Tag Archives: science fiction

Artemis

By Andy Weir

Jazz Bashara grew up in Artemis, the city on the moon. With a population of 2,000, unregulated currency (unregulated because it is not legally recognized as currency, just a unit of payment), and a law enforcement system that acts as jury, judge, and executioner, the city has developed some level of stasis around legal and illegal activities. Everybody knows everybody else, and there is nowhere to hide because only the shielded bubbles of Artemis provide life-sustaining oxygen, so minor criminal activities are brushed off and major crimes are almost unknown. As a porter, Jazz constantly toes the line of illegal activities that could potentially get her deported to Earth. She earns her living by smuggling in contraband. When one of her regular customers offers her a more nefarious job with a significantly higher payout, she quickly develops a plan for how to carry out this seemingly impossible task. When her plan goes awry, she accidentally uncovers a much darker underbelly of Artemis. Pursued by the mob and uncertain about whether she can trust the law enforcement and government entities of Artemis, Jazz turns to her small network of friends in a desperate attempt to save both her own life and her beloved city.

“Artemis” by Andy Weir starts at breakneck speed and never lets up. At the start of the book, this involves catching up to the future portrayed in the novel. Weir gradually uncovers the backstory of how Artemis came to be, what daily life looks like in the city, and the legal and social norms that developed over time. Once the reader is familiar with the chemistry requirements and unusual physics of life on Artemis (fight scenes are pretty exciting in 1/6 gravity where you can literally throw your opponent across the room), the plot starts to race along. As with his previous novel, “Artemis” is laden with science. Weir deftly weaves in the limits of physics, chemistry, radiation, and other concerns that constrain life on Artemis, while at the same time giving his characters plausible strategies to work around these limits. Weir writes with a casual tone that feels conversational, which occasionally leads to re-reading passages with complex scientific descriptions. Overall, the story moves quickly and will likely take less time to read than the 6 days that pass in the novel.

I enjoyed “Artemis,” though it did seem to read very differently from “The Martian” (or what I remember of “The Martian”). To me, “Artemis” reads like a thriller set on the moon with lots of science thrown in there. Not that that’s a bad thing – I finished the novel in 4 days. Some of the chemistry and physics explanations went over my head, but I still understood the gist of the story while brushing over some of the more nuanced details. One of the things I like most about the novel is that it portrays a fairly unconventional future (it’s the first book I’ve read in which Kenya is the gateway to space). I certainly recommend it.

 

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A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

Meg Murry doesn’t really fit in for a lot of reasons. She has a quick temper, she’s stubborn, and though she excels at math and science, her attitude in school gets her in trouble constantly. She doesn’t particularly care about that. She does care about her youngest brother, Charles Wallace. Though he’s too young for school, he also shows a peculiar aptitude that has already marked him as different. Moreover, Charles Wallace and Meg’s father has been missing for 4 years. They believe wholeheartedly that he will return, but they have no sign of when or how that might happen. Until a dark and stormy night when one of Charles Wallace’s new friends stops by for a visit. Mrs. Whatsit recently moved to the outskirts of town, along with Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. They heard a call from Mr. Murry out in the universe, and will take the children to rescue him. Along with Calvin O’Keefe, an older classmate of Meg’s, the group tessers across the universe by wrinkling space and time. They discover the monstrous power of darkness, and of IT, has been holding their father captive. Facing their fears and their faults, the children strive to become warriors of light to rescue Mr. Murry from the darkness.

“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle is a classic children’s novel originally published in 1960 that still makes regular appearances in classrooms across the country. The writing is ideal for its young adult audience because the plot moves quickly, maintaining a pace of adventure that keeps the pages turning. L’Engle does not underestimate her audience, and sprinkles the story with scientific and linguistic challenges that stretch the mind as well as what’s possible. By casting Charles Wallace as the youngest and sharpest character in the story and giving him the love and protection of his sister, L’Engle gives permission for young kids to embrace their differences without regard to the potential social cost. Indeed, her story tells us that the social consequences don’t matter because the people who do matter will always stick with us. L’Engle also teaches a valuable lesson by hinging a critical plot point on Meg’s ability to accept her faults. The imagery of overcoming darkness with light stands as a versatile metaphor applicable to grief, anger, morality, trust, and countless other themes throughout the book and in life. This novel stands the test of time and remains relevant for readers of all ages and generations.

As much as I love the themes and lessons throughout the book, I distinctly recall this novel being my first introduction to psychological thrillers. Not that this book even remotely fits that category, but the menacing darkness and overwhelming power of IT were pretty scary as a kid. Not to mention the man with the red eyes. The fantasy and possibilities mostly make up for that. As an adult reading the novel now, I can almost finish it in one sitting. Highly recommended for all readers.

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