Weir (The Martian, 2014) returns with another off-world tale, this time set on a lunar colony several decades in the future.
Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is a 20-something deliveryperson, or “porter,” whose welder father brought her up on Artemis, a small multidomed city on Earth’s moon. She has dreams of becoming a member of the Extravehicular Activity Guild so she’ll be able to get better work, such as leading tours on the moon’s surface, and pay off a substantial personal debt. For now, though, she has a thriving side business procuring low-end black-market items to people in the colony. One of her best customers is Trond Landvik, a wealthy businessman who, one day, offers her a lucrative deal to sabotage some of Sanchez Aluminum’s automated lunar-mining equipment. Jazz agrees and comes up with a complicated scheme that involves an extended outing on the lunar surface. Things don’t go as planned, though, and afterward, she finds Landvik murdered. Soon, Jazz is in the middle of a conspiracy involving a Brazilian crime syndicate and revolutionary technology. Only by teaming up with friends and family, including electronics scientist Martin Svoboda, EVA expert Dale Shapiro, and her father, will she be able to finish the job she started. Readers expecting The Martian’s smart math-and-science problem-solving will only find a smattering here, as when Jazz figures out how to ignite an acetylene torch during a moonwalk. Strip away the sci-fi trappings, though, and this is a by-the-numbers caper novel with predictable beats and little suspense. The worldbuilding is mostly bland and unimaginative (Artemis apartments are cramped; everyone uses smartphonelike “Gizmos”), although intriguing elements—such as the fact that space travel is controlled by Kenya instead of the United States or Russia—do show up occasionally. In the acknowledgements, Weir thanks six women, including his publisher and U.K. editor, “for helping me tackle the challenge of writing a female narrator”—as if women were an alien species. Even so, Jazz is given such forced lines as “I giggled like a little girl. Hey, I’m a girl, so I’m allowed.”
One small step, no giant leaps.