Take a break from Earth with “Project Hail Mary” by Andy Weir

by Heaven Thornton

“When stupid ideas work, they become genius ideas.”

I would like to say that this quote encapsulates the time I spent with Ryland Grace in “Project Hail Mary,” but really, with the sheer amount of scientific information being discussed, maybe that is not really fair. Who am I to know what highly scientific idea is genius or not? The thing is, though, Andy Weir, author of “Project Hail Mary” as well as the well-known novel “The Martian,” discusses hefty, world-building science with such grace that reading it does not feel like a chore at all.

The sheer amount of intricate scientific thought packed into this novel is astonishing in its delivery. Truthfully, it flowed like water accompanied with the suspenseful plot, and I did not feel bogged down at all. “Project Hail Mary” was nothing less than a tumultuous good time.

“Project Hail Mary” follows Ryland Grace as he comes to, disoriented and lacking his memory, in a spacecraft he seems to know nothing about, finding that he is the only crew member left alive.

As readers follow him through his re-acquaintance with consciousness and the hunt for clues as to what he is meant to be doing in space, there is a second storyline that periodically surfaces: the reemergence of Grace’s memories from before. Readers find out alongside Grace just what happened to lead to this grand mission he has found himself a part of, and the truth of it is far more than Grace or the audience likely anticipated.

As Grace regains his memories, he becomes increasingly aware of the project he has been assigned: Earth’s sun is being attacked, and the planet is facing an extinction-level crisis. Without his crew, he alone must construct a plan to investigate this threat and discover how to destroy it, to save Earth and every living thing on it.

This story does not come without its share of plot-twisting thrill and keeps readers energetically traveling along with Grace as he faces his demanding mission.

“Project Hail Mary” has themes of remarkable, heart-touching friendship forged against the odds and wrestles boldly with sacrifice and its ethical ramifications in the worst of times.

I personally really enjoyed getting to see a glimpse into the politics and conducting of people that went into the space mission Grace finds himself upon. Watching the characters from the past wrestle with the implications of their mission and the immense amount of surrender and even suffering they endure, or foretell enduring, was an element that I really valued as a subplot. The crew members who stayed back on Earth embody a character arc of their own as they rise to meet the challenge of saving Earth.

The theme of sacrifice also plays a large part in Grace’s own story – both past and present. His character goes on a wild journey, made even more so by the nature of the past-future point-of-view format of the story. Readers find out about Grace’s decisions on Earth simultaneously with Grace as his memories return, building on his character by the segmented reveal of backstory.

Who is this Ryland Grace and is he someone worthy of saving the planet? At times, it doesn’t quite seem so. Toward the end of the novel, as the pace dramatically picks up, a big revelation is made about Grace, and it suddenly becomes unclear who his next steps will be for the benefit of: space or himself. The dive into human nature that “Project Hail Mary” took on was a much-appreciated element.

I could not manage to put this book down for long, and I was reading it at every possible chance I got. I hope that if you decide to give this one a read, you feel the same. I am not an avid sci-fi reader, but “Project Hail Mary” was a really fun time all around. I think readers of almost all tastes can find something to love in this one.

PS: If you do decide to give this book a try, I HIGHLY recommend reading it in the audiobook format. I found it integral to the story’s flow.

Heaven with a copy of the audiobook version of “Project Hail Mary.”

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