Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Review: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

by Andy Weir
Release Date: May 4, 2021
2021 Ballantine Books
Kindle Edition; 476 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593135204
Audiobook: B08GB4FH52
Genre: Fiction / SF
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

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.
My Thoughts
Project Hail Mary certainly had a gripping opening, one that had me hooked, and kept me reading way longer into the night than I should have.  I certainly found it intriguing how a biologist with a PhD who was teaching grade 8 would end up in a spaceship light years away from Earth tasked to save his planet. And the result was fascinating. 
While at first I had the feeling I was in the same setting as The Martian, that soon wore off as there were quite a few differences, as you would expect in a completely different novel.  The same sarcastic sense of humour was there, but that is what I enjoyed so much in the other novel and I was happy to have that back in this book.  I even found myself chuckling quite a few times at some of the situations in which Ryland found himself, and then that self-deprecating humour would come through, and I would think What would Mark Whatney do?  Oh year, science the sh&^ out of it!!  And that is exactly what Ryland did. 
Ryland Grace is one of those characters I just couldn't help liking.  While he understood the seriousness of where he was and what he was doing, it didn't let him down and he just got to work to try to figure out how to solve the problem he was given.  I liked his overall positive attitude, and while he might have been self-effacing on Earth, he had no choice but to take on tasks that were out of his comfort zone on the spaceship as he was the only one left.  And the conditions were harsh.  And this is where the math and the science comes in.
Best thing about this book? Rocky, hands down.  I'll leave it up to you to discover who or what that is. 
I have a background in science, but my background is biological science, not math and I remember distinctly swearing an oath that once I left university I would never touch another calculus or physics textbook again in my life unless I had to transport it somewhere.  Luckily, I remember enough that I actually found the science quite fascinating and liked the really heavy scientific discussions that were occurring on almost every page.  Some of them almost, and that's a big almost, made me want to delve into a physics journal again so I did the next best thing: I asked my son who is a mathematical physics major instead.   For someone who has little science background though, the scientific overload may be a little too much.  Personally, the balance between the science, the ethics, the dialogue, the plot, and everything else was quite good.

The story itself was quite intriguing and I did spend a lot of time reflecting on our planet and how things would go if we were in a similar situation.  The story jumps back and forth between his current situation and how he actually got  there, and there are a lot of ethical considerations that would make for some great discussions, something I think the author was trying to highlight. 
Project Hail Mary was a delight, one full of intrigue and surprising twists, especially since I went into having avoided any and all discussions on it that I could.  I thought it was intricately plotted, with some major underlying themes that would make great discussion points, interesting characters, and a very satisfying ending.  I loved the intricate scientific details and thought the author did a great job blending the story and the science together.  If you enjoyed The Martian, I feel you would enjoy this book as well.