Jazz Bashara is a criminal.
Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.
The concept of this book was already fun. A city on the moon, created by the Andy Weir who wrote the #1 New York Times bestselling novel The Martian? Yes, please. Apparently everyone else had the same thought, because with its recent release, this book was checked out at all my city’s library branches, with even more people calling dibs on its return. I only got my hands on it through conniving schemes and shady deals.
I read The Martian earlier this year and found its penchant for scientific accuracy well-balanced with simple, humorous explanations. You don’t need a degree in science to understand it or Artemis by any means. So don’t let its nerdy reputation stop you, because you’d be missing out.
The story of Artemis contains a large number of items from the list of things I look for in fiction, as well as some surprises. For starters, Artemis, the moon-city, doesn’t originate from the United States or even Russia (like one comes to expect from science fiction after a fashion), but from Kenya. A refreshing twist. The city’s population is a showcase of realistic diversity in race, religion, socioeconomics, and sexual orientation. At least five women (that immediately come to mind, though there may be more), each kickass and multi-faceted in their own ways, play prominent parts. There are rich people who aren’t evil so much as cunning and ambitious, and rich people who are spineless cowards. There are enemies who rescue their enemies who in turn rescue their enemies, all in keeping with the complexity of human nature. Romantic allusions spring up all the way through, but the main romance–rather than the fantasized version of love I’ve come to despise–unfolds subtly and naturally, low-key enough that it didn’t leave me rolling my eyes.
Jazz Bashara, the Arabic main character, is the smart, snarky, morally ambiguous woman version of Han Solo I’ve dreamt of all my days. Andy Weir already has a good handle on varied and interesting characters, but Jazz herself comes to bright and vibrant life on the page–a natural conglomeration of flaws, bad life decisions, regrets, virtues, experiences, joys, goals, and individual history, to which she alludes throughout the tale, revealing her backstory as a unique person over the course of time as if the reader were getting to know her. She might be the most relatable depiction of a woman written by a man that I’ve ever read, though I’m sure it helps very much that he consulted an army of women (whom he acknowledged and thanked in the author’s note) to make sure he created an accurate representation. I love Jazz. I would have a drink with her and ask her to be my friend. If any more novels featuring her, or really any more by Andy Weir, crop up, it’ll go straight onto my reading list.
Goodreads rating: 3.73 stars
My rating: 5/5 stars