Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir // Book Review

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.

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders // Book Review

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders // Book Review

I had a lot of high hopes for this one especially since I really loved The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. It’s her first foray into sci-fi and while it definitely carried those themes, it hit the mark for me.

Here’s More About Victories Greater Than Death

Outsmart Your Enemies. Outrun the Galaxy.

Tina never worries about being ‘ordinary’—she doesn’t have to, since she’s known practically forever that she’s not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She’s also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it’s going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina’s legacy, after all, is intergalactic—she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a human to give the universe another chance to defeat a terrible evil.

But when the beacon activates, it turns out that Tina’s destiny isn’t quite what she expected. Things are far more dangerous than she ever assumed. Luckily, Tina is surrounded by a crew she can trust, and her best friend Rachel, and she is still determined to save all the worlds. But first she’ll have to save herself.

Buckle up your seatbelt for this thrilling sci-fi adventure set against an intergalactic war from international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders.

My Thoughts

From the premise alone, I thought this was going to be a YA version of something Becky Chambers would write. And in many ways it was. It had the rag tag team of aliens from across the galaxy. They each had their own personality, they introduced themselves with their preferred pronouns. And many of the explanations Tina and Rachel ask for are met with a direct response that gives you more context to how the world works.

The added bonus of this book that Becky Chambers doesn’t have is the addition of six human kids from Earth. I really liked this component especially since each of the kids has their own personality, their own backstory, and reasons for doing what they do. From building robots that make music with their girlfriend or running away from people who don’t understand you, this book runs the gamut. I think many people who read this book will feel the inclusion right away and happy to see themselves written into a story. I’m going to say it because this is exactly how I felt while I read it; this was The Goonies in Space.

It definitely feels like a Charlie Jane Anders books where the emphasis is more on the characters and their development. Much of the story centers the six kids and their lives which was great, but then the other characters (who were all aliens) were kind of left by the wayside. I also wanted to get to know them or at least hear some secrets from the universe.

There was also this bigger theme of otherness as well. One of the main goals of the villain was to destroy the life that doesn’t look like humans. Aliens from across the galaxy that have two legs and two arms were saved by the villain, but anyone else was considered fodder for murder. I love that Tina and the rest of the Goonies came out to prove them wrong and show that despite what you look like (whether it’s three arms and three heads or you’re a blob-person), there’s always something good to find in them.

And then there’s this epic villain who reminded me so much of Thanos from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His power, his strength, and his reasoning were all parts of him you should fear. However, his motivation for all of this outside of wanting to endorse the anti-humanoid agenda felt lost.

I think my biggest issue with this book is that a lot of context is missing for the sake of the adventures. There was a lot of action, but not enough time to explain what was going on or what the bigger plot was going to be. I get that this is a YA story, but not all YA stories need to move at lightning speed. I wanted more context especially when it came to Marrant and Tina’s relationship, their motivations, and ultimately what they were trying to accomplish.

Overall, this has been a fun one and will move quickly. I loved the humanizing aspects, the found family, and even the romance that happens in the story, but I think in the end, I wanted so much more from a space epic.

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

Spotlight // I’m Waiting For You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young

Spotlight // I’m Waiting For You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young

Are you reading translated fiction this year?

I’m always on the lookout for some great reads especially from folks around the world. When I heard about this translated sci-fi collection from a South Korean author, I knew I had to pick it up and read it. I don’t plan to read it until next month, but I’m so excited to get into it and enjoy these incredible stories from the other side of the world.

Two worlds, four stories, infinite possibilities 
One of South Korea’s most treasured writers explores the driving forces of humanity—love, hope, creation, destruction, and the very meaning of existence—in two pairs of thematically interconnected stories.

In “I’m Waiting for You” and “On My Way,” an engaged couple coordinate their separate missions to distant corners of the galaxy to ensure—through relativity—they can arrive back on Earth simultaneously to make it down the aisle. But small incidents wreak havoc on space and time, driving their wedding date further away. As centuries on Earth pass and the land and climate change, one thing is constant: the desire of the lovers to be together. In two separate yet linked stories, Kim Bo-Young cleverly demonstrate the idea love that is timeless and hope springs eternal, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and the deepest despair.

In “The Prophet of Corruption” and “That One Life,” humanity is viewed through the eyes of its creators: godlike beings for which everything on Earth—from the richest woman to a speck of dirt—is an extension of their will. When one of the creations questions the righteousness of this arrangement, it is deemed a perversion—a disease—that must be excised and cured. Yet the Prophet Naban, whose “child” is rebelling, isn’t sure the rebellion is bad. What if that which is considered criminal is instead the natural order—and those who condemn it corrupt? Exploring the dichotomy between the philosophical and the corporeal, Kim ponders the fate of free-will, as she considers the most basic of questions: who am I?