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476 pages, Hardcover
First published May 4, 2021
“I’d have to do the math to know for sure but — I can’t help it, I want to do the math right now.”This book is half science experiments, half wacky buddy comedy — and it just works so so so well! That nerdy glee I felt on every page of The Martian is back full force. By golly*, I am so gosh-darn* happy right now. Geez and fudge and Holy Moly!*. (Yeah, this book’s protagonist tends to sound like he’s 85 — he’s just not a foul-mouthed sort of a scientist):
“The whole world put you in charge of solving this problem, and you came directly to a junior high school science teacher?”In The Martian, Mark Watney woke up with an antenna sticking out of his chest and realized he had to science the shit out of it if he wanted to survive on Mars. In Project Hail Mary, Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma with a bunch of tubes sticking out of him (including that spot where the sun don’t shine) and realizes that he has no memory of what happened — and eventually, through a bit of complicated science, realizes and remembers that he’s the sole survivor of a mission that’s the last ditch chance to save Earth from a star-eating microbe (“Evolution can be insanely effective when you leave it alone for a few billion years.”). For life that needs the output of the Sun it’s not good news. And yes, he also will need to science the shit out of it.
“How did you do it? What killed it?”
“I penetrated the outer cell membrane with a nanosyringe.”
“You poked it with a stick?”
“No!” I said. “Well. Yes. But it was a scientific poke with a very scientific stick.”
“The largest nuclear reactor on Earth makes about eight gigawatts. It would take that reactor two million years to create that much energy.”How can you not love a book that shows such resourcefulness and competence in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? Done with overexcited enthusiasm in the most endearing way, full of sarcastic self-deprecation and humor as coping mechanism, and teaching us science the same way as a very good junior high science teacher may explain concepts to a group of overexcitable preteens. And you betcha that Weir shows his work, and even those not well-versed in science should be able to get it as he really makes it very accessible and non-daunting.
“No, that’s not creepy at all. Being in a spaceship twelve light-years from home and having someone knock on the door is totally normal.”
“I don’t want to look dumb in front of the .
Because they’re surely watching me right now. Probably counting my limbs, noting my size, figuring out what part they should eat first, whatever.”
“Humanity’s first miscommunication with . Glad I could be a part of it.”
“What I’m really looking for is something like “Information” or “Here to save humanity? Press this button to learn more!”
“I decide on a more tactile approach: I’m gonna start pushing buttons!
Hopefully there’s no “Blow Up the Ship” button.”
“But there’s no reason aliens would follow the righty-tighty-lefty-loosey rule, is there?”
“Oh thank God. I can’t imagine explaining “sleep” to someone who had never heard of it. Hey, I’m going to fall unconscious and hallucinate for a while. By the way, I spend a third of my time doing this. And if I can’t do it for a while, I go insane and eventually die. No need for concern.”
I think my job is to solve the Petrova problem.
…in a small lab, wearing a bedsheet toga, with no idea who I am, and no help other than a mindless computer and two mummified roommates.
"I penetrated the outer cell membrane with a nanosyringe."
"You poked it with a stick?"
"No!" I said. "Well. Yes. But it was a scientific poke with a very scientific stick”
“I’m a scientist! Now we’re getting somewhere! Time for me to use science. All right, genius brain: come up with something! …I’m hungry. ”
“Well, you’re not alone anymore, buddy,” I say. “Neither of us are.”
"Another similarity you and me both willing to die for our people. Why? Evolution hates death."
"It's good for the species, I said. "Self -sacrifice instincts makes the species as a whole more likely to continue."
"Intelligence evolves to gives us an advantage over the other animals on our planet. But evolution is lazy. Once a problem is solved, the trait stops evolving."
“I've gone from "sole-surviving space explorer" to "guy with a wacky new roommate." It'll be interesting to see how this plays out”
“That would mean ice age, like right away an instant ice age.”
“Astrophage, the word alone makes my muscles clinge up, a chilling terror that hits like a lead weight.”
“A teeny tiny thrust on a teeny tiny mass can be an effective mode of propulsion”
“Human beings have a remarkable ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal.”
“My subconscious mind has priorities and it is definitely telling me about this.”
“It’s a weird feeling, scientific breakthroughs.”
“Stupid humanity. Getting in the way of my hobbies.”
“Sometimes, the stuff we all hate ends up being the only way to do things.”
“I feel like Sherlock Holmes. All I saw was “nothing,” and I draw a bunch of conclusions! Conclusions that are wildly speculative and with nothing to prove them, but conclusions!”
“Human suffering is often an abstract concept to kids. But animal suffering is something else entirely.”
“Maybe it’s just the childish optimist in me, but humanity can be pretty impressive when we put our minds to it.”
You couldn't have prised this out of my hands initially.
However, somewhere at the 60% region, it got bogged down by too many flash-fires while our protagonist, Ryland Grace, the ultimate Gary Sue and the purveyor of all things Space/Biology/Physics/Chemistry/Engineering/Math/Music/Language/Etc, got progressively more facetious and irritating.
Like a modern-day John McClane (but in space) and with astrophage as the villain. The bumbling White guy who we all know will save the day. He even saved the aliens. Imagine that?
The only good thing about this book is Rocky the Eridian.
Thirty years. I looked out at their little faces. In thirty years they’d all be in their early forties. They would bear the brunt of it all. And it wouldn’t be easy. These kids were going to grow up in an idyllic world and be thrown into an apocalyptic nightmare.--------------------------------------
They were the generation that would experience the Sixth Extinction Event.
Knock-knock-knock.At least Mark Watney was in the same solar system. At least Mark Watney had a rescue ship that might, at least, have been on the way. At least the sun that was shining down on Watney’s potato garden was not being nibbled to bits by some intergalactic pestilence. At least life on Mark Watney’s home planet was not looking at an expiration date measured in decades. Pretty cushy situation next to the one in which our astronaut finds himself in this story. At least Mark Watney knew who he was.
No, that’s not creepy at all. Being in a spaceship twelve light-years from home and having someone knock on the door is totally normal.
I slide one leg off over the edge of my bed, which makes it wobble. The robot arms rush toward me. I flinch, but they stop short and hover nearby. I think they’re ready to grab me if I fall.The astronaut struggles to find out not only who he is, but where he is, and how he got there. Part of that is a running joke in which he makes up names to tell the computer. It’s pretty adorable. After working on a pendulum to help with an experiment, for example, he answers the computer with I am Pendulus the philosopher. Incorrect. He does, eventually, remember his name.
“Full-body motion detected,” the computer says. “What’s your name?”
“Pfft, seriously?” I ask.
“Incorrect. Attempt number two: What’s your name?”
I open my mouth to answer.
“Incorrect. Attempt number three: What’s your name?”
Only now does it occur to me: I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I do. I don’t remember anything at all.
“Um,” I say.
A wave of fatigue grips me. It’s kind of pleasant, actually. The computer must have sedated me through the IV line.
“…waaaait…” I mumble.
The robot arms lay me gently back down to the bed.
It’s caused a lot of headaches with the translators. Nobody outside the U.S. knows this phrase. Even English-speaking countries like the U.K. don't have that expression. In most of the language translations, they're changing the title. In one of them it’s just called The Astronaut or something like that. - from the GR interviewIn Andy Weir’s latest novel, the survival of life on planet Earth, and whatever other life might be swimming, flying, creeping, or otherwise meandering about in our solar system, is imperiled by an invasive species. (Not really a spoiler, more of an aside. The nasty little buggers have a talent for converting energy to mass and mass to energy. Their little eyes (if they had eyes) light up in the presence of an active power source the way some of us feel compelled by the sight of pastries in a shop window. Which would make our sun a doughnut shop with a few quadrillion hungry customers beating down the door. Not a wonderful situation for the shop. A more apt, if somewhat less entertaining image, is that of a vast swarm of locusts denuding a landscape.
Ryland Grace was my first attempt to make a protagonist not to be based on me. He's a unique character I'm creating from whole cloth, and so I'm not limited by my own personality or experiences. - from the GR interviewI am not sure he has succeeded. The special energy that powered astronaut Watney was a combination of superior technical skills, a wonderful, wise-ass sense of humor, a can-do attitude, and a deeply ingrained optimism. Mark Watney could have been on the Hail Mary in place of Ryland Grace and I am not sure most of us would have noticed, well, except for a couple of personal downsides. The sense of humor is pretty much the same. Ditto for the technical talent and scientific problem-solving predisposition. He may be a tick down from Watney on the optimism chart, but you will get the same satisfaction from watching Grace as you did his Martian predecessor. But while Weir’s character development skills might still be…um…under development, his story-telling skills remain excellent.
I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition. - from the Publishers Weekly interviewThe other is the history of how he came to be there. This will also remind one of the back and forth of the on-Mars and Earth-politics alternating streams of Weir’s mega best seller.
After The Martian, I had this idea for this massive space epic—a traditional sci-fi pilot with aliens, faster-than-light travel, and telepathy and a war and, yeah, a ten-book series and everything. I worked on it for about a year; it was going to be called Zhek. I got 70,000 words in, and…I realized that it sucked…But there are a few nuggets in Zhek that were solid. There was one interesting character who was this absolutely no-nonsense woman with a ruthless drive to get what she needs to get done and a tremendous amount of secret authority. And she became Stratt in Project Hail Mary. The other thing is, in Zhek there was this substance called black matter, which was a technology invented by aliens that would absorb all electromagnetic waves, all light, and turn it into mass and then turn it back into light…if humanity got ahold of some of that, it would be neat, but it would suck if we accidentally let any of that get into the sun—that would be a disaster. I'm like, “Wait a minute, that would be a disaster! That's where books come from!” - from the Goodreads interviewAnd divorce lawyer billables. Love his evident excitement at this EUREKA moment. There is a decided innocence to it, and a natural-born optimist’s way of seeing the bright side of life, a characteristic with which Weir very successfully endows his leads, well, some of them anyway.
Science teachers know a lot of random facts.
In case you don’t know the premise, some alien microorganisms (astrophage) are eating the sun’s energy simply put which will make Earth colder and lead to another ice age. The 8th-grade teacher is a scientist who finds himself involved in researching this phenomenon and later he wakes up on a suicide mission to find a way to kill those astrophage and basically save Earth.
Well, credits where it’s due, this book required tons of research and it showed that Weir did his homework and then some more. He tried to explain everything using our laws of physics which was nice and interesting to read about.
I found this book -other than the science- smooth and easy to follow, sure it started slow but I liked being in Ryland Grace’s head and wasn’t bored by it. The book is told following two timelines, Ryland in space and the other whole Astrophage discovery and planning to save Earth preparing for project Hail Mary.
Okay, so why not 4 stars? Well, I had a "few" issues with this book.
✲ It was too similar to the Martian in the concept of “man alone in space doing some crazy shit” although I didn’t mind this while reading, I also can’t not mention it
✲ Grace’s voice was also too similar to Watney’s (I loved that guy) so I’m not sure how to feel about that. While it made the book easier to read, I certainly had some question marks about it. Like why not come up with a new characterization?
✲The science. Ok look, it was cool and I was very interested in it at first. Then it got technical. So much more technical. Needlessly so. I don’t know about footnotes in novels but maybe the overdone details could’ve been added as footnotes or something for those who’d like to read more about it? An external link for those interested?
✲ To borrow Hamad’s word, the characters were comical. They sometimes had a trait and their characterization was focused on that trait, especially Russians. They are always portrayed as stern by American authors, how cliché. Let’s make them the life of the party with their vodka!!!
✲ I hope this will be edited in the final version but oh, we had so many exclamation marks. Even I know enough to realize that the fewer exclamation marks used the better and this book had soo many while they simply could’ve been a period.
✲ For such a book that is based on logic, some things certainly didn’t reflect that. When Grace wakes up he has lost his memory, not technical knowledge just personal identity. So he’s trying to figure out where he’s from. He thinks of every way to figure that out and ohh he doesn’t think metric (also he’s such a cool American scientist!!! Thinks in metric too!). Can’t he speak and he’ll figure it out from his accent? British and American accents are pretty different for example. I’m no native English speaker and I still can distinguish lots of different accents.. his solution to where he's from is pretty simple but no we had to show how smart we are. Also, why would a Canadian know the distance between NY and LA? Why would anyone non-American know?
Another stupid thing was that he’s touching an alien object, he doesn’t wear gloves no. He ends up burning his hands but I found it pretty stupid to touch an alien object without gloves and without making sure that its surface is not poisonous or harmful to human skin…
✲ Stratt who is basically leading the whole project of saving Earth hasn’t studied ANYTHING to do with science and has people to tell her if this is the right choice or not scientifically.. she was dismissing the very helpful idea of someone if that person didn’t repeatedly demand her attention.
✲ The thing that I found hard to believe is how someone with a doctoral degree is teaching science to 8 grade. I would’ve been fine (but not really) if Grace had been a high school teacher. But middle grade with such a vast knowledge? Oh please. He also apparently has more knowledge than no other 37 years old has. He just knows a lot about everything scientific even if he didn’t do any research in years, even if he hasn’t majored in more than one scientific field, well, biology? Physics? Computer science? You name it. our guy knows about it.
I preferred honestly the present, past perspectives rarely interest me and this book was no exception. Sure I want to know how he got there.. but not in such detail. I just wanted to see how he’ll solve things. I understand however that this was needed in a way to make the book less Ryland heavy. I also liked the ending part.
Overall this book was fun even it got carried away with the scientific details. However, that’s about it, enjoyable. It lacked depth and fleshed-out characters. I would recommend it to Weir’s fans but if you haven’t read any of his books yet, then you should definitely start with the Martian, which I loved even if sci-fi is not my thing. I think it's gonna be liked by many people however and it'll be more successful for sure than Artemis because it's such an entertaining book! Also, it's certainly winning GR's best sci-fi for 2021.
Thanks to publishers and Netgalley for sending me an e-arc of this book
Oh my God, I am so going to die!Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for sending me an ARC of Project Hail Mary in exchange for an honest review.
I hyperventilate for a while.
I remember what I tell my students: If you’re upset, take a deep breath, let it out, and count to ten. It dramatically reduced the number of tantrums in my classroom.
I take a breath. “One . . . two . . . thr—this isn’t working! I’m going to die!”
Maybe it’s just the childish optimist in me, but humanity can be pretty impressive when we put our minds to it.