Project Hail Mary is Andy Weir’s third novel. Weir began writing full time after the large success of his first novel The Martian which was quickly adapted into a movie. He continued pursuing his hobbies of relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight, all of which are incorporated into his novels. However, Project Hail Mary seems to include more science-based fun than The Martian and Artemis put together. This is because the majority of this story’s adventure takes place off planet.
Dr. Ryland Grace is the only survivor of a last-chance mission to save Earth and humanity as a species. However, he does not know this at the start. The book begins with Grace awakening from an induced coma (more plausible than the now generic cryosleep used for long space travel in science fiction), but he awakens with no memory of who he is or where he is. The story is split between him gradually regaining his memories and what is happening with him in real-time as he attempts to solve humanity’s gravest problem.
I really enjoyed this story, as I have enjoyed all of Weir’s works, but I must admit this one didn’t capture my interest as well as his previous books (I was still interested, but not as enraptured). The story takes a little while to really ramp up though I think my biggest issue was the character of Ryland Grace himself. He seems like a very unlikely candidate to be on such a mission. He is a smart guy, probably even more of a science expert than Mark Watney from The Martian, but he is much more…plucky. There are times he acts without the level of concern expected of an astronaut which seems a bit off considering space is extremely dangerous and resources are limited to what is aboard the ship. Also, if he fails the mission then humanity is doomed. The stakes are high and I personally wouldn’t want Ryland Grace as humanity’s last hope. However, this actually does get addressed later in the book and I think the way things play out actually made me warm up to Ryland and better understand how and why he is there. It just takes quite a long time before we get this information, so if you are reading the book and think, as I did, that Ryland is not the best character, then stick it out and see if you change your mind.
This book is somewhat reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey but more entertaining, more realistic, and actually tells a full story without ambiguous events. If you like The Martian or Artemis (which I think is a little underrated) then you will enjoy Project Hail Mary. It comes with all the science-based fun, some of which may go over your head, that is now expected from Weir, and you will likely learn a bit about space and space travel.