Andy Weir's Artemis

I recently finished reading Andy Weir's new novel, Artemis, and really enjoyed it. I've been immersing myself in political non-fiction lately (reviews coming soon) so I really needed a fun, smart page-turner to balance things out, and Artemis fit the bill perfectly.

If you're not already familiar with Weir, he wrote the bestselling book The Martian (mentioned here) which then became a surprisingly great 2015 theatrical version starring Matt Damon. It was so well-written, engaging and scientifically grounded that high school physics teachers convinced him to release a profanity-free version that they could teach their courses from.

Similar to The Martian, the book centers on a smart, extraordinarily resourceful main character who seems to be in an uphill battle against life-or-death surrounding circumstances from start to finish. Unlike The Martian, for this new main character the circumstances are much more derived from her life choices and penchant for non-traditional ways of generating income, and the experiences that unfold are much more intertwined with the choices and personalities of other people.

The characters of Artemis are also imbued with what I assume is Weir's own witty, nerdy sense of humor, and as with his previous book, there is almost always a science/chemistry/physics-based solution to all of the challenges one can face in life. With a well-designed and plausible near-future universe and plenty astonishing acts of physical exertion plus near misses thrown in for good measure, the result is very enjoyable. If the movie version isn't already in production, I suspect it will be soon.

One of the criticisms of The Martian I saw was that its main character was kind of a "bro." And when it's one personality narrating almost the entire course of events in a book, you'd better enjoy hearing that person's thoughts. Weir was clearly stretching himself a bit to write a female, non-caucasian, non-Judeo-Christian main character, and there were a few times where her thoughts veered uncomfortably into "what would a heteronormative male reader expect a female to be thinking or saying in this situation" territory. The central characters in both books seemed to be allergic to having or expressing feelings, though I guess it's somewhat understandable that one might not have as much time for that when trying to fend off dramatic space death. In any case, there are some weird and maybe even problematic ways that these dynamics play out (discussed more in depth here) and I'll be interested to know how other readers experienced them.

Conventional wisdom says that it should be hard to top a debut success and that a follow-up novel is even likely to disappoint fans. With Artemis I think Weir has proven that his ability to weave together complex sci-fi plot-lines with compelling personal journeys was not a one-time thing. Quite the opposite, and I hope that he's is planning to continue this new career for a long time to come.

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Chris Hardie

Chris Hardie is an Internet tech geek, problem solver, community-builder and amicable cynic.

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