Project Hail Mary

by Weir, Andy

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, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone. Or does he? An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

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On May 4, 2021, Anonymous said:

"Am I barreling toward the sun, or away from it? It's almost academic. I'm either on a collision course with the sun or on my way out to deep space with no hope of returning. Or, I might be headed in the sun's general direction, but not on a collision course. If that's the case, I'll miss the sun … and then fly off into deep space with no hope of returning."

Project Hail Mary is the third novel by American author and self-confessed space nerd, Andy Weir. When he first emerges from the coma, he has no idea where he is, or how or why. It seems to be a spaceship, he's the sole survivor of a crew of three, and the onboard computer is insisting he proffers his name before allowing access to certain areas, but he can't remember that either.

"This is like being in a video game. Explore the area until you find a locked door, then look for the key. But instead of searching bookshelves and garbage cans, I have to search my mind. Because the "key" is my own name."

His memory is spotty, coming in fits and starts; gradually, the fact that he's a junior high science teacher reveals itself; he's Dr. Ryland Grace, formerly a microbiologist who spent his career working up theoretical models for alien life. And he's a long, long way from San Francisco.

The "what" Grayson remembers fairly quickly: a dire problem facing his home planet, and the importance of his mission is clear, a mission to save mankind. The "how" poses a challenge that his scientific mind relishes. When Grayson recalls the "why" that has placed him on the Hail Mary instead of a highly-trained astronaut, he's dismayed and angry. What is quickly obvious is that he is facing a suicide mission. All alone.

Except it turns out he's not.

More is difficult to reveal without spoilers, but Weir has neatly constructed a narrative in which flashbacks/memories slowly reveal the exact how and why, but also just what the ship is equipped with and can do. Weir gives the reader sci-fi that doesn't get too bogged down with dense sci-facts but is interesting and thought-provoking.

Weir's protagonist is a delight, smart and resourceful; his ever-inquiring mind and excellent deductive powers see him maintain his optimism that he will complete his vital mission. Ultimately, Grayson surprises himself. He's also got a great sense of humour, so his inner monologue, asides to the computer and other conversations entertain:

"The computer finishes its boot process and brings up a screen I've never seen before. I can tell it means trouble, because the word "TROUBLE" is in large type across the top."

This is a tale with an action plot, twists and surprises, featuring a planet Earth where greenhouse gases are welcome and the Sahara is covered in foil. There are philosophical discussions on behaviour and intelligence, lots of space walks, vodka, beetles and five-legged spiders, laugh-out-loud moments and the odd lump in the throat. Brilliantly funny, clever and original sci-fi. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Random House UK Cornerstone

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