Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

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Artemis
by Andy Weir

Crown, 2017

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The verdict: With his trademark nerdiness, Weir delivers a well-imagined, entertaining thriller. Sometimes that’s all I want.

As a fan of Weir’s smart wit and geeky science in The Martian (after all, who isn’t?), I was glad to see more of the same in Artemis. It doesn’t have the full-scope problem solving or human-forces-that-join-us-together grandeur of Weir’s earlier novel, which won’t bother the genre fans but might disappoint some who jumped on the bandwagon after seeing the movie. Weir continues to nerd out with technical discussions and detailed asides, offering somewhat plausible, real-science sci-fi. The engineering and economic angles make this otherworldly science fiction surprisingly down to earth, and the voice has the same snark and humanity that makes The Martian so lovable. It’s not a sequel to his breakout title by any means, but I at least enjoyed the tighter setting and change of pace in the plot.

In the not-so-distant future, humans have a colony on the moon. Divided between ultra-rich tourists and the working class residents, the city of Artemis makes the perfect escape from earthly problems, or so at least its residents hope. Lifelong moon-dweller Jasmine Bashara wants to graduate from her career as a bottom-rung porter to one of the lunar elite, and she doesn’t mind the dishonest path to the top. Not only that, but Jasmine has a serious debt to pay off and needs cash more than anything. So when her side job as a small-time smuggler drags her into a much larger criminal operation, Jazz takes the risk in hopes of a life-altering payout. Her plans backfire, however, and soon Jazz is in way over her head with literally nowhere to run outside the protected bubbles of Artemis. Yet as Jazz turns the tables to investigate what went wrong, she finds that lunar politics go far beneath the surface. Jazz’s one shot out of this mess will jeopardize everything she holds dear, and she’ll need some help to pull it off.

No. I was a smuggler, not a saboteur. And something smelled off about the whole thing.
“I’m sorry, but this isn’t my thing,” I said. “You’ll have to find someone else.”
“I’ll give you a million slugs.”
“Deal.”

Weir mixes the fast-paced heist story with intriguing discussions about the near-future aluminum industry on the moon and the implications of a colony in lunar gravity. Even more so, he makes social considerations alongside the scientific. Refreshingly, it’s not just Americans running the moon’s economy. (It’s Kenyans, actually, and for logical reasons explained in the novel.) Alongside the brilliant creativity about the practical benefits and horrors of moon life, Weir throws in a few poignant observations on race and class, reminding readers that progress isn’t just about technology.  In terms of writing style, Artemis features a sassy, wisecracking first-person narrator with some lazy information dumps, but the delivery’s forgivable when the content’s this enriching. Although definitely recommended more for the engineering puzzles than the character development, Artemis celebrates both scientific and human achievement, seeing our weaknesses and triumphs. It’s a smart, enjoyable read, and sometimes that’s all I want from a book. Recommended for anyone who loves science fiction, crime thrillers, or dreaming about the world’s near future.

Jimmy Leonard is the author of The Evangelist in Hell.
Be sure to check out Andy Weir’s writing or see more book reviews on this site.

If you’ve written a book you’d like me to consider for a review, find out more information and follow the submission guidelines here.

Review: Control Freakz by Michael Evans

Disclosure: This review contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for your support.
I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Control Freakz
by Michael Evans

Palmetto Publishing, 2017

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The verdict: While bumpy and a bit rambling in parts, a solid first effort from a young author. 

As the first novel from a young and developing writer, Control Freakz showcases Michael Evans’s creative aptitude. I respect Evans enough to offer the same critiques I would for more experienced authors. The novel digs its roots into popular culture and certainly knows its YA audience, although trimming the fat on long passages of internal dialogue would help to speed along the narrative. References to robotics and the global economy are realistic enough to suggest a plausible near future, even if the too-extreme dystopian world leaves little room for a moral gray area. To his credit, Evans answers the questions he raises and still ends on a cliffhanger. Genre fans who like to imagine the world beyond the text will find good starting points here.

Natalie Parker, a moody and overly dramatic 15-year-old with a dad who worked in Area 51 before going MIA, faces a new reality when the government enacts Protocol 00. In the years following a global stock crash, the president creates a totalitarian state and demands a national genocide of anyone who resists. Most strange of all is the mysterious blue pill that Natalie’s mom makes her swallow, allegedly for her protection. Soon on the run with boyfriend Hunter and techie neighbor Ethan, Natalie must escape the government hitmen chasing her across the Southwest, racing toward a refugee camp atop Camelback Mountain. Three years later, a disillusioned and increasingly vengeful Natalie searches for answers and her missing family, and the ever-present government threat pulls her back into the dystopian world.

Protocol 00…The final sentence read, “And it is imperative that every last person who took the blue pill be extracted from the population immediately.”

In the non-stop adrenaline rush, sometimes the narration feels like a cameraman with shaky hands, and it’s hard to know which way is up between the shouts. Especially early on, Natalie’s first-person voice screams that she’s about to die in just about every situation. A whirlwind information dump in the first chapter hits a little too fast, which may partially exist due to how easily characters can find information on the internet. For this reason, many of the big reveals later on feel more given than earned. Of course, all modern fiction has to grapple with that problem—how do stories build suspense when the answers are one computer search away? Later chapters slow down and focus on the characters. Natalie grows in confidence and assertion, offering some hope in the face of darkness. The not-so-veiled political references surprised me a bit—at one point Natalie thinks that “maybe if people in this country weren’t so ignorant,” then the world would not have collapsed. Parts of the narration have a hardcore punk sort of tone that I found a bit jarring and forced. Evans opens the door for a deeper sci-fi exploration as he unveils the implications of the blue pill (a reverse-Matrix color scheme, whether intentional or not), and Control Freakz makes a promising starting point for future writing. Recommended for young adult readers who can’t quite get enough of the anti-government dystopian genre and won’t mind the long descriptions.

Jimmy Leonard is the author of The Evangelist in Hell.
Be sure to check out Michael Evans’s writing, visit his website, or see more book reviews on this site.

If you’ve written a book you’d like me to consider for a review, find out more information and follow the submission guidelines here.