Review: Project Hail Mary – Andy Weir

Review: Project Hail Mary – Andy WeirProject Hail Mary
by Andy Weir
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 496
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.
Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.
All he knows is that he's been asleep for a very, very long time. And he's just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.
His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that's been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it's up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.
And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.
Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian--while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

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Content warnings: View Spoiler »

The Martian was one of my favorite books of 2012, which is saying a lot considering that was the year I had my first kid. While I skipped Artemis, the blurb of this book was too enticing and reminiscent of the original to pass up. But what’s even more frightening than being stranded on Mars? How about being stranded on a spaceship and responsible for the future of humanity! Since I think this is best experienced coming in with no knowledge of what’s going on, I’m going to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.

“Wait a minute! Am I a guinea pig? I’m a guinea pig!”
“No, it’s not like that,” she said.
I stared at her.
She stared at me.
I stared at her.
“Okay, it’s exactly like that,” she said.”

Ryland is following in the footsteps of Mark Watney’s Martian Swiss-Family-Robinson-ism, though a good portion of the fun is that he initially has no clue what’s going on, let alone that he’s on a spaceship. The best he can figure is the amnesia is an unintended side effect of the medically induced coma. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that one of the first things Ryland remembers is that he’s a junior high school science teacher, complete with an “aw shucks” vocubulary of swear words and a deep flare for silliness. He’s basically the Bill Nye of astronauts. This is a good thing, since we’re stuck in his head, quirky humor and all, for the entirety of the book. That’s especially true at the beginning of the book where there’s fewer flashbacks (and therefore fewer other characters) and more background info on why Ryland is on the ship. After all, how the heck does a science teacher end up on a mission to save the world? I liked Ryland for his optimism, his seemingly boundless knowledge of random science facts (range of visible spectrum of light? check! how often the sun rotates? check! thrust of your average jumbo jet engine? check!), and his “I can science this!” attitude.

“I’m a scientist! Now we’re getting somewhere! Time for me to use science. All right, genius brain: come up with something!
…I’m hungry.
You have failed me, brain.”

Much like The Martian, there’s lots of gee-whiz science that I found utterly fascinating. Ryland’s amnesia is used well here, as most of the science explanations are worked in as recovered memories, though there were points, especially at the beginning, where it got info dump clunky. The initial confusion over where he is and why he’s there drive the plot for the first chunk of the book. Once the problem is identified, there’s quite a bit of those info dumps, but then, then we finally get to the good part, complete with a few twists. The pacing itself was still a bit uneven at times, but between the side characters (Stratt was pretty amazing, and well, Rocky, enough said) and the continuous series of “how do I science this???” I found it hard to put the book down, all the way to the eminently satisfying conclusion.

“Human beings have a remarkable ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal.”

Overall, I think if you liked The Martian, you’ll like this higher stakes sibling.

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