Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary
by Andy Weir
Published May 2021 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
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?

My Thoughts:
Andy Weir's written three books and I've read them all. That might seem odd until you think about how few science-fiction books I read. But Weir hooked me with his debut, The Martian, and he gave me more than enough in Artemis to keep me reading his work. 

Weir doesn't need to worry about what I think about this book; it's already a bestseller and is being made into a movie starring Ryan Gosling. But maybe he should because I'm not alone in feeling that this book had so much potential but just missed the mark so many times. 

Perhaps a different editor would have said "hey, this book is 100 pages too long," or "you've got this really sexist stuff in here that won't play well with a good part of your readers" or "there are a couple of gaping holes in this story." Weir's developed a bit of a formula now and part of that requires coming up with a lot of problems that his very clever lead character needs to solve. It seems to mean that some things that shouldn't need to become problems do just so that the lead character can solve them. If you've read or seen The Martian, you'll see the pattern. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the clever character who has to use all of his (or her) wits to survive. And I'm not opposed to reading a whole lot of science stuff to get there. And since I don't know a whole lot about science and this is largely speculative fiction, I don't really care if the science is even right (except that even I know that if you're going to move into zero g, you'd better have your seatbelt on; Ryland Grace doesn't seem to know that). And I enjoyed the back and forth between Ryland trying to survive and Ryland gradually remembering what happened that got him where he is. As much as I liked Ryland (and I did, even when I wanted to slap him for being stupid), he was not my favorite character. Rocky is by far and away my favorite character. Unlike any character I've ever seen in a book, Rocky is an insatiable learner, highly creative and intelligent, a great friend, and surprisingly emotionally sensitive. 

I'm crossing my fingers that when they wrote the screenplay, they winnowed out the parts that didn't make sense or that seemed over the top and left moviegoers with more than enough action and a terrific story. Because there really is a great story here and it did have me racing along, even as I shook my head. Weir has included some things that, literally, made me gasp in surprise and that's always a good thing, right? I Here's where I hope the movie hews to the book - the ending is surprising and unique and I'm afraid that Hollywood will do what Hollywood so often does and ruin the movie by changing the ending. 

In the end, I'm glad I read this one, even as frustrating as I so often found it. 


  1. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts. I think I will pass on this one. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to force yourself to read a book that needed a better editor.

  2. I've wondered about this book. I, too, loved The Martian but I never got around to reading Artemis. Yours is the first blogger review I've seen of this one. It does sound a bit like a Martian replay but, as a writer, if you've got a winning formula maybe the temptation is to stick with it. I think the sexist stuff would annoy the heck out of me, but then this book would not be unique in that.

    BTW, I found your blog through Diane's Bibliophile By the Sea.

  3. Looking forward to trying the audio this summer. I've read the Martian and seen the movie but, not his second book.

  4. Already optioned for film? I think sometimes when authors have immediate fame in the film industry, subsequent books are often found to be lacking. They start to write for the big screen which is so different than what you or I expect in a book. I thought The Martian was just okay. Because of that I never read Artemis and haven't been all that curious about this one although your review is the first one to point out the flaws. Most rave about it. I appreciate the honest take.