Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis follows the adventures of Jazz Bashara, who lives and works on the Moon

When Andy Weir released his first novel The Martian in 2011, it quickly became a surprise hit, eventually being made into a film starring Matt Damon.

Now, Weir is finally releasing his long awaited second novel Artemis, a thrilling story of lunar sabotage and subterfuge.

Several decades from now, mankind has set up its first ever permanent human lunar colony, Artemis. Founded by the Kenya Space Corporation, Artemis is the must-visit destination for scientists, business leaders and the excessively wealthy.

Keeping the city running is an army of support staff, from cleaners to architects. And at the very bottom of the social heap is Jazz Bashara – porter, part-time smuggler and our heroine.

One day, billionaire Trond Landvik offers Jazz a million slugs (lunar currency) if she will just do one tiny act of vandalism – blow up the station’s only way of producing fresh oxygen.

Should she accept? And if she does, how do you even go about blowing something up in the lunar vacuum?

As with The Martian, Weir uses the scientific practicalities of how people would actually go about surviving and thriving on the Moon to shape the plot.

Everything about Artemis has one foot in reality: all the technology either already exists, or probably will in the next decade or so. One rather surprisingly tense plot point comes from the health and safety procedures of getting in and out of an airlock.

Every challenge that Jazz is confronted with, she uses her scientific and engineering knowhow to make the perfect plan.

And as with every ‘perfect’ plan, it never runs smoothly.

Soon Jazz is drawn deeper into Artemis’s world of political intrigue and industrial espionage, a world she never expected, or wanted, to be a part of.

This political side of Artemis is just as well thought out as its scientific aspects.

In the here-and-now, space is no longer about Russia and the US: Europe and the Asian nations of China, India and Japan – not to mention private spaceflight companies – are transforming spaceflight from a purely scientific enterprise to a serious business model.

Weir’s vision of our lunar future is equally as diverse, with characters hailing from all over the globe brought together by the common dream of venturing out into the vast beyond.

The only real criticism of the book is its pacing. It takes a while to get going and while there are some incredible action set-pieces, the sections linking them together often fall a little flat.

Thankfully the lulls tailed off towards the end, and as I neared the grand finale I found myself racing to get to the conclusion.

Artemis is a fantastic view into what it would be like to live and work on the lunar landscape, wrapped up in smart and gripping novel.

A must-read for any future lunar dwellers.

Review: The Martian

The Martian still

Mark Watney sits on the surface of Mars. Credit: 20th Century Fox

Alone on a planet where the air will kill you, the ground is barren, and it’s so cold you’ll freeze to death; you wake up and realise no one even knows you’re alive. This is the situation that Mark Watney (Matt Damon) finds himself in the latest blockbuster, The Martian. After a disaster on his mission to the red planet, Watney is left behind 140 million miles from aid, with no way to contact Earth. The only man on Mars has nothing but his wits to survive.

Luckily, it’s not long before NASA realises they’ve left a man behind and begin to mount the most ambitious rescue mission in history. For every step closer Watney takes to coming home, another thing breaks, explodes or tries to kill him. While the whole world is looking to Mars in support of Watney, there are many times when the only person he can rely on is himself.

The action flicks back between Mars, those on Earth and the vessel carrying the five other crew mates back and forth between the two. The reminder of all the people that were working to bring one man home helped to give heart to what could so easily have been a dry story of one man growing potatoes and fixing things. However, while this served to highlight the triumphs of every obstacle overcome, it seemed to do the opposite for every set back that occurred on Mars. Major accidents that could easily have killed Watney were easily fixed with a roll of duct tape in a few minutes, making it seem that surviving on Mars was relatively easy when in truth it is anything but.

The bigger challenge was the constant struggle with loneliness, and it was here that the film shone. Though thousands at NASA work tirelessly, ultimately Watney is alone. Fantastically played by Damon, he has nothing but is intellect and smarm to fend off not only the inhospitable Martian terrain, but the psychological horror of being the only living soul on an entire planet.
Nowhere is this conflict more apparent than in the depiction of the planet itself. Mars is shown in its full majestic beauty, at once showing the incredible wonder that inspires and draws people to it while simultaneously emphasising its barrenness and emptiness. This is a world that humans cannot survive on, and yet Watney does.

For those of you that have read Andy Weir’s book on which the film is based, there are several changes. Where the book deals with how to survive on Mars, the film concentrates much more on the rescue. Much of the hardcore science nerdery is mentioned, but passed over quickly and several of Watney’s major disasters are by skipped completely, but the spirit and humour of the book very much remains. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend giving it a read. Bring a calculator.

The Martian is a tribute to human determination and exploration and I highly recommend it.

The Martian will be showing in cinemas around the UK from 1 October.