Artemis Awakening

Jane Lindskold
Artemis Awakening Cover

Artemis Awakening


Artemis Awakening is a strange novel, one I wish I could have enjoyed a lot more. I wouldn't say I disliked it, but neither did it hold my interest... and later on it just plain weirded me out. After mulling it over for a bit, I've concluded my disappointment probably stems more from feeling suckered in by its description, rather than something specific associated with the story.

First of all, the setting is Artemis, described as a distant world created by an advanced human empire to be a pleasure planet for its richest and most elite to play in. Centuries later, the empire is no more and much of its technology has been lost, and Artemis itself is all but forgotten. The story begins when a young archaeologist named Griffin Dane crashes his ship onto the planet's surface, stranding himself. Enter a local huntress named Adara and her psychic-linked puma, who encounter Griffin and lend him their help in his predicament.

From all this, I expected more of a sci-fi adventure. But what Artemis Awakening offers (at least in the beginning) is actually something closer to a spiritual journey. Not a very compelling one either, if I'm to be blunt. In the introduction, there's lot of talk and not much action, and most regretfully of all, very little by the way of science fiction elements. Sure, I found certain concepts fascinating, such as Artemis' past as a bioengineered "wild" playground for the rich and powerful, the adapted humans and creatures that have persisted and live there now, as well as the mental links certain individuals have with their animal companions. All that potential feels squandered, however, as none of these ideas come to fruition, doomed instead to wither on a vine behind a brick wall.

So much amazing world building, but where the story was taking me was definitely not where I wanted to be. The plot went in a direction that was rather unexpected, but I was also baffled by how the author decided to tackle it. After spending a few days alone together (with Sand Shadow the puma) in the wilderness, Griffin and Adara grow close, so that upon their return to Adara's home, her kind-of-but-not-really-boyfriend grows upset with the new boy in town for macking on "his" woman. Had I wandered into a Young Adult novel without realizing it?

This bizarre love triangle is further complicated when the three set out with Adara's mentor to figure out what to do with Griffin. This is where a lot more starts happening in the story, but it's also where things get perplexing. It didn't help that I was so numb at this point, not much was going to help turn my tepid opinion around. Add to that, further along our characters' journey came the ridiculous villain, a man who is ancient but physically never ages (how random), then there was the uncovering of the conspiracies and the kidnappings, the horrible revelations of the breeding facilities and the forced rape and pregnancies of women, and by now I'm just like a deer in the headlights going, um? Whu? Ugh...

I'm still a bit confused, trying to figure out what kind of book I just read. Half mysticism, half quest narrative? A mix of YA and some very mature adult themes? Something that's more paranormal than science fiction? Probably the thing that frustrates me most about this book is how thoroughly it left me cold. Thing is, I didn't hate the novel or even wholly disliked it. Instead, I watched event after event unfold before me with something close to mild curiosity, but with no real interest. Despite reading about everything that happened in the story, I remained feeling unaffected, which in some ways is even worse than being just outright disgruntled or upset. It means I hardly made a connection to any of the characters or the conflict. It's a shame too, because there was so much potential, and the story certainly had plenty of merits. Nevertheless, somewhere along the way I simply stopped caring.

I had originally picked up Artemis Awakening so I could read it before picking up the sequel Artemis Invaded this summer. Unfortunately, I probably won't be doing that anymore. Still, I'm open to checking out other books by Jane Lindskold; this was my first book by her and while it didn't really work for me, I hear a lot of her stories involve humans with very close and special bonds to animals. Sounds like something I would enjoy very much. I'll be keeping an eye out on Lindskold's other work, but it's looking like I'll be giving book two a pass.