Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir
When Ryland Grace, a middle school science teachers, awakes alone in space with amnesia, he needs to find a way to remember his mission and complete it.
If you liked The Martian, you’ll love this. Maybe. Probably. I’m honestly not even sure which one I liked more, but I liked them both a lot and they share some key points. A man alone in space doing lots of math and science to solve a desperately large problem. Project Hail Mary has more science, more fiction, and an even larger, more desperate problem. It’s slightly less sarcastic, but certainly still maintains some humorous moments amid all the surviving. If you haven’t read The Martian, this isn’t particularly helpful, so let’s stop comparing and just talk about Project Hail Mary.
This book has a lot of science. A lot of it. And it’s all explained as part of the story, so it’s interesting. Or maybe I just think math and science are interesting (I do). The plot is basically a really high stakes science exam with only one question and even the teacher doesn’t know the answer. Our main character (Ryland) Grace, a science teacher, who loves science, does a lot of science (and also math) to figure out the answer to said problem. It’s a lot of real and speculative science, but it all adds to the story. It’s told in a lighthearted tone, very approachable, it’s not like reading a textbook, I promise. It’s fun science. That’s enough about science, let’s talk about the fiction.
Grace wakes up alone (mostly) in space without any memories. He doesn’t even remember his name. The story alternates between his current situation (in space) and flashbacks from before he was in space. The reader gets the flashbacks as the memories return to Grace, so we’re learning things about his mission as he is. I love a good flashback, and I enjoyed the way these were glimpses of the past but still in line with the present timeline. Because they’re memories. There are plenty of curveballs and near disasters. A new sun, a new planet, a new concept about life existing beyond Earth. And I honestly did not anticipate the ending, of all the possibilities I had in my mind while I was reading. It was a surprise, but not a shock.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. A compelling story of space, survival, and the unknown, I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a good sci-fi.
– Spoilers beyond this point –
First of all, let’s get this out of the way. Stratt’s the worst. I get it, humanity is desperate and she’s in charge. Still, the worst.
Rocky on the other hand: a delight. I knew very little about this book before I started reading it, and the introduction of an alien race that could communicate and work with Grace was not something I realized was in store. I thought it was great though, it really expanded on the idea that there was other life in space, beyond the tiny Astrophage. Their friendship was wonderful, and Grace and Rocky together made a much better dynamic than a lone Grace would have for the entire novel.
I liked that a lot of the “but how would that even work?” questions were answered as they came up. Like how could they communicate or how do they have similar levels of intelligence. It helped that both characters were super interested in one another and working together to solve their common problem. It’s not all hard science (it’s fiction), but it’s explained out enough that it made sense, at least in the scope of this story.
And the ending. They bank a lot on the fact that Grace is a good person, but he really goes above and beyond by choosing to save Rocky rather than return home. His unwilling suicide mission to save Earth became survivable, thanks to Rocky, and Grace opted to give his own life to save his friend and this alien race he only recently discovered. What a hero. What a duo. It was cool to get a glimpse at the Eridian planet, as well as closure on what happened to Earth after the Beetles were deployed.
I don’t read nearly as much sci-fi as I used to, but I love stories that balance an interesting science concept and compelling characters like this. I should read more sci-fi.