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.