Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free advanced copy of this from NetGalley for review.
Amnesia in SPAAAACCCEEEEE!!!
A man wakes up from an extended induced coma on-board a spaceship alongside two corpses, and he no idea of who he is or how he got there. As he explores the ship, he slowly begins to get his memory back and realizes that he’s Ryland Grace, the sole survivor of a desperate mission to reach another solar system and hopefully find the answers to save Earth from a cosmic catastrophe. With only a sketchy idea of how the ship works Ryland must rely on basic science and improvisation to try and accomplish his mission, but he’ll find more than a few surprises waiting for him when he reaches his destination.
Since The Martian was such a sensation I think Andy Weir is doomed to be one of those authors whose later work is always compared to his debut, and there’s no doubt of some similarities here. The most obvious one is that they both feature smart and funny main characters being alone and having to science the shit out of what they have on hand to get the job done. In fact, it’d be easy to see this as just flipping The Martian’s plot because in it you had pretty much the entire world banding together to save one isolated man, and Project Hail Mary is about one isolated man trying to save the entire world.
However, while it seems at first that both books are working off the same template, Weir only relies on that hook for a while before seriously changing things up and getting very creative. In fact, I suspect that some fans of The Martian are going to dislike this because of how it seems to start out in that near-future type of hard sci-fi that the mainstream is quicker to accept, but then it takes a hard turn into weirder concepts.
I don’t want to say too much because I feel like this is one that benefits from going in knowing as little as possible. Rest assured that even when things get strange that Weir still relies on a funny narrator working off a foundation of real science so that it stays grounded and relatable.
It also has a couple of really good twists, and actually ends up being a far more moving book than I thought it would be. It’s not as good as The Martian because part of the appeal was Weir’s ability to make science entertaining, but now that's part of his brand so it doesn't feel as new and inventive as it did before. It's still a supremely entertaining book that blends a realistic approach with sci-fi and comes up with something that again feels fresh.
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