For a book that is not and could not be The Martian (the surprise hit of the last 15 years) Andy Weir’s Artemis is a fine stand-alone adventure in a new setting. It’s life, death, bad cuisine and worse decisions in 1/6 gravity.
His heroine is the brilliant but troubled Jazz Bashara, a welder’s daughter and almost-lifelong resident of the only city on the moon. She’s a foul-mouthed smuggler (delivery woman) who is fortunate to have numerous friends of every stripe–by the end of the book, she’ll need every one of them to survive.
Through Bashara’s eyes, Weir presents a multicultural (if fractured and flawed) society in a bubble (5 domes, actually). Though her first-person ranting, and woe-is-me attitude and proclivities (booze, sex) occasionally get tiring, Weir still imbues her with a likeable, pragmatic approach to everything. She needs money, she knows how to get it (not by prostitution, thankfully).
Without giving too much away, Weir presents a how-to for all functional aspects of life on Earth’s gray, lifeless satellite. (Though Bashara doesn’t say it, she sure has to ‘science the shit out of’ a lot of things.) Who knew, for example, you could create ample amounts of oxygen from properly smelting aluminum and silicon from regolith (moon rock)? The book is part- fun romp through chemistry and physics, as well as part-market economics lesson. Life on the moon, of course, wouldn’t be possible without a fair amount of corruption–and the financial opportunities such an environment creates. Our narrator, a streetwise Saudi woman (by birth) is keenly aware of this.
In many ways, it’s a more relevant look at our own modern world (with all its flaws and limitations) than the one presented (peripherally) in his debut bestseller. Ironically, the greatest punishment faced by Bashara (besides death by misadventure) is banishment to Earth. Complicated and anything but easy-going, Artemis is the only home she has ever known.
We’ll just have to wait 50 years to see how prescient Weir is.