OK, Andy Weir’s ‘Artemis’ isn’t ‘The Martian,’ but it’s charming, witty and filled with fascinating science

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“Artemis” by Andy Weir

I loved “The Martian.” In the weeks prior to the movie’s release, when I had first read the book, all of my conversations inevitably led to “Have you read ‘The Martian’? It’s really good.”

Once my love for the book plateaued, a peaceful two years passed before I learned Andy Weir had written a new book: “Artemis.”

Then came the long week or so of waiting after the release date, Nov. 14  (Darn you, slow Amazon shipping!), before I finally got my hands on Weir’s new book.

I nearly finished it in one sitting – the most enjoyable airplane ride I’ve ever experienced.

Jasmine Bashara (Jazz), who lives in Artemis, the first colony on the moon, works as a porter (and a smuggler on the side) to deliver goods from Earth to customers living in Artemis. But she needs money. Why she needs the money isn’t made clear until the end of the book (cliched plot device, anyone?).

So when she is offered one million slugs (A slug is the unit of currency on the moon; Jazz wasn’t offered a profusion of shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusks!) to destroy a rival company that holds a monopoly over oxygen production for the city, Jazz takes on the task.

Jazz “embodies just the right measure of confidence and self-deprecatory vulnerability to make (her) character a slightly goofy Everyman – even as (s)he’s expertly MacGyvering (her) way from one outlandish work-around to the next,” as Ann Hornaday wrote for The Washington Post on Oct. 1, 2015.

No, Hornaday isn’t a time traveler. Her review was of “The Martian.”

But her description of Mark Watney (the main character in “The Martian”) fits Jazz almost perfectly.

I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

And after author Andy Weir’s success with “The Martian,” who could blame him?

In truth, “Artemis” has gotten a mixed response. Some people love the action-packed yet scientifically accurate novel. Others call it “The Martian’s” second-rate twin because of its formulaic plot.

But me? I thought it was great.

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t “The Martian”-level great. But it was great nonetheless.

Yes, it was a predictable plot. Main character is in trouble. Main character tries to get out of trouble, which results in getting in more trouble.

And in the end (almost) all the good guys live, the bad guys are sent back to Earth and a general feel-good sensation envelops the reader.  

Moreover, the character development is lackluster. The deep and philosophical plotline that’s supposed to teach the reader something about society today? Basically nonexistent.

But what Weir lacks in literary expertise he makes up for with his style.

“Artemis” was funny. It had the charm and the wit only Weir can accomplish while including a curse word on every other page.

But what makes this book unique isn’t the plot. It’s the page-and-a-half discussing characteristics of a fiber-optic cable.

It’s the detailed explanation of the pressure mechanism in a double-hull system.

It’s the nonchalance with which the total number of combinations of a four-digit code with three unique numbers is solved. (It’s 54, for anyone who’s wondering.)

The last two-and-a-half paragraphs probably give some people a headache – or put them to sleep.

But for me, the more science and math in a book – the more I have to think to understand a book – the merrier. (That philosophy does not apply to textbooks, though. I’m not that crazy.)

“Artemis” is not a literary masterpiece. But that’s not its goal. Rather, it’s a snarky, clever and witty book overflowing with scientific explanations of facts that, in any “normal book,” would have been accepted on faith alone.

By Allison Zhang

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