Written by: Andy Weir
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: YA / Science-Fiction
“Artemis” is Andy Weir’s follow-up to his blockbuster debut “The Martian”, but everything that made his first novel so successful is missing from his sophomore effort. “The Martian” had good science, a thrilling concept, original perspectives, and a great protagonist. Admittedly, I enjoyed the movie more than the book, but I liked the novel and respected both its ideas and structure, and I felt Weir had a unique voice throughout the story. Unfortunately he whiffs on all these fronts throughout “Artemis”.
The science forms the backbone of “The Martian”, but it’s also interesting and in the forefront of nearly every scene. In “Artemis” the science is neither interesting nor vitally important. It’s correct, and he’s obviously done his research, but it fails to pull the reader in. It also feels glossed over, as if he wants to introduce everything but doesn’t have the time to truly educate the reader. As I read the book I kept thinking the science was taking the backseat, fading into the background of the tale.
And though the tale has potential — moon colony stories always have potential — it fails to explore the scientific possibilities and cultural rationales in favor of dialogue written for horny teenagers and action that goes by so quickly it either doesn’t make sense or can’t be savored. The basic structure of the plot is solid, but Weir’s pacing feels like a failed Michael Crichton homage, where the first third is solid though simple, the middle develops the characters and puts events into motion, and the finale belongs in a movie script where it would look good on the screen but without visuals there just isn’t enough to satisfy. It feels rushed, lazily concluded, and hastily edited.
But my biggest problem with the book is the protagonist’s attitude and dialogue. There are enough dick jokes, sexual innuendos, and repetitions of old information that I felt the novel was trying to be a racy YA novel rather than a sophisticated and original science-fiction piece. I don’t mind the nature of the jokes or subject matter, but it is written in such an off-handed, humorless way that I never once even chuckled but instead rolled my eyes farther back with each subsequent lame one-liner. One or two jokes that miss is understandable, but this is almost every chapter, oftentimes more than once, and it distracts from the more important aspects of the novel.
We’re also stuck with an unlikable, first-person protagonist whose voice and tone hovers over all else, making even scenes I would otherwise enjoy difficult to respect. I cannot in good faith recommend this novel to fans of science-fiction. It’s not bad enough to turn me away from Weir forever, but it is a very disappointing read.