Andy Weir’s first book, The Martian, was nearly perfect. As I read it, I remember thinking: This is why I used to love reading science fiction. The film version starring Matt Damon, while passable, didn’t capture even a fraction of the magic of a book that was a paean to science.
Artemis, Weir’s second book, is set on the Moon. Like The Martian, its lead character faces a number of challenges, and solves them using science and reason.
And there the resemblance ends. Artemis feels wrong from the very first page and gets wronger as the book progresses. Though Weir gets that a human city on the Moon sometime in next century is likely to be populated by peoples of all countries (Artemis is the name of that city), its component parts are named after American astronauts. One of the four people immortalised in this way is Alan Shepard who was, um, the second man in space after the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
Weir’s American-centric view of the world — in spite of making his lead character an Arab woman (who is Saudi only in name – she behaves exactly like a young American woman would) — can be summed up in this sentence: “Thank god [sic] Vietnamese uses a subset of the English alphabet.” (I wonder what alphabet the author thinks the French or Germans use — are these all “subsets of the English”?)
The plot is absurd, the characters two dimensional, even the imagined future city poorly thought out. I was so excited when I saw that the author of a great book like The Martian had written another – and so disappointed by this result.