Review: Project Hail Mary

Posted: October 25, 2021 by in Books We Like (4.4/5 single_star) Meta: Andy Weir, Science Fiction

When Ryland Grace wakes up on his spaceship, he doesn’t know where he is at first. For the first few chapters it is this very mystery that compels you to keep reading because you must know what’s going on. Who he is. Why he’s there. And what happened. Fortunately, Andy Weir doesn’t keep you in suspense for very long. If you loved THE MARTIAN, you’ll love PROJECT HAIL MARY.

His memory comes back to him in drips and drabs. You can tell early on that he is scientifically minded, and that despite his amnesia he is able to still function in this foreign environment. He discovers he’s headed toward a star to find the cure for astrophage, the microscopic entity that is sucking the life out of Earth’s star–literally. This is mankind’s last chance, its hail Mary, his crew is dead, and he is alone with gaps in his memory. It seems like this effort is doomed to fail.

That is, until his ship picks up another ship on its monitor and Rylund realizes he is not alone.

There are many aspects to this book. There is the human element of Rylund and his emerging memories of his time on Earth and his experiences there as a middle school teacher, then science consultant on Project Hail Mary. He geeks out over science, but at the same time is interested in the people around him and their hopes and dreams. This isn’t just about the science for him, it’s about saving the planet and the human race. Rylund isn’t your average hero. He’s just a regular guy who happens to nerd out over the idea of aliens and what form they would take. He can be bullheaded. And not always think things through. He takes probably too much pride in being the “cool” science teacher. So we sometimes wonder if he’s really the man for this job? Did Weir create a wish-fulfillment fantasy for all the nerdy alien enthusiasts out there about their potential to become world-saving heros? You be the judge.

The big aspect of this book is the science, and it drives the story. As a result it can get bogged down a little because there’s important math and sciency stuff to explain to forward the plot. And Rylund (Weir) can be a little preachy. But at the same time it’s the problem solving that creates the tension and the resolution as Rylund (and newfound friend) join forces–and their mutual talents. Weir presents a problem and lays out the solution piece by piece in a way that, yes, perhaps a middle school science teacher can save the world. But how? I’d love to discuss more about what happens in the second half of the book, but that would be too spoilery. But it’s safe to say that it’s the kind of thing nerdy fanboy Rylund will REALLY love. And it’s his enthusiasm and joy despite his life-threatening situation makes everything work.

Any Weir's PROJECT HAIL MARY is a science fiction treat of problem solving and alien interactions. Such a fun read. Check it out.

This book was fun–not too long, not too short. It isn’t perfect, but I totally enjoyed it even with its (minor) flaws.

This book is available in print, but really you should get the Audible version. There are aspects of the alien communication that is best served by sound vs. the printed word. And the narrator is excellent. He really portrays Rylund’s fanboy (of science) goofiness in an endearing way that will engage you and your teen listeners.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: A handful
  • Violence: Space-related peril
  • Sex: Referenced


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