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Project Hail Mary

Updated: Jan 22

Book review time… Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary, Rocky

I have had Project Hail Mary sitting in my to read list for four to six months. As with all books I review on this channel I will never give a bad review. Not because I don’t read bad books, but writing a book is hard enough I never feel the need to denigrate any book publicly. With that out of the way you know if I am talking about a book, it gets at least 2.5 / 5.0 from me. At least worth reading.

Project Hail Mary,  by Andy Wier is somewhere in the realm of 4.3 / 5.0 for me.

I am a fan of hard science fiction. Science fiction, for me, should really ideally do one of two things.

1)      It should inspire science. Real science. It should make people read the book, and think “Yeah, what if?” In the most positive possible way, it should make people think that science can in fact solve far more problems than it engenders.

2)      It should make the reader think “Wait. What is happening with society here?” It can serve as a foil to show an error in real life by taking one specific portion of our technology to a point of reductio ad absurdum.

MINOR spoilers begin here.

Hail Mary is the first of these, much like The Martian before it. Humanity is faced with the extinction of our species, and humanity absolutely comes together to solve the problem in a project named Hail Mary. Defined as “a long, typically unsuccessful pass made in a desperate attempt to score late in the game.” The probability of mankind succeeding in building a spaceship in a handful of years, sending it to a distant solar system to save our planet is indeed completely crazy.

The problems of real-life technology are solved in the book through means which are self-consistent. There are a few moments where you can see the mind of the author at work finding solutions to problems, but they are few.

If I am honest, around page 25 in my paperback version of the book, if it was any author other than Andy Weir, I would have called it quits. Why? Because there is hard science fiction, and then there is rock solid diamond hard science fiction. If you aim for the second but you are only the first, you will have plots and conflicts which demand detailed attention but you won’t give the reader enough detail to join you in the journey. Then what is left is silly, or trite or just so fantastical as to not be believable. I trusted him to deliver something hard enough, and he did.

Andy Weird pulls off the hard, hard science fiction, not flawlessly, but very, very well.

The main character makes a few mistakes that I don’t believe a trained astronaut would make, but the book makes clear he isn’t one, he’s just our best shot. I think the final twist was somewhat predictable. Not what it was, but that it had to happen. I was at 90 % waiting for the shoe to drop, knowing it had to, and then it landed.  

There is in my opinion one glaring error scientifically which is never brought up or addressed, but again, I am okay with that. Because the book is fun. You want to know what happens, and how the problems get solved.

MAJOR spoilers begin here.

The book is also a rare example if a nearly 100 % conflict based in humanity versus nature. I call this a major spoiler because I spent the entire book waiting for there to be conflict between some of the characters, but it blessedly never happened. He stuck to his guns and kept this a Person Vs. Nature conflict.

While there are characters in the book who don’t agree, or get along in all cases, the true conflicts of the book feel solved by cooperation and “We have to get this done,” attitude. It was frankly very refreshing to know that there is an author who believes humanity can come together to solve its problems with the collective abilities and knowledge of our species.

For me, it didn’t make the book simple, it made the book more fun.

Overall, Project Hail Mary lands a strong should read recommendation. 4.3/5.0.

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Rated 4 out of 5 stars.

This is a great analysis. I wish you also mentioned how it made you feel. Does this epically hard science book not deserve more than "fun?"

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