Artemis by Andy Weir
Crown Publishing Group (NY)
Porter Jazz Bashara attempts to pull off a nearly impossible and technically challenging heist at her home base on the moon, Artemis.
Artemis is good fun, but not without its faults. I do believe a pros and cons list is in order.
It’s good to see diversity in this book. The main character is female, and a very self-sufficient, unapologetic, aggressive one at that.
Especially in science fiction, it is sometimes (but not always) difficult to find diverse characters, whether itâ€™s age, race, nationality, or gender. The whole gamut gets a piece of the action here, though, which is gratifying. Heck, the book’s administrator/president is even a 70-year-old Kenyan woman.
Science fiction sometimes skews to the serious side. Characters are dealing with huge issues that affect huge populations or even planets. Oftentimes, it calls for a somber mood with barked orders and furrowed brows.
Andy Weir brings fun back to sci-fi. Nerds have snappy personalities. Technical tasks are explained in a simplified, matter-of-fact way. His characters gleefully create kabooms and kilowatts, all while firing off sound-bite-worthy one-liners.
Oh boy, some of the dialogue is teeth-clenchingly cheesy.
“She waved her hand as if shooing a bug.’Every city needs an underbelly. It’s best to let the petty criminals do their thing and focus on the bigger issues.’
I grinned. ‘You heard the lady. And I’m the pettiest of them all. So lemme go.'”
There’s a phenomenon with certain actors (not all of them) in which they always seem to play the same character in every movie: a heroic, charismatic version of themselves.
I call this the Tom Cruise persona, but really, there are a few actors to whom you could apply this theory. They don’t all have to emulate Tom Cruise specifically. Rather, it’s a persona in which a base character is established (oftentimes closely resembling an idealized version of the real-life actor), and all characters thereafter fit the same mold.
Me: I’m going to watch Edge of Tomorrow/Top Gun/Jack Reacher/War of the Worlds/The Firm/Risky Business/Knight and Day/Mission Impossible/Jerry McGuire/Insert Title Here, starring Tom Cruise.
You: Oh yeah? What character is he playing?
Me: Tom Cruise.
Andy Weir’s dialogue often falls prey to the Tom Cruise persona. It all sounds like the snappiest, smart-assiest one-liners that would have come straight from his own mouth and own unique personality. Mark Watney, Jazz Bashara, Svoboda, Tranq; the same dialogue could have easily and interchangeably come from any of their mouths.
Fun? You bet! I’m sure Iâ€™d have a grand time being friends with Andy Weir. Not always true to the individual characters in the book, though.
Jazz’s overly chummy and slightly antagonistic relationships with everyone strikes me as…odd. It’s not an uncommon device in fiction, to skip the relationship-building and go straight to uber-familiarity.
Think about the movie The Holiday, for example (one of my guilty pleasures, BTW – I knock it, but I love it). All character interaction is practically like this:
“Oh hi, nice to meet â€¦ AND NOW WE’RE BFFs.”
In one scene, a tongue-tied, gobsmacked Jazz meets the planet’s administrator. In their next scene together, they banter freely and the admin calls her “dear.”
So, two pros and two cons. Pretty evenly balanced. But ultimately, Artemis suffers the same shortcoming as The Martian, another enjoyable but somewhat shallow book. We spend loads of time marveling at the technical prowess of the characters and, by extension, the author. But it’s at the expense of character development.
We do see Jazz reflect on her life choices and solitary lifestyle slightly more than Mark Watney does in The Martian, and she does branch outside of her comfort zone. But she’s still fundamentally the same person at the end of the book as she is in the beginning, great adventure notwithstanding.
I wonder how Andy Weir would do without his armor of outer space and technical explanations. Whether he takes that great leap or not, I’ll still be there to read what he comes up with next.
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