Heard About the Saudi Woman On the Moon?

That’s the outline of Andy Weir’s latest novel, Artemis. He previously wrote the bestseller, The Martian, which later became a movie featuring Matt Damon. As you can tell, Weir loves to tell stories about space travel. But more than that, he brings a realism to his stories that given them a strong sense of plausibility. In fact, with Artemis he even wrote a blog about how the economy of a moon colony (Artemis) ¬†would work (it would survive on tourism).¬†

The protagonist of the story is Jasmine Bashara or Jazz – a Saudi, who has spent almost all her life living on the moon. She’s not religious, quite the opposite: she likes her drink, has no qualms with non-marital relationships and dresses without considering what body parts are exposed. Her disappointed father, though, is religious. There’s a funny scene in the book where he is trying to build a contraption on a wall, so he can face Mecca for his prayers.

But the main thrust of the book is Jazz’s discovery of a plot to sabotage the moon colony. So we end up with shady characters, twists and turns and unlikely escapes. The writing won’t win awards, but it’s all fun and makes for a nice page-turner.

What raises this book above other page-turners is Weir’s attention to detail. He’s one of the few sci-fi authors who actually thinks about the laws of physics and engineering. So you end up with passages like:

“Earthers hate our coffee. Physics dictates that it tastes like shit.

Earth’s air is 20 percent oxygen. The rest is stuff human bodies don’t need like nitrogen and argon. So Artemis’s air is pure oxygen at 20 percent Earth’s air pressure. That gives us the right amount of oxygen while minimising pressure on the hulls…Thing is, the lower the pressure, the lower the boiling point of water. Water boils at 61 degrees Celsius here, so that’s as hot as tea or coffee can be. Apparently it’s disgustingly cold to people who aren’t used to it.”

So you get educated as well as entertained! What more could you could ask for!

Bilal

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