Book Review: Project: Hail Mary
I am not particularly smart in areas of science, but I do appreciate a good science fiction. Though, good sci-fi authors are harder and harder to find. I mean, there are very few that even begin to fill the giant shoes of master universe and world builders like Frank Herbert (Dune) or Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars) whose books embraced science, philosophy, religion, politics, and culture!
I was a fan of The Martian, the movie, and have yet to read the book, but at the suggestion of other readers, Project: Hail Mary was a high recommendation. When my Kiddo bought a copy, I decided to dig in.
Over all, I really enjoyed the adventure. Andy Weir is a fantastic story teller. And this particular story really touched on some of my favorite draws to the sci-fi genre: humanity in crisis, science turned on its head, and life beyond the confines of our planet.
When Ryland wakes up complete alone, disoriented, and suffering from memory loss, to discover he is the only survivor on a space craft far from Earth, he faces a million tiny and huge obstacles facing his own survival. As his memory returns in bits and pieces, he realizes his own life is not the only life on the line, but all of humanity is waiting for his journey to culminate in a long shot answer to a looming catastrophic event facing Earth. Along his journey, he discovers an unexpected source of help, and companionship, teaching him more about himself, life, and sacrifice than he ever imagined.
Now... what I did not like:
Oh My Word! Another book written in first person present tense. It took me forever to get past it, to give the story a real shot. But I forced myself. Once I learned how to ignore the constant pit of unnecessary suspense that this style forces me into over even the most mundane things in the story, I began to really enjoy the story. I also really did not appreciate the complete lack of care the author took with politics, which he treated as though were this simple construct that could (or would) just disappear with no consequences simply because humanity was at stake. For the care he seemed to take with the science, the political side of the story was not just completely unbelievable, but was complete fantasy. So much so, that he really should have just added a wizard with a wand and that would have made more sense!
Still, there was a great deal I liked more than I disliked.
Ryland, the main character, is well developed over the course of the book. In his amnesia, his own mind paints him as one person, but as memories come back, he realizes he is not at all the same person on the ship that he was on earth.
I also really liked the creativity with science as we know it. One aspect I love about science is that for all its rules, laws, theories, hypothesis, it is always expanding, building, proving itself, disproving itself, and on and on. Science is alive and ever evolving, and so fascinating. In Project: Hail Mary, basic scientific tenants are turned upside down, then right side up, then sideways, as Andy Weir tackles the subject of alien life, space travel, engineering, and human expectation vs perception vs the limitless probabilities of our own theories and how they may play out someday in the future.
And then the alien life! I won't break down why I loved the alien life in this book, because it would give away too much, but I thought it was so well done. From the alien problem to the alien answer. Oh yes... Even that tiny bit might be too much of a spoiler... sigh. Oh well. I thought Andy Weir's crafting of these elements was so creative and inspired, I actually had to set the book down to consider the "what if's" tied to them!
All that and a few unexpected twists, and Project: Hail Mary proved to be a book well worth reading! I strongly recommend sci fi fans of all ages to get their hands on a copy.
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