...just as Andy Weir’s first novel, The Martian, breathed new life into the old Robinson-Crusoe-on-Mars plot, now his second, Artemis, has revitalized the Lunar-colony scenario, with the author’s characteristic blend of engineering know-how and survival suspense ... You finish the novel thinking, as you do with the very best sci-fi: Well, maybe this is the way things are going to happen. Because the scenario, and the plot, is constrained by the kind of hard facts, financial and technological, most of us aren’t even aware of. It all seems just about possible, which is a comforting thought after decades of disappointment following the old Clarke-and-Heinlein era of imagined space travel. Finally, Jazz is a great heroine, tough with a soft core, crooked with inner honesty. A big improvement on Heinlein’s Podkayne, sci-fi sacrilege though it is to say so.
...readers [of The Martian] will be over the moon to hear that Artemis is, in its attention to technical detail and its prioritisation of play as the order of the day, The Martian’s perfect partner, though more demanding fans of the form are likely to find it slight: derivative, dreadfully slow to start, and rather lacking in the heart department. But for better or for worse, Weir’s new novel is in many ways more of the same problem-solving stuff that made him a household name ... There are parts of Artemis—such as the set-piece this call to arms segues into—that recall the best and smartest chapters of The Martian, but these are few and far between, I’m afraid, and gathered oddly towards the end of the novel ... This isn’t a bad book by any means. But it isn’t, in my view, a good book either. It’s fun for a few hundred pages and almost tolerable in between times. Readers who utterly loved The Martian might quite like it, though folks who found Artemis’ leaps-and-bounds-better predecessor to be less than perfect will have a harder time forgiving its various failings.
The problem is that it’s a whole city of Mark Watneys. Characters constantly crack wise, but this doesn’t quite disguise their shallowness, or the leaden dialogue and repetitive narration. The protagonist is Jazz Bashara, a young Saudi woman, Muslim but secular, who’s lived on the moon since she was 6. She talks and acts like a Middle American white man — with occasional stereotypical exceptions, as when she must pretend to be a prostitute. Then she talks and acts like a Middle American white man pretending to be a prostitute ... This is a heist narrative at heart — but it lacks the core elements of modern heist narratives: no team of charming specialists, no surprise plot twists. That may be fine for 'hard' science fiction fans who prioritize idea over execution, or who simply crave well-researched technical speculation presented as fiction. Otherwise, this is a 300-page film pitch that, like its predecessor, will probably be more appealing after it goes to Hollywood.
The brisk pacing and reader-friendly explanations of chemistry and engineering conundrums are similar. And for better and worse, the protagonist's snarky, hipshot, goofy voice is much the same as Mark Watney's in The Martian ... Like The Martian, Artemis is blunt and simple, with characters dumping exposition on each other in graceless speeches or convenient pen-pal letters. The characters are thinly sketched vehicles for action and information ... Artemis' take on sex in general is juvenile and foregrounded; Weir seems to know a lot more about low-gravity welding than about how 20-something women think about their bodies and partners ... But the book has the same strengths that made The Martian so compelling — Weir's palpable fascination with the rigors of life in space, and his devotion to scientific accuracy, which lets real-world facts drive the plot.
Jazz is a Muslim and a Saudi, but she never sounds authentic. Frankly, she might as well be Mark Watney. Instead, one gets the sense that Weir is marking off a diversity checklist. Despite a few nods to cultural conflict, there’s little indication of what life would be like for a young Muslim woman in the world he created ... The novel is filled with people nagging Jazz about her alleged promiscuity. Jazz mostly goes along these cracks, while assuring the reader that she probably doesn’t sleep around that much. Then come the cringeworthy teenage boy jokes.
This exciting, whip-smart, funny thrill-ride boasts a wonderful cast of characters, a wide cultural milieu, and the appeal of a striking young woman as the main character. It’s one of the best science fiction novels of the year—but to make it clear, Artemis is not The Martian redux. Tone, characters, structure are all very different. It’s more traditional sf and lacks the cheery novelty that characterized Weir’s famous first novel. The setting is just as detailed and scientifically realistic, but science isn’t the focus this time. Weir’s sarcastic humor is on full display, but Jazz delivers it with an anger that Watney never had.
...an action-packed techno-thriller of the first order ... Being up to speed on high-school science helps here, although the reader also can skim all that high-tech jazz and simply follow the topsy-turvy lunar plot ... The pages fly by, taking the reader into orbit some 238,900 miles above this vale of tears — arguably a good thing given current events down below. But Weir’s book fails to fully beam his audience up. A little futuristic context would be welcome ... Still, by concocting cliff-hanging action worthy of Indiana Jones, Weir has provided the perfect vehicle for humans who want to escape, if only for a time, the severe gravity of planet Earth.
The results are so clunky, Watney himself couldn’t jerry-rig them into functioning. The book reads like the first draft of a space-set crime thriller that has no clue how women think...Time and again, Jazz comes across less like a smart and resourceful woman, and more like Mark Watney’s been beamed into the body of a twentysomething Muslim woman. And then given a minor lobotomy ... It’s too bad, because the rotten characterization that ruins Artemis is paired with the clear-eyed gift for scientific exposition that is apparently Weir’s strong suit ... As it turns out, there was a very good reason for The Martian to be about someone who is literally the only person on the planet: Weir isn’t very good at creating any believable human interaction, or even characterization, above all when it involves someone the slightest bit different from his original dorky but genial white guy protagonist. It’s not a shock the most plausible character in Artemis is a socially clueless scientist guy with no sense of how other people think or behave. Were that gentleman to try his hand at writing a lunar-based crime novel, he’d likely come up with something close to this misbegotten story in which he sort-of exists.
Fans of Weir’s brand of science fictional problem solving will find much to satisfy them in Artemis, but the novel goes farther than those concrete issues, revitalizing The Martian’s survival logic within the constraints of a lunar colony. Weir situates Artemis in a wider social context, then reveals the underlying economic and power structures that make that social context possible. Jazz’s own poverty, for example, allows readers to see the side of space colonization that many would prefer to forget. Artemis actually undermines the utopian dreams of liberty and wealth associated with a near-future expansion into space ... While a scientifically literate, independent, and strong brown woman as a protagonist is a welcome development in any novel, moments of implausibility regarding her character do raise eyebrows ... While it doesn’t offer something significantly new to lunar colonization narratives, Artemis extends the scope of Weir’s storytelling to encompass the social and economic relationships that shape the life of a community.
Artemis takes some chances and shares some strengths with The Martian, but the book never achieves liftoff, held back by heavy-handed plotting, facile characterizations and a narrator who’s not as funny as she thinks she is ... Weir sets Artemis up as a quasi-caper novel, a kind of futuristic Ocean’s 11. This is not a bad idea at all. But to be successful, a good heist novel should possess elements that Weir either fumbles or ignores ... Jazz’s constant wisecracking, however, quickly grows tiresome, and her narration doesn’t sound the least bit plausible ... Weir should not be expected to match or exceed his initial success. That level of notoriety is a lot for any fledgling author to be burdened with. But however Weir decides to follow up Artemis, he should recalibrate his internal gauge of what his story really needs, perhaps cutting back on the quips while strengthening the multidimensionality of his cast of heroes and villains.
As in The Martian, Weir’s is a prose entirely without aesthetic ambition, flat and cheerful and a bit sweary. Nabokov it ain’t ... This time, though, authorial inexperience results in a markedly lumpier read than was the case in The Martian. Orchestrating a rather more complicated plot and many more characters tests Weir’s ability both to pace his story and to hold things together. The text is so laden with information and facts, it feels heavy even in one-sixth lunar gravity ... There’s no question that, commercially speaking, this novel is going to be a hit. But as a work of fiction it’s a crescent rather than a whole moon.
A realistic portrayal of science was one of the main appeals of The Martian, and Weir smartly makes it a main selling point of Artemis, too ... Artemis is a solid corporate thriller grafted on to the moon. But while I soaked up every word of Weir's world-building, the action scenes are mostly predictable. His excellent employment of technical details often outshines the plot ... Overall, the book is reminiscent of Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage. Just like that story is at its strongest when it's exploring the human body as a setting for a marvelous adventure, Artemis is at its best when it has our main characters traversing the lunar surface or offering deep-dish analysis of the technology that would make living on the moon into a sustainable proposition.
...an aggressively fine book. It’s a perfectly competent paint-by-numbers heist caper with a perfectly likable heroine and a perfectly readable, breezy voice, all adding up to a perfectly fine reading experience ... Whenever Weir gets to go into the nitty-gritty of a science fiction engineering problem — how to ignite a blowtorch in a vacuum, how to weld aluminum in low gravity — Artemis lights up and briefly becomes deeply, profoundly compelling. That’s because Weir is a process nerd, and processes are what truly interest him; by extension, when he dwells on process is when the book becomes truly interesting ... Jazz breezes through the narrative with paper-thin characterization, periodically reminding us that she is a woman of Saudi Arabian descent via her habit of checking out Saudi gossip blogs, but without otherwise distinguishing herself in any meaningful way from the hero of The Martian — or, for that matter, from Weir’s public persona ... As compelling as Artemis’s engineering passages are, they are not memorable enough to overcome the staleness everywhere else.
How you feel about [Weir's] follow-up will probably depend a lot on how much you enjoyed his talky, utilitarian style of left-brained storytelling the first time ... Nominally, Jasmine 'Jazz' Bashara is entirely different from astronaut Mark Watney: She’s Saudi Arabian, defiantly self-educated, and of course, female. Though those things are only strictly true because Weir says so; his character traits are effectively a thin skin stretched over narrators who feel less like recognizable human beings than fun, unusually chatty lawn-mower manuals with physics degrees ... Weir has an undeniable gift for bringing NASA-level knowledge down to earth; you may not close Artemis’ pages feeling particularly enriched or awed by the wonders of the cosmos, but at least you’ll know exactly how to weld an airlock in lunar gravity.
The sophisticated worldbuilding incorporates politics and economics, as well as scientifically plausible ways for a small city to function on the lunar surface. The independent, wisecracking lead could easily sustain a series. Weir leavens the hard SF with a healthy dose of humor.
Strip away the sci-fi trappings, though, and this is a by-the-numbers caper novel with predictable beats and little suspense. The worldbuilding is mostly bland and unimaginative, although intriguing elements—such as the fact that space travel is controlled by Kenya instead of the United States or Russia—do show up occasionally. In the acknowledgements, Weir thanks six women, including his publisher and U.K. editor, 'for helping me tackle the challenge of writing a female narrator'—as if women were an alien species. Even so, Jazz is given such forced lines as 'I giggled like a little girl. Hey, I’m a girl, so I’m allowed.' One small step, no giant leaps.