the Little Red Reviewer

Artemis, by Philip Palmer – DNF

Posted on: February 5, 2012

Artemis, by Philip Palmer

published December 2011

where I got it: purchased new









This book starts with a bang, that’s for sure. Doctor Artemis McIlvor may be guilty of a few things, but being bashful, shy, or afraid of danger aren’t those things.

Finally published many many generations after her death, Artemis is the thought-diary of it’s title character. Heavily edited and commented upon by the editors, many pages have footnotes that further explain, condense, generalize, and sometimes make fun of the diary entries. I’ve seen this trick played a few times elsewhere, and as expected, it succeeds in the humor department.

And because this is a thought-diary, Artemis’s comments aren’t always in chronological order, sometimes she leaves important details out, she lies, and her ego gets full reign.  For example, the story opens in the middle of a prison riot, and only later, after the first betrayal, in fits and starts and asides, do we find out why the riot got started, and what a high IQ augmented human like Artemis was doing in prison anyways.  We’re talking flashbacks within flashbacks with in asides within tangents within flashbacks.

I don’t mind flashbacks, I don’t mind violence, or swearing, or completely randomly casual sex in books. I don’t mind inadvertently funny footnotes, I don’t mind augmented/invulnerable humans.  Put all those things in a blender with good characters and a compelling storyline, and you just might  end up with one of the best science fiction books ever written.

Philip Palmer hit the wrong button on the blender. I didn’t care for Artemis, the character or the book.  Yes, I get it, this is her diary. That makes her, by default, an unreliable narrator.  Everyone says things in their private diaries that we would never, ever say in real life. We are all the hero of our own story. And yes, I get that she had a shitty childhood, hooked up with some shitty guys, and is insanely bitter and angry about the whole thing.  But hearing how unkillably awesome, how intelligent, how her augments allow her to interface with any computer anywhere, how invulnerably badass she was. . . it got old.  It got old because it was all there was.  There is no prison large enough to hold her ego in check.  I couldn’t find any incentive to care about her.

I gave up on Artemis around half way through. Flipping past my stopping point, I found future chapters chronicled her being hired to kill a handful of mob bosses. If those chapters read anything like the earlier chapters, this is how it’ll go down: She’ll plan the kill, reminisce about her terrible awful life without actually giving any useful details so the reader can sympathize, get on a few 10 page tangents, and then finally sniper the guy. If she gets caught, she’ll get beat up, heal quickly (thanks to those augments!) and escape with the help of someone she’ll probably sleep with later.

This book had so much potential. Even from 10 pages in, it oozed potential. And then it became a chore to read. The scenes began to feel repetitive, the tangents got frustrating, the sex was connectionless, even the action felt boring to me.

If you read the back of Artemis and it looks like something you’d be interested in, give it a try. Personally, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Privately, I hope that I’m the only asshole who thought it was a rambling, repetitive, childishly written piece of shit starring the least likeable protagonist I’ve ever met.  But if you get 20 pages in, and start getting bored or frustrated, don’t feel guilty about taking it right back to the library.



10 Responses to "Artemis, by Philip Palmer – DNF"

Agh, this sounds pretty dire. There are very few books that I don’t finish, but from the sound of your review, that could well have been added to my list! I shall pre-emptively avoid. 😉 The ego thing sounds like the real problem – kind of a massively informed ability, if I’m reading you right? I’m fine with an unbelievable boast if the protagonist has just shown that, yes, he CAN do said things: if it’s shown first. That’s how Matthew Swift gets away with his once-per-book ‘We are the Blue Electric Angels’ speech – because he has just spent half a book doing things that really are that awesome. Thanks for the review… Well-judged avoidance coming up. 😛


yeah, if I’d read about her doing all this awesome Matrix style stuff first, and then gotten all the boasts, it would have been ok. It seemed like at first, all the ego and boasting was meant as a joke, but it was only funny for about 5 pages.


That’s one of the few things that puts me off a book: if the character is awesome because the reader thinks so, and other characters point this out later, it’s okay! But if the reader is simply TOLD they’re that good, it’s just an informed ability. Yuck. 😛 Quickly, cleanse the reading palate with something much better!


For me, this was a non-starter, meaning I didn’t bother to buy the used copy I came across, not that long after it was published. That should was a clue in itself, and I heeded it. I think the real reason I didn’t bother with it was this isn’t my usual cuppa anyway, and I’ve been reading mostly older stuff, like the mystery by Leo Bruce I just finished.


I’ve heard good things about Palmer and I bought this at the end of the year because I really loved the cover. I read one chapter and decided it wasn’t for me. It would already be sold if I hadn’t sat it aside and forgotten about it. It is too bad because the design is so much fun. I have since read a few negative reviews of this book by Palmer fans who pronounced other books as much, much better so I may still try him at some point, but life is to short to slog through a book that turned me off right from the start.


his other titles got pretty good reviews on Amazon, so maybe this was just a rare stinker?


That is the impression I get. I need to pick one of the highly rated ones sometime and give that a try.


Interesting review. I read the beginning of this in an ebook sampler and found it amusing enough to put on my mental radar, but not quite enough to consider spending money or library reserves on. (Meanwhile, The Griffin Mage, from the same sampler, sits solidly in my TBR pile.)


I was particularly interested to read this, as my ebook ‘The Artemis Effect’ will be coming out soon. I was a tad concerned that the similarity of titles might confuse people just skimming through (especially as they are both sci-fi), but thankfully it sounds like they couldn’t be more different in terms of content.
By the sound of it, maybe that’s just as well!


I read Artemis last month, and had just the same experience – at first, I was convinced it was some sort of clever satire, but as the book wore on it became clear it was muddled and mindless. There’s nothing like a bit of affirmation!


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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