Artemis, Andy Weir

Andy Weir’s Artemis was pretty much on a roll before I picked it up. People raved about The Martian and Artemis seemed to be getting similar attention. It won Goodreads’ 2017 Sci-Fi Choice. Several of my friends said they were reading it. I was excited! I am finished reading it now. I am…. Disappointed? I think? Artemis takes the reader on a rollicking adventure, following moon-resident Jazz Bashara as she accidentally becomes involved in a crime syndicate plot to take over the moon’s only city, Artemis– and its barely-traceable “currency”. But there are undoubted issues that hold Weir’s work back.

The first thing I want to address is something that I had heard people talking of before I even picked up Artemis: this book has a problem with gender. It’s not that Weir is painfully offensive, it’s just that… there’s definitely times where you can tell a dude is writing the book, and he really must believe Jazz belongs on the moon because it seems like he thinks girls are aliens. To be truthful, once I read it I decided for myself that it wasn’t as bad as some had made it sound in reviews, but it’s definitely noticeable. Like…. There’s this scene where Jazz has an exchange with a guy who likes her and calls him buddy, he says “don’t call me buddy,” and she asks why not (!?!?) and he says he will have to give her “man lessons” because she apparently doesn’t understand… AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM GIRLS EVERYWHERE TO ANDY WEIR: WE DO THAT ON PURPOSE DUDE!!! The idea that literally any girl ever wouldn’t understand that men don’t like to be put in the “buddy zone” is laughable at best and terrifying at worst because it means that something we regularly use as a defense to keep creepazoids at an arms’ length is something men think actually just needs to be explained to us so then we’ll let them have sex with us?? I guess?? Ugh. Again, it’s not like it ruins the book, but it’s obvious that there’s some things men like Weir just don’t grasp, and it definitely took me out of the zone as I was reading.

The characterization in general was pretty weak to be honest. The main personality traits that made other characters stand apart from one another were shallow. This guy sucks with women. That guy’s gay. They’re all jerks. There aren’t really many characters to like in this book, you know? And while I liked Jazz because I, too, am a crude-spoken woman who nobody likes, I can definitely sense that many people will not enjoy being in this main character’s headspace.

On the other hand, I did really like the sci-fi aspects of this book. Weir is really great at writing technical, science-y sounding stuff. Is any of it legit? I don’t know, but it seemed pretty believable to me when I was in the midst of it. I also really appreciated the simplicity of the plot. The book is kind of overburdened with like… science, so the fact that Weir kept the story itself fairly easy to follow definitely helped to make it a lighter read. I also want to give kudos to Weir for being one of the few authors whose intermittent letters/plot-breakers were actually interesting. I read them instead of skipping them and was equally interested to follow the storyline of the past that was revealed through the letters as I was to read the stuff happening in present.

The strengths of Artemis are its simplistic and technology focused plot. But it’s not the book for readers who really care about there being any depth of characterization whatsoever. Ultimately it’s still worth the read, but it’s not memorable. I rate this book: hairless cat. I’ll still pet him, but I’d rather be petting another cat.

Boy Robot, Simon Curtis

I gave this book a 3/5 on goodreads because I DNF it and I don’t believe I can really give a true “rating” for a book I didn’t finish. Giving it an “average” rating seems fair, as I strongly suspect if I pushed through to the end that I would give it a 1/5 but still it probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. I made it about 50% through this book.

Boy Robot has a decent premise; there’s robot children whose powers manifest at age 18 and shadowy government conspiracies about using them as weapons. Some scary branch of gov’t hunts down those robots who are living free in the world. Supposedly it has some LGBT representation. I could probably guess which characters that applies to but at my 50% mark saw nothing definitive.

This book suffers from the same issues several other books that border YA/Adult fiction written by men suffer from: rape is added for seemingly nothing other than shock factor and has no bearing on the plot, but readers are just supposed to blink past it. What is the point of the rape scenes in this book? To show me the people working for the EVIL GOVT ORGANIZATION are bad? Yeah dude. I fucking know they’re bad. You didn’t need to throw in a rape for me to figure that out. If characters aren’t being raped they’re otherwise being tortured, abused by their parents, etc., etc. It’s not that I have an issue with these things in a book. It’s just that it’s exhausting to read constantly. The book is steeped in this never-ending, unavoidable cloud of negativity because everything is bad and awful and it’s like… I shouldn’t feel emotionally drained trying to slog through all the BS in this book. Can’t I just like… enjoy the book?

On top of that this book makes heavy use of flashbacks/filler chapters which anyone who reads my reviews know I find unbearably dull. Like, I’ve spent maybe 6 chapters with the main character and it feels like a billion others with random people I don’t know and won’t ever be important again. On top of that, like nobody’s got names so I can’t even frigging tell if I’ve read a chapter in this person’s POV before. All in all, pretty much impossible to read. Hugely disappointing, especially because I was gonna use this book for my AI square on fantasy bingo, but it is what it is.

La Belle Sauvage, Phillip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage the first book in a new series by Philip Pullman and a prequel to his super popular and awesome His Dark Materials trilogy. I understand that The Book of Dust will also be a trilogy. The first book follows a boy who gets drawn into some shadowy underworld stuff because a sweet little infant, Lyra, is living at the priory near his parent’s pub/inn, and he gets caught up in the adventure or whatever.

Disclaimer: I found this book super boring and the characters uninteresting. And following that, confession: I don’t remember the main character’s name . LOL. Martin maybe? John? I dunno, he had a boring little boy name because he was a boring little boy. This book isn’t ultimately awful, it just doesn’t intrigue the way the first series does. Perhaps my hopes were set too high. The most exciting parts of this book are parts when characters we recognize make small appearances, such as Lord Asriel (aka love of 12 year old Heather’s life). Otherwise, none of the new characters really inspired me to care about them much, except maybe the old nuns who were so sweet. There’s an interesting villain dude, who’s super insane and beats his own daemon (!?!?!), but because this is a YA book, Pullman doesn’t really go full-dark on us. Instead we get merely a glimpse of this dude’s true depravity. It’s like, go hard or go home, you know? And it kinda feels as though Mr. Pullman just wanted to go home.

Plot-wise, this book suffers from being split into two distinct plots, but not really being clear on that front. We spend an ETERNITY slumming it around whatever little podunk English suburb our main character lives in, and then by the time we are finally like, adventuring, the adventure takes TOO goddamn long and is SO boring. Like, are we going to London or not? Why have we stopped at every small island along the way and had inane and stupid adventures? You really spend a LOT of time in a boat with these characters, which might be bearable if the characters were likable or interesting, but as I’ve previously established, they aren’t.

What this book does WELL is the sort of political maneuvering that was awesome in His Dark Materials. There are little children-led spy organizations wherein children rat out their friend’s parents for certain behaviours, beliefs, etc, which is a super sinister way of monitoring the citizenship. I mean… they’re kids. They’re everywhere.

Ultimately I give this book a cat-sleeping-all-day: pretty much what the cat was gonna do anyway. Not good, not bad.