Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
5/4/21; 496 pages
Penguin Random House

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is a very, very highly recommended saving-the-world science fiction story. I love, love, love this novel and, in turn, Andy Weir for writing Project Hail Mary (and The Martian, and Artemis, which I enjoyed). After I read The Martian, I personally told everyone to buy it and read it, and I will do the same for Project Hail Mary. This will definitely be on my list of best books of 2021. I may even, gulp, love it more than The Martian, which is still way-up-there on my best books ever list.

Ryland Grace wakes up on a spaceship not knowing where he is, who he is, or what he is supposed to be doing while a computer is asking him what is 2+2. It becomes clear, after some time, that he is the sole survivor, and the task set before him is impossible. His task is to solve a mystery in order to save the Earth from an extinction-level event. Slowly Grace remembers that he was a junior high school science teacher. He also remembers that astrophage, a microscopic alien organism, is somehow eating the energy from the sun, causing it to dim, which will eventually lead to a new ice age on Earth in a few decades. Scientists have determined that all the other stars nearby seem to be suffering with the same affliction with the exception of Tau Ceti. The ship, named Hail Mary, has the task of identifying why Tau Ceti is immune and hopefully saving the Earth.  Before he taught junior high, he was a molecular biologist, but why would he, out of so many better candidates, be chosen to be on the task force studying the astrophage and then chosen be on this mission, which is a suicide mission with no way to return to Earth?

The un-put-downable, extraordinary, riveting narrative alternates between chapters following Grace in the present day on the Hail Mary with chapters of Grace remembering what happened before he woke up on the ship. Information about his past and the present is carefully disclosed and new facts are discovered as the plot unfolds. There is humor in the narrative; I experienced several laugh-out-loud moments while reading. Ryland Grace is an imminently likeable character. He is channeling McGyver, although not quite as much as Mark Watney did, as he figures out what to do. It becomes even more interesting when he discovers an alien spaceship near his ship that is on the same mission he is.

Naturally there is plenty of science and scientific speculation in Project Hail Mary. Yes, this is an outstanding science fiction survival tale, but it is also a story about friendship. Expect several plot twists, nail-biting suspense, jaw dropping moments, relentless tension, emotional reactions, and heart-stopping events in this perfectly paced novel. The final denouement is perfect, absolutely, positively perfect. It needs to be said again that I love Project Hail Mary. It is a phenomenal, remarkable science fiction novel that is sure to become a classic.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion.

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