Friday, 12 January 2018

Book review: Artemis

By the author of The Martian but IMO inferior. Partly because it is so much of the same genre: engineering puzzles, but on a moon city. Yes, it has a spunky female heroine and so on, but that only gets you so far. See-also Goodreads.

So what's wrong, apart from the rather derivative must-write-a-second-book feel? The setup is rather more contrived. The entire politics and economics of the situation feel unnatural. There's a city on the moon, but it is the only one, and it is dying - effectively - because... the author can't be bothered to imagine why it might not be dying. People went to all the effort of building it and then... stopped. I think about half way through the book the author realises this, but can't work out how to escape. This is because engineering is his thing; the politics in the Martian didn't really work either, but were much smaller; here they can't help be a largeish part, and they don't work.

Also the setup. In the Martian, the central plot is natural; here it is forced. It all feels so trivial. The engineering behind the plot might work, but who cares?

Reverting to general patterns, another flaw is "why did this happen now?". What happens is that in the largely un-law-protected (but for mysterious reasons rather law-abiding) city of Artemis, gangsters start showing up and killing people and the authorities, such as they are, are powerless. There's a mega-rich guy at the start of the story, and weirdly he has but one - apparently unarmed - [art-time bodyguard; he presumably relies on the safety of the city despite the total lack - as it emerges - of any mechanism for that protection. But if all of that were true, the gangsters would have shown up a year earlier. Or before then. And this then swings back to the-politics-is-not-well-thought-out. There are echoes of Heinlein's moon, but what could have been interesting in the hands of a "Plato" interested in constitution building just doesn't work here.

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