I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
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.
Well, we all knew that this second novel by Andy Weir couldn’t be as good as The Martian, didn’t we? Not that it’s a bad novel, but very few books could live up to the level of that his first effort. I think the author is brave to issue it and keep on writing. I’ll be willing to read his third novel, too. The Martian was great because the mission was pretty simple: Get the hell off Mars! This story has more complexities, as there are many other people involved and not all of them want our protagonist Jazz to succeed.
I’d also be willing to bet that Weir has read Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress more than once. Jazz is certainly a competent & independent woman, albeit a little less voluntarily subservient than Heinlein’s supposedly strong, independent women. (Weir credits a number of female friends & acquaintances for proof-reading to make Jazz more realistic—there are still hits & misses, I think, but overall it’s not an awful portrayal). And like Heinlein, Weir is really, really interested in technical details (welding in a vacuum, anyone?).
In Weir’s world, the Moon city Artemis is sort of a colony of Kenya—a surprising little twist that I really liked. I did wonder a little bit about the correspondence between Jazz and a pen-pal in Kenya—it was a moderately useful tool, but I also found it a bit confusing, until I figured out that Jazz really was unwilling to be honest with anyone, sometimes even herself. But I adored Fidelis Ngugi, the “mayor” of Artemis, with all her plotting & planning!