Week Seven: Project Hail Mary

I was looking forward to this with just a hint of trepidation. I loved The Martian so much, and then Artemis was such a disappointment that I thought that maybe Andy was a first-book only sort of guy.

I was so wrong. This book is great. Maybe not quite as good as The Martian, but that’s like saying that Girl with a Pearl Earring isn’t *quite* as good as the Mona Lisa. Both still pretty great.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

I’m going to keep this spoiler-light, and not reveal much about the plot. I will say (because it’s implied in the blurb) that Grace does eventually find help, in the form of Rocky, the oddest little alien you ever did see. And watching these two learn each other’s language made my linguist heart sing. It was perfect.

The book alternates between the present day, in the spaceship, and the past, where we see how Grace found himself in this situation. The scenes set in the past are full of bad guys making bad decisions, but they are so carefully drawn that you realize that they are really doing the best that they can, and that makes them villains to root for. It’s a tricky line to walk, and Weir walks it admirably.

If you have been paying attention, you know that pace is huge for me, and I frequently find that books bog down in the middle as they try to make some sort of arbitrary page count. I don’t always think that the writers have enough actual story to support the length of the book, and that leads to a fair amount of skimming, as I get bored This one held my interest throughout, which is rare. There was a little too much hard scienceing going on in the middle, and that was probably the only thing that I didn’t love about it.

I loved our very, very, very imperfect hero. I loved his new bestie. So much. I was afraid about 60% of the way in that there would be no way to end the story that would satisfy me. I wanted Rocky to save his world, and to get to go home to his mate, but that meant leaving Grace behind, and that caused me a surprising amount of pain. I didn’t really want Grace to go home, but I didn’t want him to die in space, either. All options seemed flawed.

In the end, though, I should have had more faith in Andy. I turned the last page with a goofy grin on my face, then went back to read the last chapter again. And again.

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