Published by Ballantine Books on May 4, 2021
Genres: Science Fiction
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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.
I almost didn’t read Project Hail Mary. I enjoyed Weir’s Artemis, but had no interest in The Martian, and a lot of reviewers commented that it was a return to the style of The Martian. But, I had a copy from NetGalley and I have a friend who will definitely be reading it, so . . . Turns out, I actually enjoyed it. It’s smart and funny and accessible. There was a lot of science and some of it got a little boring, but I never felt like I was lost in the details.
Alien microorganisms, astrophage, are consuming the sun’s energy, which will sooner rather than later make Earth colder and lead to another ice age. Ryland Grace, our narrator, is an 8th-grade teacher is a scientist who becomes involved in researching this phenomenon. He wakes up on the Hail Mary, part of a suicide mission to find a way to save Earth. The book shows two timelines, Ryland in space and, through flashbacks, the discovery of the astrophage and the planning stages of Project Hail Mary.
I am pretty good at overlooking things in novels, about letting issues slide. This is one of those books that require it, and the issues aren’t really minor. Ryland is on a space mission, and wakes up with no memory. Turns out there’s a good reason for that, but that’s beside the point. Thankfully, he’s clever and can figure stuff out. But think how much easier it would have been with a checklist of some kind. Or an AI system that could actually provide information, not make you search for it. Or you know, any of the safeguards that could help if something unexpected happened. And he’s an incredibly intelligent guy, but makes some really simple mistakes that seemed needless, just there to let him show off more problem-solving skills. I had to just let it go and enjoy the book.
And it really is a fun book. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Ryland meets an alien life form. Rocky is a fabulous character and I loved the friendship that forms between the two. A lot of their interactions made me smile. I think Ryland being a teacher worked out well here. He cares about people/other beings and is curious and willing to share information freely. The two of them, talking and hanging out and learning things together is the highlight of the book.
There were a few times I was worried about how it would all turn out. There should be, this type of book needs some tension. But I liked the ending, even if it was maybe a little too pat.
Do you need to love sci-fi to read Project Hail Mary? No. It flows easy, the main characters are likeable, and it’s a hopeful book. On the other hand, if you’re going to be bored by the science details, I’m sure it’ll be a movie sooner or later.