To my wife Anne, without whose silence this book would never have been written. Dedication
Japan and Germany have won World War II and have taken over the world. Hitler is dying from syphilitic incapacitation in an insane asylum, while his henchmen maneuver for power.
The US, as we know it, has been divided into three regions: the Eastern US controlled by the Nazis, Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (the Pacific states) controlled by Japan, and a buffer zone called the Rocky Mountain States.
This should have been a gripping story, given the premise. But overall, I found the characters bland, and the dependence upon the I Ching an overused plot device.
Author: Hugh Howey
ISBN-13: : 978-1328767547
Publisher: Mariner Books
The old world is buried. A new one has been forged atop the shifting dunes. Here in this land of howling wind and infernal sand, four siblings find themselves scattered and lost. Their father was a sand diver, one of the elite few who could travel deep beneath the desert floor and bring up the relics and scraps that keep their people alive. But their father is gone. And the world he left behind might be next.
“It was strange how tense one could become while surrounded by the banal. It was the waiting, waiting.” (p. 78)
Hugh Howey shot to the top of my favorite authors’ list with his Wool trilogy. His dystopian world-building is solid, as are his characters and their relationships to each other, and their harsh living conditions.
In Sand, Colorado has been covered by … sand. Familiar city names have become bastardized versions of themselves. The biggest lost city was once Denver but is now Danver. Danver is El Dorado. Everyone’s heard the myth that lost treasure can be found in Danver; enough wealth to make life worthwhile, if not pleasant. Pirates and sand divers from all over have searched for Danver to no avail. Until one day …
The main protagonist, Palmer, is a highly skilled sand diver. Able to go deeper than most others, his talents are well known. He and a friend are hired by a group of brigands to dive and bring back proof that this location is the mythical Danver.
It is indeed. And then everything goes wrong. Because, the brigands don’t want the buried treasure, they want something more valuable and dangerous. Power.
And thus we have another dystopian political thriller. A good one, albeit a little light on the details of how Colorado became the sand covered danger that it has become.
Sand’s main protagonist is brother to three siblings, abandoned by their father who left for another not-so-mythical destination, No Man’s Land. It’s supposed to be a better place where the rebels are gathering to join forces and devise a way to take Colorado back from the greedy forces in power.
And while that’s a common theme in political thrillers, Howey manages to give it a twist, and make it much more interesting. I like his world-building a lot, and the quirks he gives his characters are really entertaining.
Sand is about more than survival, though. It’s about community, family, and trust. It’s about figuring out who we are and what matters. And that’s what resonated for me.
“And like all good plans, it required a crazy Ukrainian guy.” (p. 55)
This was a fun ride! Jazz is a smuggler, moving illicit things around her home town of Artemis, a lunar based town of 2,000. It kinda pays the bills, if your idea of home is a coffin sized bunk and food is flavored algae.
Like all good smugglers, Jazz dreams bigger. Just one big job away from paying her debt and moving into a better compartment with better food. But, she gets more than she bargained for when she agrees to do a little sabotage for a very wealthy patron.
At its heart, this is a caper novel. Jazz has to enlist the help of her ex-boyfriend’s current partner, the crazy Ukrainian guy, and her devout father whose trade is welding at which, of course, Jazz has turned up her nose.
Aretmis is not The Martian. Those expecting that have been disappointed. And that’s unfair to Andy Weir. I really like that he wrote a strong, female protagonist who lives off her wits and solves the puzzle of which political faction wants to destroy her home town, all the while saving it.
Jazz is quirky. Her relationship with her devout Muslim father is strained, he heartily disapproves of the way she chooses to live. The crazy Ukrainian guy is an inventor and has a predictable role to play in Jazz’s life.
The math and science aren’t as strong in Artemis, even still I got lost in the explanations why things worked the way they did in gravity 1/6th of Earth’s. The story itself was fairly predictable. And yet, I still enjoyed the twists and turns and Jazz’s predictable snarky bravado.
I wanted to go to space so much, still do, as a tourist. Space programs fascinate me and getting to be a counselor at Space Camp in Mountain View was nearly heaven for me. Andy Weir’s homage to the Apollo program put a big goofy smile on my face.
There’s a saying, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and I found myself wishing there had been more protagonists like Jazz to read when I was a much, much younger bookworm. Not being able to go to space because I was a female had become so normalized for me that it took Jazz to realize it didn’t have to be.
My prayer for girls and young women is that they find female characters who show them they can be what they want. As uneven and predictable as Artemis can be, it’s worth reading just for character development of a smart young woman named Jazz.