While “Artemis” works as an exciting heist novel, it fails to satiate the reader’s desire for new and unexplored sci-fi anomalies. Protagonist Jazz Bashara possesses incredible intelligence and cunning. She works as a porter, smuggling illegal items into a city. Oh, and she lives on the moon.
She also happens to be extremely poor, living a tiny, coffin-sized apartment in the poorest area of her hometown, Artemis. As she said, “If my neighborhood were wine, connoisseurs would describe it… with overtones of failure and poor life decisions.”
Bashara wants to get rich. She could have a job as a tour guide — a job that pays very well — but she failed the test required for all tour guides. Instead, she’s slowly made money smuggling illegal items like Dominican cigars into the city for wealthy residents of Artemis. So when she receives an offer from a rich businessman to sabotage a rival company for a huge sum, she immediately takes the offer.
The rival company, however, turns out to be a powerful crime syndicate. And for her sabotage, they are out to get Jazz’s life. She spends the rest of the book trying to survive and to save the city from the syndicate.
Overall, the book feels more like an adventure story than sci-fi. Andy Weir, the author, researched extensively in order to make speculations of near-future technology, such as autonomous moon-mining robots and the synthesis of oxygen by melting the moon’s supply of aluminium ore. These give the book its science fiction narrative but do not overwhelm the reader.
However, the plot mostly tracks Jazz’s various exploits. It does not incorporate her various endeavors into a sci-fi world, but rather a sci-fi world into her various endeavors.
Smuggling and sabotage, for example, are not unique to a lunar environment. Some scenes, such as Jazz’s hotel fight with a syndicate assassin, make it easy to forget that Jazz is even on the moon. Although this may have been done in an attempt to keep the book relatable, it disappoints in the way that it does not often attempt to delve into the uncharted parts of science fiction.
The sci-fi makes the book what it is, but could have been used in more unique and creative ways. For example, the book begins with Jazz escaping to an airlock because the oxygen in her suit is running low. This narrative is used in so many space films and novels — there’s even a similar episode in “The Martian” — that it has become extremely worn out.
Other scenes are equally as lame, such as the protagonist’s use of disguises and aliases and use of a remote-controlled robot to open a hatch. While Weir’s previous book, “The Martian” was renowned for its creativity, these unoriginal tropes make “Artemis” feel more like the umpteenth installment of an action movie franchise.
When stripped of its quick-witted characters, the moon, and the occasional clever plot point, the book plainly becomes a heist novel. One scene involves Jazz running back to Artemis after committing her sabotage against the syndicate’s moon mining machines. Her desperation to destroy all of the machines before the authorities get to her, and her need to return to the city before her oxygen depletes is exciting and suspensful — both qualities of a good heist novel.
“Artemis” does present some interesting uses of the moon’s environment to present problems for the protagonist to overcome, but they are not mind-blowingly innovative.
The concepts of domed lunar cities is not new. Nor is the concept of moon tours or moon mining. The book relies too much on the limited supply of oxygen to move the plot and provide obstacles to the protagonist, making portions of the book repetitive and trite. It also appears to borrow from the dilemma of a limited food supply that was central to the plot of “The Martian.”
“Artemis” is a fun read for sci-fi nerds seeking predictions of near-future technology or anyone with a wry sense of humor, which is easily satisfied by the gamut of sex jokes and comedic retorts that “Artemis” has to offer. With this, “Artemis” isn’t a bad book, it just has so much unrealized potential.
So just watch the movie when it inevitably comes out.