popcorn scifi novel. I could easily see Artemis turned into a limited-run series on Amazon or Netflix. The book isn’t five-star go out and get it right away, but it’s undeserving of some of the ire early reviewers are putting out there. I have no doubt that Artemis will average 4+ stars based solely on the hype and the fact that so many people just adored Mark Watney and The Martian. And I think that that may be a major issue with Artemis – Weir tried writing the combination that made The Martian so great, but missed the mark. When comparing Artemis to The Martian, the new book falls flat. Considering Artemis on its own, it’s a pretty good popcorn scifi with some issues. In the end, I’d give Artemis three and a half stars, and for the purposes of non-fractional star ratings, I’d bump that up to four, but I sure as shit wouldn’t spend $14 on an ebook.