23 August 2017

E-book Review: Artemis

Title: Artemis
Author: Andy Weir
Expected publication date: November 14, 2017 
Publisher: Del Rey

Source: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

And, I'm back! I think this was the longest I went without posting anything ever. So sorry about that. Life got in the way, and I had to put all my free time stuff on hold. Even the reading. But, I'm back with a new review, that took me a good two weeks to write, so let's get down to business.

First, I want to thank Netgalley and the publisher for the chance to be one of the first to read this book. And, of course, my review will be one hundred percent honest, and spoiler free.

Artemis has been one of the toughest book to review, which is surprising since it's been one of the easiest and most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. I wrote three separate drafts before finally settling on this one, because I couldn't put my thoughts into writing in a coherent way. There was one part of me that really liked the book, and another part that couldn't get over some of the stuff I found problematic. It was real Jekyll and Hyde situation in terms of forming an opinion about one book.

And this has nothing to do with the fact that I wanted a story about a girl astronaut who got stranded on the Moon, and had to science the crap out of it to stay alive. I know that this isn't The Martian. I accept that.

So, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to talk about all the stuff that make Artemis a great and fun book. Then, I'm going to rant about the parts that I didn't like. And finally, I'm going to wrap up the review by once again bringing up the positives and telling you why you should definitely add Artemis to your autumn TBR. I think this method is called a "compliment sandwich". 

Also, I've been in a very weird mood lately. Mostly because I've been studying the whole summer, and I have a cold, so I'm tired, and cranky. And that's why this review is going to have this stream of consciousness kind of outline, instead of the well-structured, and sophisticated style that I'm known for.  

The praise

Artemis is a very entertaining book. It's has a heist, a murder mystery, and some political games thrown into the mix. It's definitely a story that we've seen and/or read many times before. What makes Artemis unique is that it takes place on the Moon. It's the setting (imagine a metal box on the surface of a barren surface) that immediately raises the stakes for the heroes, and gives you a nice little feeling of claustrophobia and urgency.

Without a doubt, the best part of Artemis is Artemis. The only city outside of the Earth's gravitational pull, it's a multicultural beehive that lives by its own rules, and where the harshest punishment for any crime is deportation back to Earth. Artemis is the mother of all technological achievements, made conceivable by the author's fantastic grasp of physics, and all things science. But it's the smugglers, the greedy businessmen, and the corrupt leadership that make Artemis feel like a real city.

Artemis feels more like a movie than a novel. Partially so, because the style is very visual, making it very easy to envision the city, and to follow the story. But also because it's written very much like a sci fi action flick. The dialogue is also very movie-like. No spoilers, of course, but the last few paragraphs, especially, feel like the last scene in a big blockbuster, right before the end credits roll.

Another thing that I like about Artemis is the pacing. As our main heroine, Jasmine, is constantly on the move, so is the story. The story feels like a smooth train ride: it goes fast, but you can still appreciate the view, and reflect upon the journey.

This is a very straightforward, "what you see is what you get" kind of book. It isn't bogged down by deep philosophical discussions or abstract symbolism, because the story doesn't need any of that. It's a story about a young space smuggler who's rebelling against an evil organisation.

I want to talk some more about Jasmine Bashara, because she's the protagonist, the narrator, and the backbone of the whole book. I ended up having a weird love/hate relationship with her. On the one hand, she's supersmart but totally relatable, down-to-Earth, and funny, while on the other hand, I found her attitude, and her constant swearing very annoying.

Jasmine is a strong protagonist, and she carries her story well. The story depends not only on her skills and smarts (which she has to spare), but also on her ability to grow as a character, which she totally does. She has a good arc; a redemption story, if you will. As a native of Artemis, Jasmine embodies all the qualities of this unique city: she's an outlaw with a heart of gold, who lives by her own code, and who will stop at nothing to protect her city (I just realised that I basically described Batman).

The rant

And now to the parts of Artemis that didn't sit so well with me. I almost didn't want to bring them up, because I didn't want to be petty. But these grievances are what kept me from really loving this book.

The dialogue. I already mentioned that it's very movie-like, which I think is great. If anything, it's going to make the job easier when they write the screenplay for the movie version. What I personally don't like is when almost every character is being a quippy, and sarcastic. 

I'm sure there are people who like this particular style, but it's way too quippy for my taste. The characters are wisecracking, and roasting each other left and right, and they put so many pop culture and sci fi references in their conversations, you'd think that Artemis is just one big Lunar Comic Con. And if it was, I can only imagine the cost of tickets.

The sci fi lingo didn't bother me. I mean, why would it? What did bother me was how awkward and juvenile these characters sound. At some point, I was wondering if the Artemisians have spent too much time on the Moon, and have developed their own way of expressing themselves. Which, now that I think about it, isn't that far-fetched.

It's one thing for the main protagonist to be a wise-ass (it worked for Mark Whatney), but when every character is talking like a sarcastic space pirate, it takes away from the characters' individuality, and it doesn't fit in a story this strong.

The verdict

And Artemis is strong. The science is great. Weir explains the complicated parts so well that even I, with my rusty high school physics can follow, but he doesn't dumb it down. He doesn't sell the science short. The plot may not be the most original, but it's tight, and the location makes the mystery exciting. The city of Artemis is a gleaming gem, but I wouldn't want to live there. Not until they work out all the kinks (you'll know what I mean once you've read the book).

Finally, this book comes with a great underlying message. Artemis is a multicultural melting pot, but not only do all the residents get along without falling into the usual "us versus them" routine we have here on Earth, but they all see themselves and each other as Artemisians.

There's the "us versus them" mentality between the residents of Artemis, and the tourists, which is understandable, because Artemis is such a tightly knit community, where the residents feel a kinship regardless of where they originally come from. Probably because they all come from the same planet. The fact that they manage to co-exist without any major conflicts makes sense, because order and peace are essential to the city's survival. That, and nobody wants to get deported back to Earth and face gravitational sickness. 

There seems to be an "all of for one, and one for all" theme both in The Martian, and in Artemis. In The Martian, the whole world came together to save one man, and in Artemis, this one girl will do anything to save her entire world. I like this theme. It gives me hope for our species.

So, go and read Artemis. It comes out on November 14th this year, so save the date. It will be worth your wait. Especially if you like sci fi, nerding out, and cool science.

My rating
Plot: 4 stars
Story: 4 stars
Characters: 3 stars
Language: 3 stars

Average: 3,5 stars

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