Review: Project Hail Mary

5 out of 5 stars Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

I loved this book.

As we meet Project Hail Mary‘s protagonist, he doesn’t know who, or where, he is. So basically anything about the book is a spoiler. SPOILERS AHEAD – setup only, not about the story’s resolution.

It turns out our hero is Dr. Rhyland Grace. He’s aboard a spaceship aptly called the Hail Mary, headed for a planet called Tau Ceti, to figure out why it is the only planet unaffected by the alien organism that is killing Earth’s sun. That’s right – Earth’s sun is dying. The whole world knows it has less than 30 years before an extinction level event. Humanity’s only hope is if the Hail Mary can figure out how Tau Ceti is surviving, and replicate the defense in time to save itself. But it will take 13 years for the ship to reach the planet, and 13 years for it’s data to get home. That doesn’t leave much time to, as Weir so perfectly wrote in The Martian, “science the shit out of this.”

Once Grace figures out where, when, and why he is, he realizes something even more shocking: He’s not alone. An alien ship makes contact. They manage to communicate, and eventually devise a way to meet despite requiring completely different atmospheres in which to survive. Enter Rocky. He’s brilliant, strange, and just what Grace needs, because his ship and the Hail Mary came to Tau Ceti for the same reason.

Together, Rocky and Grace science the shit out of each other and their situation, working together to solve the problem and save both of their worlds. There are breakthroughs and setbacks, successes and disasters. We see Grace’s life on Earth in flashbacks, speeding through the first moments humanity learned it was almost certainly doomed. It’s pre-apocalyptic, and, like everything Weir rights, based in reality. Project Hail Mary shows the best we could hope for if the end were truly nigh.

The best thing about Weir’s books is not how astonishingly smart they are. It’s how smart they make the reader feel. He doesn’t skimp on the hard stuff – astrophysics, time dilation, complex math and biology. I shudder thinking of it, but listening to Project Hail Mary, it was thrilling. I was nearly convinced that I actually understood it – that’s how efficient Weir’s writing is. Basic Brilliance for Dummies: Cliff Notes Edition. The only thing more satisfying that Grace and Rocky doing some incredible particle physics is feeling like I almost actually understood it!

I highly recommend the audiobook for this one. Narrator Ray Porter give a magnificent performance, and the audio-only nature of Rocky’s alien language is beautifully experienced in sound.

Project Hail Mary has it all: impending doom, thrilling heroics, action, humor, fear, friendship, and an extremely high IQ. Reading/listening to it was an absolute joy. As Rocky would say when he really, really means it, “Good good good!”

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