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Project Hail Mary by Andrew Weir

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

FORMAT: Published by Ballantine Books on May 04, 2021 | 496 Pages | Book design by Caroline Cunningham

OVERVIEW: Do you fancy an interstellar race against time? If so, Weir has just the thing for you.

Ryland Grace wakes up aboard a spaceship with two dead crewmates. He does not know who he is, where he is, or what is going on. Slowly, he regains his memories, and he doesn’t like the implications. He must solve a scientific mystery or everyone on Earth will die. 

The threat? An alien life form known as Astrophage that transmits itself from star to star, destroying them along the way. It resembles a virus; only science can stop it, but that requires an interstellar trip to Tau Ceti - the only planet resistant to the Astrophage’s destructive powers. 

As with Weir’s previous novels, Project Hail Mary provides cool science mixed with comedy and a gripping story. The author throws life-threatening problems at Ryland to keep the plot interesting and exciting. He also introduces him to a sentient alien, Rocky, one of the most lovable aliens in all of science fiction. Rocky doesn’t happen to breathe the same air as humans or live in the same environment. This forces Ryland to find a logical and intuitive way for them to communicate. I listened to the audiobook and Ray Porter nailed it! His narration enhances the story.

Rocky is described as a spider-like life form with an almost photographic memory, endearing personality, and a sharp mind. They’re alien, no question about it, but Weir wrote a fantastic alien character, and he deserves the highest praise for it.

Although both characters are likable, Project Hail Mary is more plot than character-focused. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Ryland, his first-person narration, and his punchy one-liners. His competence in the face of adversity and willingness to survive impressed me. However, the true star is the science - the main and supporting characters exist primarily to move forward the problem-solving narrative. Nothing wrong with it - most of Weir's readers are here to follow a scientist who has to "science the shit out of this". 

Weir doesn’t gloss over the technical aspects of the story or the challenges faced by unlikely friends. His protagonists face problems that require knowledge of physics, chemistry, and biology, and as readers, we witness their problem-solving and ingenuity. Despite the focus on science, Project Hail Mary is, at its core, a story about friendship and it makes it so compulsively readable.

I enjoyed Project Hail Mary. It provides lots of fascinating ideas* and tells an engaging story. The narrator is likable, his alien counterpart is awesome, and the twists entertaining. It’s, perhaps, a bit overextended but Ray Porter’s narration makes it forgivable. Highly recommended!  

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