Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Fiction Review: Project Hail Mary

While we were traveling out to Oklahoma last month, I was reading Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, which turned out to be the perfect immersive, uplifting story for a difficult week. I enjoyed Weir's earlier novels, The Martian and Artemis, but this latest novel absolutely blew me away with its warmth, humor, and emotional depth.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a mission to save the entire Earth and every living thing on it. But he doesn't know that yet ... or even his own name. He awakens in a weird, round room, with his body covered with electrodes and with tubes ... well, everywhere. It's clear he's been in some sort of medical coma, but he feels okay, other than tired and weak. He's in an oval bed attached to the curved wall, and he can see two other similar beds around the room. When he is able to get up and check, though, he discovers that both occupants died a very long time ago and are now just two desiccated mummies. There's a computer with long metal arms that's clearly been caring for him and keeps asking him questions. He can answer many of them, except what his name is. He suddenly flashes back to a very detailed memory, about what is probably a typical day in his normal life, and every detail of a complicated e-mail about astronomy. He even remembers what he was thinking and feeling then, but he still doesn't know who he is or what he's doing here. Over the coming days and weeks, his memory will gradually return, in these kinds of seemingly random, detailed flashes of memory, but it will be quite a while before he can put it all together and remember everything that led up to this moment. Along the way, he will have to deal with some very difficult, sometimes life-threatening challenges--it's a good thing he seems to know a lot about math and science--but also some amazing new experiences that he never could have imagined in his earlier life.

And, that's all I can tell you about this novel--basically what is set up in the first chapter--without spoiling the massive, incredible surprises that Weir has in store for the reader. If you enjoyed The Martian, Project Hail Mary has a similar tone to it, with science sprinkled into a story with life-or-death consequences and a hefty dose of humor. But this wholly unique novel goes to entirely new places and is incredibly moving and heartwarming, too. And while Mark Watney was trying to save his own life (admittedly no small feat), Ryland Grace is responsible for nothing short of the entire human race, its planet, and every living thing on Earth. So, there is plenty of fast-paced tension and suspense in this novel, but it's so much more than that. I'm dying to blurt out what this story is really about, but this original novel is best experienced as the author intended, with both the background story and the current action gradually being revealed as Ryland himself experiences it. Despite Ryland's isolation, it's a story about connection. You will want to read this book with someone else available to you who has already read it (I'm available!), because you will need to talk about it. I had my husband by my side in our hotel room each night, and whenever I laughed out loud or gasped or said, "Oh, my gosh!," he eagerly asked, "What happened? Which part are you reading?" We still repeat some of the funnier, more memorable lines to each other. Since I am unable to tell you about the remarkable things that happen in this story, I will tell you how it made me feel: moved, uplifted, heartened, and gleefully happy. It's got some tough competition, but Project Hail Mary may now be the best book I have read this year ... and maybe a new entry in my ever-changing Top 10 Books of All Time. I never wanted it to end, but the ending was perfect, and I hugged it to my chest when I finished it. Just trust me: Go into it with an open mind and an open heart, and read this book.

476 pages, Ballantine Books

Audible Studios

A movie adaptation is already in the works, with Ryan Gosling cast as Ryland (not the best casting, in my opinion, but I can't wait to see this book come to life on the screen!).

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:

Mount TBR Challenge

Alphabet Soup Challenge - P

Big Book Summer Challenge

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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, from the opening passage of the novel, and/or download it from Audible.


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  1. I LOVED this book! When Rocky (?) and Ryland realized they were the only two left and had both lost everyone I stood up off the couch and was quite emotional that they would be together.

    1. I know!! I loved Rocky!!! It really is so emotional and heartwarming - not at all what you expect when you start the book!