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Artemis is a hard science fiction novel published in November 2017 by American author Andy Weir, author of The Martian and the popular short story The Egg.

Artemis describes life in the moon-based city, Artemis, from the first-person perspective of Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara, the moon's only smuggler of contraband. Jazz is - like Weir's protagonists tend to be - extraordinarily intelligent; she quickly masters every study or task she turns her attention to. Unlike Weir's other protagonists, however, Jazz rejects the social pressure to "do something with herself" by using her vast intellect in productive service to Artemis' greater social order. She's constantly on the wrong side of the law, although the "law" on Artemis is mostly just a single police officer, Rudy, who is always trying to amass enough evidence of Jazz' illegal activities, to get her deported back to Saudi Arabia, where she hasn't lived since she was six years old. Jazz grew up in lunar gravity, so the prospect of living out the remainder of her adult life on Earth does daunt her: Jazz' body would need expensive long-term medical therapies to adapt back to Earth's gravity, and she simply can't afford it financially.

Jazz is a walking contradiction of others' expectations for how she'll live her life, and she's very enthusiastic at leaning into that contradiction. She's unambiguously a genius, but she's a deliberately lazy, oppositional, defiant genius who refuses any job offer that requires she be answerable to somebody else. She's sexually promiscuous enough to have a significant reputation for it, but for her it's an afterthought which she doesn't actually demonstrate within the narrative, and every social bond we see her engage in is platonic or filial. She adores her father, but her line of work creates no shortage of moral headache for him, a devout Muslim, so she keeps a "safe" distance from him, to avoid tarnishing his reputation as a master welder and the most honest and reliable worker in Artemis. Jazz herself is deeply honourable regarding the job contracts she does take, and even though she constantly justifies her work to herself as purely capitalistic and self-serving, she frequently takes actions that are strictly altruistic: deep down, Jazz loves Artemis more than money, maybe even more than her own survival. Jazz is necessarily an unreliable narrator regarding her own motivations, but she's an altogether entertaining narrator: she cusses up a storm - another Weir protagonist staple - and responds with rapid improvisational prowess to every science-saturated dilemma to cross her path.

Regarding the science side of this novel: this is hard sci-fi. This is diamond-hard sci-fi. Borazon sci-fi. It's set more than a century into the future, but much less than a millennium, so the technology is all recognisable as either something that already exists today, or something that reasonably descends from existing technology. Weir clearly does his homework meticulously every step of the way, putting the literal mathematic calculations for temperature and pressure on the narrative page where the audience can check his work. The city Artemis is presented with excruciating attention to detail, redundancies built on redundancies in a way that feels completely believable: this place is the work of multiple coordinated space agencies, all contributing their best and brightest scientists to the mission of a permanent lunar settlement. The human errors, too, are believable; when Artemis' design fails to account for a specific contingency, the narrative and the populace of Artemis call attention to that failure, question it, and take steps to correct it.

Artemis is fun. This novel is aggressively smart, and the protagonist is compulsively likable, even when the reader is cringing at just how badly most of Jazz' problems are self-inflicted. The prose is witty and wry, a delightful balance of cerebral precision and gleeful snark. Consider it emphatically recommended for anybody who enjoyed The Martian or any of the works of Ted Chiang, Peter Watts, or Sam Hughes (known elsewhere as qntm and here as sam512). Artemis is available in every major ebook format and in print, and currently it is only available in English.


Iron Noder 2017, 13/30