It would have been perfectly understandable for Andy Weir to rest on his laurels or take a victory lap after the success of The Martian, the rare novel that strikes lightning in a bottle on both a critical and commercial level. To top it off, the movie adaptation of the book, starring Matt Damon as stranded astronaut Mark Watney, was a monster hit, winning two Golden Globes and giving Weir even more cachet.
But writers write, and before long, Weir found himself back at the computer screen, ready to dive into another science-fiction yarn. And he did so without any expectations hanging over his head.
“I didn’t set out to top The Martian,” Weir tells ET. “A success like that is something a writer will get once in his whole career, if he’s lucky. I know that there’s a good chance that I could write 20 more books and people will say The Martian is the one that is the best, but I wanted to make a good book. I wanted to make something people would enjoy, and when they’re done, they’d set it down and say, ‘That was cool!’”
Weir’s new book, Artemis (now available from Crown), is a twisty heist tale set in the not-too-distant future in the titular city on our moon. Small-time smuggler Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara is looking to make it big, and when the perfect opportunity lands in her lap, she can’t refuse, even if she knows it’s not totally on the level. Weir mixes deft character development with his trademark real-world science to create a world that feels unbelievably authentic.
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“I wanted to write a story about mankind’s first city that’s not on Earth -- that was kind of the impetus of it all,” he says. “I was pretty heavily influenced by things like Chinatown, and I wanted to do a science-fiction take on that. It took me a few months of going through plot and story revisions to get to where I wanted.”
Like in The Martian, Weir doesn’t skimp on how and why the city of Artemis is the way it is, although he says readers only see a small portion of the world-building, science and economics he worked out far in advance of his words reaching the page. “I try to only tell the reader the stuff that’s directly relevant to the plot,” he says. “The city, how it was made, all the science behind it -- there’s probably only 1 percent of that in the final book.”
Jazz is a flawed but likeable narrator, guiding readers through a strange new world where people eat flavored algae called gunk and live in five domes named after famous astronauts. In the Audible audio version of Artemis, actress Rosario Dawson helps bring Jazz (and the city’s other residents) to vivid life, which thrilled Weir upon hearing the final product.
“She can deliver the snark that fits well with the main character and she has all the accents,” Weir says. “She was surprised -- she didn’t know there would be all these unique accents in the story, but she got them all. She worked really hard on this. She’d read a portion of a chapter and say, ‘Hmm, I’ve got a better way I want to do it.’ She really takes her work seriously.”
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Artemis was just released this week, but the wheels are already in motion for the film adaptation, with directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller tapped by 20th Century Fox . Given that legend Ridley Scott helmed a very faithful adaptation of The Martian -- plus the pedigree of Lord and Miller -- Weir knows he’s been lucky so far in dealing with Hollywood.
“The Martian -- you couldn’t have asked for a better movie,” he says. “They did such a fantastic job. And Artemis, I’m excited to see the process, but as the writer, you’re just an excited observer off in the corner. But, fingers crossed.”
While he embarks on his book tour, Weir says he’ll continue to keep up with his favorite shows, which, as one might imagine, lean heavily on the sci-fi side. “I’m a lifelong fan of Dr. Who,” he says. “I binged Stranger Things season two, which was good. I like to watch the CW Arrowverse, and I’m really digging Star Trek Discovery, which a lot of people, myself included, thought was going to be bad, because you heard all these tales of production problems. But it’s pretty damn good!”