Andy Weir’s The Martian is a rare self-publishing success story. The Martian first began on a blog, in which Weir presented a series of problems relating to life on Mars followed with a cliffhanger, only to solve the cliffhanger in the next installment. And it must be said that The Martian is a ton of fun to read — basically, the dictionary definition of “page-turner.” Somehow, The Martian even defied the odds of adaptation, becoming a phenomenally watchable movie, too.
(Ask me to choose between the book and the film version of The Martian and I’d be hard-pressed to pick a side; while Weir’s original book contains a ton of nerdy detail that didn’t make it into the film, the film has Matt Damon at his most charismatic and a glowing ensemble cast. I love them both in different ways.)
And now Andy Weir is back with his sophomore novel, Artemis and, well…let’s just say the sophomore slump is more than just a boogeyman. It’s not that Artemis is a terrible book, but it does pale in comparison to The Martian. It’s the sci-fi story of a heist on the moon, and it never really finds a comfortable cruising altitude. Artemis doesn’t enjoy the wheels-fall-off speed of The Martian; in fact at times it positively drags.
That said, Artemis is simply uneven; it’s not bad enough to make you reconsider the appeal of Weir’s first book (Ernest Cline’s Armada single-handedly kicked off the Ready Player One backlash, for instance; that doesn’t happen here.) And so far as sophomore slumps go, Artemis fulfills its purpose: it clears the decks, identifies Weir as a mortal who makes mistakes, and sets the stage for him to do whatever he damn well pleases with his third book. Without The Martian’s looming presence hanging over Weir, he’s finally free to do what he wants.
Even though Artemis is a disappointment, you’ll want to come out to the launch party for the book on Thursday November 30th at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. Weir will appear in conversation with Seattle’s own Neal Stephenson, and this is bound to be a conversation for the ages. Both writers are brainy, detail-oriented engineer types — Stephenson’s explosive novel Seveneves shares some DNA with The Martian — and they’re likely to blow your mind with the level of granular nerdy detail they’re willing to dig into. This conversation is absolutely the sci-fi nerd’s dream come true.
Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 17171 Bothell Way NE, 366-3333, http://thirdplacebooks.com, 7 pm, $30.