Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Project Hail Mary - Andy Weir


If you like a lot of science and math in your science fiction novels, Andy Weir is just the SF author for you. And that means that you will almost certainly love Weir’s latest novel, Project Hail Mary, because there are equally heavy doses of both science and math in this one. Heck, Project Hail Mary even includes a full-page illustration of the components of the spaceship in “thrust configuration,” along with another full-page illustration explaining how the ship transforms into centrifuge mode and what happens after it does that. But as much as I enjoy science and math in science fiction novels (if maybe not quite as much as Weir includes here), what I really enjoy in them is human contact with a space alien culture. And, I’m happy to tell you that if reading about alien-contact is as high on your list of favorite reading experiences as it is on mine, you are in for a treat. 


The story opens when Ryland Grace, a middle school science teacher, wakes up to a robotic voice asking him “What’s two plus two?” over and over again. Grace has no idea who he is, where he is, or why the irritating robot-voice won’t just shut up and let him go back to sleep. Maybe, though, his confusion will temporarily be a good thing because it turns out that Grace (as he eventually figures out) is the lone survivor of a three-person crew launched from Earth toward a distant star years earlier to gather the information that hopefully can be used to save humanity from its impending doom. That’s bad enough, but adding to the larger problem is the fact that Grace is the least qualified of the three scientists sent on the mission — and that even the better qualified scientists who died would have found the job near impossible on their own. 


The good news is that maybe he won’t have to do it all alone, after all, because he’s not the only one in the area trying to figure out why his home planet is dying. "Rocky" is there, too. 


Bottom Line: Project Hail Mary is a book about what makes us human, with all of our strengths and weaknesses on display, but it is also a heartwarming story about one of the deepest, if least likely, friendships imaginable. Main character Ryland Grace is a flawed individual who surprises even himself by what he is willing to do for others even though he didn't exactly volunteered for the mission he wakes up to. The book is perhaps a bit overlong, and it can sometimes get a little bogged down by the math and science at its heart, but it is one that readers are going to remember. Next, I would love to read a novel about what was happening back on Earth during the 26 years it took to get answers back to scientists there.


Andy Weir

14 comments:

  1. I am glad you reviewed this book. I had been wondering about it. Based on your review, I think I would like it. The length is a bit daunting and I will probably wait a while before adding it to my TBR piles.

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    1. I read the Large Print edition because it was the easiest to get hold of at my library and that version is 673 pages long. I think the "regular" edition is around 470 pages long, so it's definitely a pretty good sized book.

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  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Sam. Yes, Ryland and Rocky make such a great pair!

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    1. And what a perfect name for the alien character, that was.

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  3. Yours is the second blogger review I've seen of this book and so far it's all 100% favorable. I loved The Martian so maybe I should read this one, too.

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    1. It's similar to The Martian in the sense that the hero's life is constantly in jeopardy and he only survives by thinking his way out of the problems thrown at him. You can tell that Weir really likes math and science.

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  4. You already know I'm looking forward to reading this one. And I don't mind a lot of science in my science fiction as long as there are also some great characters in the mix, too.

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    1. It's quite the "buddy" story, Lark. I'm curious to see what you think of it.

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  5. I wasn't overly impressed with The Martian when I read it, and the readers who raved about it told me they'd all listened to it on audiobook. I'm experimenting with audiobooks again, and I'm severely tempted to give this one a listen.

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    1. Beware that this one has much in common with The Martian in that it is a series of life-threatening problems that need to be solved one by one if the mission is to go on. Some of the solutions were slower to come than others, and sometimes it seemed to slow down the narrative.

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  6. I might like this one! I wasn't too thrilled with The Martian, but I did enjoy it, and now I know what to expect of the author's style too.

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    1. As I mentioned to Cathy, up above, Jeane, this one is very similar to The Martian in style and overall approach to storytelling. If The Martian left you unsatisfied, this one may very well do the same.

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  7. I purchased the audio of Project Hail Mary but it's not for my short list:) I have an ambitious June planned since I joined the Summer Reading 20 book challenge. (2) completed so far - well one was finished end of May but, who cares right?

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    1. I suspect that the audio version, depending on who the narrator is, could be even better an experience than reading the printed version. There were a few spots where the storytelling got a little bogged down, and a good reader/storyteller could make those spots less noticeable.

      That Summer Reading 20 book challenge is a commitment, for sure. Only 18 to go... :-)

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