"Project Hail Mary" review
Title: Project Hail Mary
Author: Andy Weir
Subgenre: Science fiction
2021 Bingo squares: Published in 2021, First contact
Project Hail Mary is tough to review because I think the best way to go into it is not knowing anything at all, and the less knowledge you have about the book, the more enjoyment you’ll get out of it. The protagonist wakes up on page one in a room without any memories. A computer asks him some diagnostic questions, and we go from there. Intrigued? You’ll love it.
If you’re not sold yet, I’ll try to convince you without major spoilers after the cover image.
A bit more information
Project Hail Mary tells the story of Ryland Grace, a junior-high school science teacher sent on a “hail Mary” mission to another star to save planet Earth from catastrophic ruin. Unfortunately, when he wakes up from a coma at his destination, his crewmates have all died and he has lost (almost) all his memories (yikes). Fortunately, he makes first contact with a member of another species who he decides to call “Rocky.” He and Rocky establish communication, form the sort of deep friendship two beings can form only when they hold the fates of their respective races in their hands or metaphorical hands, and collaborate to carry out their shared mission.
Though we’re basically stuck in a single room for the entirety of an almost-500-page-long novel, at no point does Project Hail Mary feel stifling. Instead, a combination of the protagonist’s eager, friendly narrative voice; the urgency of his situation; his growing friendship with Rocky; and regular flashbacks to his history on Earth combine to create an engaging, fast-paced story.
Supplementing the narrative, we’re treated to a range of hard science and engineering experiments, as Andy Weir describes in depth the actions that Grace performs, from inconsequential anecdotes to elaborate life-or-death setups. If you aren’t interested in the hard science aspect of the science fiction, for the most part these descriptions are easily distinguishable, and you can skim them; conveniently, Rocky and Grace have opposite strengths, and so they are able to explain things not only to each other but also to the reader.
While it’s definitely a science fiction novel, and you’ll appreciate it the most if you enjoy that aspect, there’s still plenty here even if you do choose to skim the hard science parts. Rocky and Grace have a great dynamic together, with moments ranging from touching to hilarious. The stakes are high, tension is ever present, and Grace has to make fate-altering decisions and confront his own inner demons. It’s an emotional, beautiful story no matter the setting.