If you loved The Martian like I did, you probably also wondered how Andy Weir would follow that unexpected success. Well, wonder no longer. Behold! I present to you Artemis—or, as I started calling it after a few chapters, Mark Watney with Boobs Explains Things to Me.
The plot is basically The Italian Job on the moon, only with lots more welding, which is actually more entertaining than that sounds. Let me be clear: I was highly entertained. “Then why the less-than-gushing three stars?” you might ask. Well, the unfortunate answer is Jazz Bashara, our first person asshole narrator.
She’s basically Mark Watney with boobs. Only less mature. You know the part of Mark Watney that typed “Look! Boobs! (.Y.)” as soon as he knew he had a huge audience? That part, only concentrated and wholly untempered by humility or common sense. So let’s say Jazz is fifteen-year-old Mark Watney trapped in the body of a twenty-six-year-old Arab woman. (Actually, pretty much everyone on the moon is Mark Watney. The official language of the lunar city of Artemis is Snark.)
I loved Mark Watney and wanted to be his buddy. I found Jazz Bashara annoying, and my annoyance level went up every time she broke the fourth wall to be condescending to the reader, which happened a lot. My dislike of her did provide some extra entertainment value in the sense that watching her suffer was fun in a schadenfreude kind of way. Maybe I’ve got some internalized misogyny going on. Or maybe the Mark Watney character just doesn’t work as a woman. Or maybe Jazz is just an asshole. Maybe all three.
- The constant reminders that moon gravity is 1/6th Earth gravity. These were double annoyances, what with them usually being delivered via Jazz’s condescending fourth wall breaking.
- Jazz’s memory being excellent until it was convenient to the plot for her to forget something. This happened more than once.
- The excessive exclamation points and interabangs (interabangs! ← totally justified exclamation point). I got the feeling everyone on the moon is really shouty, even in their internal monologues.
- The portrayal of Jazz as being both hyper-intelligent and stupid as bricks. I mean, I know intelligence and street smarts often don’t go hand in hand, but Jazz is supposed to have both, and yet we still get stuff like this:
Jazz: Now that I’ve agreed to commit industrial sabotage for a million space bucks, I need to play it cool and stick to my regular routine so no one suspects me when things start exploding.
Also Jazz: I’m gonna blow $2,000 of my measly $11,000 savings on one night in a hotel room so I can practice sleeping on a nice bed for when I’m a millionaire.
(The fact that this is the one stupid misstep she made that had no consequences just made it that much more annoying.)
So there you go. I was entertained and annoyed in almost equal parts, and my takeaway is that snark-filled moon heists are good fun no matter who’s pulling them.
I’ve already gone on about this book way longer than I intended to when I sat down to write this review, but I still have one last note before I go. I’ve seen some praise for all the diversity in this book. Being super-duper white with a deeply-ingrained white default, I can’t speak to how well Weir did on representation. I suspect he didn’t do that great because when you release a book in 2017 with a woman from Saudi Arabia wearing a niqab as a disguise for criminal purposes, well, even this super-duper white woman is going to give you the side-eye.