Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir // Book Review

Or How to Make Simone Super Anxious About Space.

But seriously, this was such an engaging and emotional story for me. It will take you on a wild ride across the stars, meet new friends, and hopefully feel like a hero at the end. However, I can’t not discuss how much anxiety it gave me. What’s my trigger? Conversations about life expectancy, existential thought (what does it all mean? what happens to us after we die?), and just thinking about death in general. I walked away from this book with a healthy dose of anxiety about space. Totally personal, I don’t think anyone else suffers from mild existentialist issues, but if you’re like me, proceed with caution.

Here’s more about Project Hail Mary

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, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, 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.

My Thoughts

Get ready for space because there’s a lot of it and it’s non-stop. I’m going to try and do this without giving away spoilers, but heed my warning. Much of this book is reveal after reveal especially in the situations where Ryland has no idea how to proceed forward. I’ll try to keep mum about bigger stuff, but I’m going to share smaller details.

I think the biggest thing people will do with this book is compare it to The Martian. And while both books carry some similar themes, they’re starkly different. First off, Ryland is not stuck on Mars. In fact, he’s not even in our solar system. Second, there’s no one coming to rescue him. So Ryland’s mission is to figure out how to save earth and then never return to the world he belongs to.

And this is where most of my anxiety came from. Of course I didn’t think about it while he was on his adventures or through the memories he slowly remembers. It was in every single conversation he had with himself about how he won’t survive this. It’s in the way he talks about how alone he is, how he misses his kids (he’s a middle school science teacher), how what he’s looking at isn’t even our sun, and even if he were to return to earth, 26 years would have passed on earth.

Some of these conversations were so honest and human and they were ones that needed to be had. If Ryland was on this space adventure and didn’t think about the very real reality for him, I don’t think I would have bought the book as much as I did.

It’s not considered an Andy Weir book without science and math and this book discusses it a lot. Specifically, it dives into relative physics; how energy is mass and the speed of light to the 2nd power. You may know the formula E=MC2. Well, this becomes super relevant in this story and it’s really interesting how it’s deployed. It also discusses our technology and how far we’ve come in comparison to other lifeforms in the universe. I loved this juxtaposition of our technology vs. alien technology. I’ve always thought aliens (if they exist) would be leagues more intelligent than us and have the technology to boot. However, this book tackles those preconceived notions and also shares some interesting theories I never would have guessed.

I thought it was interesting to see this alternating timeline for Ryland. There’s a little about what’s happening in the present and then a recall to the past with more info he’s remembering. I found myself wanting to know more about the present than revisiting the past, but I also understand how this is Ryland and his memories are slowly coming back to him. I think the perspective is the best especially since Ryland was his own person and despite being a middle school science teacher, he was smart, inquisitive, and instinctual.

Overall, this was such a great read. I loved traveling through space with Ryland and his friend, seeing what happens to Project Hail Mary and earth, and seeing what happens to Ryland. The ending was a bit bittersweet and a really wild ending, but it’s been such a magical journey so far that you’ll definitely be happy with it.

Thanks to Del Rey for gifting me a copy of this book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

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