In The Artemis Effect, author Kasia James offers a compelling tale of humanity’s quest for survival in the face of an ongoing and mysterious natural disaster. The narrative centers on three characters whose lives connect with each other in subtle yet significant ways despite the fact that they live on separate continents and are largely ignorant of each others’ existence. What unites them all — indeed, what unites everyone on Earth throughout the novel — is a growing awareness that society is on the verge of a complete breakdown as a result of natural forces beyond anyone’s comprehension or control: men are inexplicably turning mindless and violent, pregnancy rates are skyrocketing, tides are rising, communication and power grids are collapsing, and the moon is gradually changing shape.
While the problems that James examines throughout her novel are global and systemic in nature, she renders the proceedings on a human scale by focusing on the lives of her characters. Of course, this is only appropriate, as one of the more prominent themes in The Artemis Effect is that of community and its relationship to technology. As all forms of social and mass media break down, humanity has no choice but to redefine community on smaller, interpersonal terms, if only to ensure the survival of the species. As one character notes, “We’ve got too comfortable with the benefits of satellites, so that we don’t have the skills to deal with it when they drop.” Needless to say, as the novel progresses, those skills become increasingly valuable, and survival hinges on the characters’ collective ability to adapt to the “new normal,” which is, ironically, quite a bit like the “old normal” of bygone eras.
Evocative of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, The Artemis Effect offers a remarkably hopeful, inventive, and even intimate tale of survival and the indomitable nature of the human spirit. We are, by nature, a species of survivors, James reminds us on every page– just so long as we remember that we need to work together. To put it another way, The Artemis Effect is a tale of the apocalypse as seen through the eyes of a hopeful romantic, an enjoyable and poignant page-turner.