I got to read an electronic advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. And by that, I mean I got to attend a virtual chat featuring Weir and a couple other authors recently, and was downloading the ARC before he even finished talking (ah, work perks). Anyway, since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
Once again, Andy Weir is here to put the science in science fiction!
In Project Hail Mary, Ryland Grace wakes up on a spaceship. His crewmates are dead. He has no memory of who he is or how he got here. So he has to figure out not only the circumstances that brought him here, but also how he is going to survive being in space on his own. And that’s pretty much all I can say without spoiling major plot developments, so. Moving on.
In my opinion, Artemis, Weir’s previous novel, was a bit of a lackluster sophomore slump. I don’t really remember it, whereas I recall his debut, The Martian, vividly. But fear not, because Weir’s third offering is SO GOOD. He’s back, everyone!
The premise of this—lone astronaut trying to survive against all the odds—is, at first glance, a lot like The Martian. However, there’s a vastly different situation at play here. Not only does Grace have amnesia, but the picture that forms as his memory starts to filter back and he starts to explore the universe outside his spaceship is not what he (or I, for that matter) expected. The obstacles he faces, the existential terror he grapples with, and the stakes he’s up against are all different from Weir’s famous first book.
And in this case, different doesn’t mean bad. Far from it, for me. Watching the slow revelation of what brought Grace here was fascinating, and the various challenges he faces are intense and engaging. The science, always a main element of all Weir’s writing, is just as detailed yet accessible as always. I don’t know how much of it is accurate and how much is stretched for the fiction of it all, but it seems believable to me, and that’s what matters, I think.
And while Grace has to carry most of the story on his shoulders—and does so with humor, heart, and a lot of intelligence—this is not only his story. The other characters such as Stratt, Rocky, Yao, and Ilyukhina are well-written. As a supporting cast, they are wonderful, and flesh out the rest of the story.
I can’t say too much about the plot without giving away huge spoilers, so I’ll just say that this went in directions I couldn’t predict, kept me invested the entire time, surprised me, and delighted me. The pacing is excellent, too. In the end, I can’t decide if I like Project Hail Mary or The Martian more—they’re just different enough to make direct comparisons hard for me. Let’s just say they’re both wonderful!
What I loved most about Project Hail Mary is how it celebrates people’s ingenuity and resourcefulness, as well as explores complex questions of sacrifice and what it means to be humane to people. In the end, this new novel is an amazing sci-fi standalone with great characters, an original plot, well composed action scenes, and an all around awesome space survival story.
Overall rating: 9.4/10
Project Hail Mary will be published on May 4th, 2021!