Living on the moon in Artemis, the first lunar city built not only for exploration but also for the tourists, Jazz Bashara knows everything there is to know about the city and its people. Born on Artemis, Jazz is living life as best she can in a hostile climate and from her side hustle of smuggling in the odd piece of contraband, the lunar coinage rolls in. Infrequently. Not enough to keep her from dreaming of the next big haul.
Dang. We all really wanted to love this book after the monster science hug that THE MARTIAN unexpectedly gave us a few years back. The geek science is still there to be enjoyed - detailed and highly credible, and you never have cause to doubt the intelligence and passion of author Andy Weir here in his field of interest.
We see again some toasty dry humour, but without that sense of impeding peril ARTEMIS struggles to engage us in the fate of its lead, petty criminal Jazz Bashara.
Jazz isn't hideously unlikeable, but other than being rather admirably tenacious, she's not that likeable either. She's sketched a little too thin and the reader really needed for her to have a better sense of purpose in order to have a vested interest in her fate. Jazz's intentions didn't have be that noble, but considering the out-of-world setting, they could have been a lot more perilous and suspenseful. There are parts where Jazz is required to look outside of the personal ramifications to herself and think instead of the safety of others living at Artemis, but these scenarios just seem just inclusions to move the technical narrative along. Also, the danger to others is a consequence of Jazz's own actions on the whole anyway.
In the keen hands of Andy Weir, ARTEMIS gives us great insights to what practical challenges there might be to our future living outside of our own planet. It will happen some day on a larger scale of course, and Artemis is a living breathing city with all the usual challenges and petty concerns that would be scaled up to large potential disasters in a hostile 'off earth' environment.
As with THE MARTIAN, the strength of the writing lies in the imagining of the environment and the ever present threat to human life via any one of many small mistakes that could be made. The people depicted as living here in Artemis are mostly self serving, and there isn't the 'brave new world' community identity. It is on the whole every woman for herself. (Or man, etc).
ARTEMIS satisfies the space/science fan in all of us but needed better characterization and an a keener editorial eye cast over where all of the 'wacky races' shenanigans were going to end up. Too many broad brush strokes are made at the novel's conclusion to tidy it all up when it would have been just as okay to go a little dark, rather than feature film fodder light.
Looking forward to anything more that Weir can bring by way of a space action novel with less goof and more attention paid to what possible uniquely frightening space catastrophes could await us out there as we further explore and populate planets and moons other than our own.
Book review - The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden
Winter in a remote Russian village must be diligently prepared for and stoically endured.
Being the first entry in a series, THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE needed to deliver on a number of fronts. The world of Russian folklore is relatively new territory to this reviewer but there are commonalities to the stories of other cultures i.e. that of Jack Frost, winter kings, and of domestic spirits and the sacrifices that are required to appease them. It also needed to engage and we can tick that box as TBATN pulls gently but insistently at your attention throughout with fully fleshed characters who all have their own paths to tread, descriptions of a beautiful and icy landscape and the lure of a enigmatic saviour not from the realm of man. Vasya (as Vasilisa is mostly called in this novel) is trapped by the conventions and misapprehensions of her gender in a more restrictive time. She is both incredibly naive and intuitively brave at the same time and you will need to accept her character as one that tries to do the best she can in oppressive circumstances. Vasya can be sometimes irritating but this is her story, her trials, and her onward journey.
THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE trips between two sensibilities; those of mature adult fantasy readers who are prepared to encounter darker themes and those of young adults or children who might not necessarily want to. The intended market is never quite clear in this read though so the expectations of this adult reader were not quite met. This is not necessarily a negative thought as THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is delightful regardless; it is more that the anticipated adult entanglements and violent encounters are only thinly referenced or left out altogether.
The continuum of this book has some well prepared scope; book three of the series is now being written. THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is a solid first entry and beautifully crafted piece of fantasy that will keep you happily immersed in a wintry world of folklore that is quite familiar and yet fresh once again in the hands of an author who obviously loves her creations, and has great respect for their land of origin.