His breakthrough 2011 novel, The Martian, could easily have been the most phenomenal accomplishment a self-published author can ever hope to achieve. Is this follow-up novel, Artemis, up to the task of garnering such an achievement? While that remains to be seen, I have confidence that curiosity from existing fans alone on "what's next" should help towards some measure of success.
Artemis is based on the moon, and instead of a story of survival, what we have here is more of a caper-style plot with a female protagonist, Jazz Bashara. Written in the first-person perspective again, Jazz has a voice that was initially quite reminiscent of the humour of Mark Watney. But any similarities end here. While Mark was endearingly dorky, Jazz's personality geared towards the aggrieved smartass whom, truth be told, got on my nerves sometimes. Oh, and she is pretty much a criminal of sorts, albeit an honest one in her own words.
People will trust a reliable criminal more readily than a shady businessman.
True to his style, the author managed to make the whole idea of a small city set on the moon highly believable by employing scientific explanations that seem logical. He is truly a science dork, who is not limited to only the field of physics and mathematics (and some botany), as the narrative in Artemis contained a lot of chemistry, and even mechanics and metalworking! One thing's for sure; he sure knows his EVA suits well. While not as pervasive as The Martian, one can still expect a fair amount of scientific discussions and explanations. Even more impressive was how Weir managed to sensibly portray the logistical and economic aspects around the creation, establishment and growth of a small city in another world.
It's all part of the lifecycle of an economy. First, it's lawless capitalism until that starts to impede growth. Next, comes regulation, law enforcement and taxes. After that: public benefits and entitlements. Then, finally, over-expenditure and collapse.
While Jazz annoyed me with her petulant and belligerent attitude at times, her characterisation did make the story compelling. Fortunately, I also loved most of the supporting characters, particularly her stalwart father, Ammar, and the clichéd but adorable tech support dude, Shovoba. If you are one of the readers who appreciates diversity, this is the book for you as there is no American white-washing evident at all. Weir also mostly avoided controversial stereotypes when it comes to representing the different races. I'd say 'mostly' because there is one character portrayed with the typical greed that personified this group of people. But then again, greed is quite universal.
The unfolding of the plot is a tad slow in the beginning, but once it hits the arc of hidden agendas and conspiracies, the pace picks up significantly, and it became hard to put the book down. That's all I possibly can say without spoilers. Oh, plus I am relieved that this did not end up being The Martian Reloaded.
Even though I did not think it is equal to The Martian, Artemis is still an entertaining and engaging read which I'll recommend to all readers who are fans of science fiction or just love science in general.
And by the way, duct tape is back!!
The official release date for Artemis is 14th November 2017.