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.
Review - SKINJOB, Bruce McCabe
SOCIETY IS DIVIDED. Silicon Valley has taken virtual sex to the extreme, encouraging men to act out their darkest and most violent sexual fantasies. Militant feminists and churches are bitterly opposed. Powerful corporations battle for market control. In the midst of a fierce protest campaign, a bomb goes off in San Francisco.
TWELVE ARE DEAD. Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a gun, a badge and a handheld lie detector. He’s a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber before he strikes again.
SKINJOB started out as a self-published novel before being picked up by Random House / Bantam Press. A techno-thriller this is a cross-genre story putting many of the standard aspects of classic crime fiction into a Science Fiction / futuristic setting.
The central theme of the book - the development, by DreamCon of the ultimate in prostitution / servitude female robots for the enjoyment of their male clients - mostly in "brothels" known as Dollhouses is a confrontational idea. The idea that those opposed to this scenario are a major church (run as a huge business) and "militant feminists" is feasible, although you could be excused for thinking predictable. The scenario could be a little confrontational for those of a more sensitive nature, as the Skinjobs are designed to be a realistic as possible, and to provide men with the ultimate in dark sexual fantasy. Even for somebody with a stronger stomach for the written worst of human nature, the concept was, well, revolting. Luckily some of the mechanics of the way that these robots work are sort of hinted at, although there are bits that will make you wonder.
SKINJOB is drawing a picture of a future that's very discomforting - with DreamCon and their sexual revolution versus the Christian Church of America, a corporate behemoth in its own right with it's own scandals and flaws. Against these corporate giants you have FBI Agent Daniel Madsen to save the day. Armed with a hand-held lie detector which is infallible, and the sort of camera and surveillance network that's not that hard to believe he's up against the same sorts of petty bureaucracy, inter-agency rivalry and corruption that sadly invades this future as it does our present. Madsen isn't playing a completely lone hand though, as Surveillance expert Shari Sanayei joins in the fight, although she's got more than enough baggage to complicate everything.
The clever thing about SKINJOB is that none of the futuristic technology is that hard to believe, understand or even follow. There's something particularly chilling about the idea of the universality of surveillance, to say nothing of the idea of large corporates (be they DreamCon or the Christian Church of America) having tentacles right into the heart of society, law and order and influence.
Cleverly, the action is told in series of short chapters that explode out of the blocks and race to the conclusion. The action actually takes places over a 6 day period and things twist and turn and flick to the next phase so rapidly that it's not hard to find yourself glued to the next page, and the next. Everything about SKINJOB was chillingly believable, even the parts that made you squirm more than a little bit.
This is book that would work for Science Fiction fans, and definitely worked for this crime fiction fan. It will be interesting to see where McCabe takes this series next.