Andy Weir, author of the bestselling novel The Martian, labors in his writing to truly put the science into science fiction. Maintaining this labor, he returned in 2018 with a new novel: Artemis.
Carried by Weir’s matter-of-fact and witty prose, the reader is brought much closer to home in his new novel, both literally and figuratively. Artemis takes place on the moon six or seven decades from now. Instead of focusing on a single survivor, Artemis is focused on a stagnant frontier colony that gives the novel its name. The author focuses on the daughter of a Saudi welder, Jasmine Bashara, who grew up in Artemis, and her struggle against society and its evils.
Living on the moon may not be as glamorous as you imagined. Every society has social stratification, and the moon colony is no different. Because of poor life choices and a falling out with her father, Jasmine (or Jazz, as she’s called) finds herself at the bottom of the social ladder. She doesn’t want to stay there, of course, and she does almost anything to raise herself up—even if that means being an honest criminal.
Weir is interested in much more than a nice story, however. He wants the setting to be compelling and believable; he wants it to be realistic. Supporting the novel are not fantastical speculations or extrapolations of science, but real, hard science that’s undisputed even today. This includes complex chemical reactions, the science of traveling to the moon, living on it, the effect of the vacuum on the human body, and much more. The science isn’t just put on a pedestal for credibility, but is seamlessly integrated into the plot.
Perhaps even more important for believability is the economics of Artemis. How would a lunar colony ever survive, let alone thrive as any sort of exporting state? Weir spends the greatest amount of time developing this, including an article on the probability of commercial spaceflight to the moon by the time of the novel. A two-week stay, he predicts, wouldn’t be above $70,000. Even the middle-class could afford it as a once-in-a-lifetime vacation opportunity.
Though it is mostly self-dependent, including its own food source, oxygen supply, and manufacturers for space hardware, Artemis’ only real commodity is tourism, as well as a little bit of research. The problem with this is that, once it reached a certain size, it stopped growing altogether. Until a major breakthrough happens, of course. But you’ll have to read the book to find out about that.
The author also gives bountiful details on the geography of the colony and the nature of each of the colony’s “bubbles” that are named after famous astronauts. The entire novel happens in a small but detail-filled region of the moon. As you read, the map is convenient to help orient yourself within the colony.
Weir’s goal, of course, is to demolish any of the reader’s suspicions that what happens in the book may not be able to happen. He wants to maintain what’s often called the “suspension of disbelief.” In my opinion, he accomplishes this successfully—and maybe even beyond successfully. In a sense, isn’t also giving a prediction of the future? Yes—yes, he is.
If you want to see even more of Weir’s writing, check out his newest novel, Project Hail Mary.
Featured image by k. Dunham-Torres (Book Cover via amazon)