Open, Project Hail Mary spacecraft. A man, clearly a patient of some sort, wakes up in a strange environment consisting of a round room containing three advanced hospital beds, two are occupied, if that is the word, by very dead people – so dead there are no longer any bad odors remaining.
The initial problem is that the man has not only no idea what he is doing there, he can’t even remember his name. Walking, and even sitting up in the hospital bed are the first of many major challenges he will face. The book.
Project Hail Mary
That’s how Project Hail Mary begins and along the way, there are indifferent aliens, billions of them, friendly aliens, far, far fewer of them, and, what else, a threat to all life on earth.
There aren’t a lot of book reviews here but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason to write them or a reason not to read them.
I spent 30 years writing 18,000 articles, columns, and reviews all around the PC industry from Byte to Computer Shopper (remember that 1200-page catalog each month?) but I also read a lot, I mean a lot, like 5,000 volumes, of science fiction.
I even wrote a very short SF story I may decide to include at the end of this review of what I found to be a terrific new science fiction novel.
Those who know me, especially in the science fiction arena will find that meaningful – I think most science fiction has become so depressing, so apocryphal, and so unimaginative that it isn’t worth reading. After Alas Babylon and On the Beach there isn’t much left to say. My book on climate change is not fiction, although it would be great if I am wrong.
Right up front, I was not a fan of Andy Weir – it was probably unfair of me but there are a million books published in English each year, probably more like ten million and it doesn’t take much to get me to reject an author.
I thought The Martian (only the movie, I didn’t read the book, and books are often quite different from the movie) was a waste of video tape – good thing it was probably entirely digital – BTW, I used to be in the Traffic Dept of WGBH TV, the initial PBS station. What we did was mostly ship giant 3-4 inch video tapes with TV shows and concerts from station to station – digital transmission was only possible between Boston and Worcester MA. I mention that because movies seldom go from theater to theater via physical media, they are sent live digitally.
But back to Project Hail Mary and Andy Weir.
Writing a review of a novel is different from every other kind of review because you have to balance telling enough to get people interested but not give away the punchline.
But it isn’t difficult here, I simply began with a description of the first chapter and indicated that it gets better which is difficult since at least to me it is pretty impressive from the first paragraph.
A lot of thought seems to have gone into this book, not just the usual physics and astrophysics, essential for any decent book about space voyages.
In addition to that, there was a lot of brain sweat put in on linguistics, alien contact, alien civilizations, and even human medical knowledge.
I have a strong background in both medicine and physics but the author leads even novice readers through everything step by step.
If you have no knowledge of physics or medicine or science fiction, this still might be a very good introduction to science fiction if you like either mysteries or adventure stories.
There is the nearly essential apocryphal scare which, thankfully, isn’t delved into because the story takes place before any really bad things happen on Earth, followed by a few vivid personalities (most are mere personality sketches) and what I see as unfortunately a very unlikely discarding of national goals and priorities.
Yes, the need to unify the race to face an alien menace is certainly logical and even essential for racial survival, but when has that led politicians to do the right thing? Climate change, WWI, Ukraine?? Heck, the world is now so polluted that no rainwater anywhere on earth, no matter how remote, is safe to drink following the EPA guidelines – that is how badly we have polluted the planet, there are plastics-related chemicals EVERYWHERE!
So, base a book on the ability for every government to almost instantly give up sovereignty and accept a world dictator? An attempt to combine utopia and dystopia in one novel?
It takes a very naïve or very optimistic person to write a book like this where every obstacle is eventually overcome by what can be fairly described perhaps not as an anti-hero but at least a non-hero or forced-hero.
OR, it simply takes a good storyteller such as Andy Weir.
As with any good horror story every seeming climax is immediately followed by yet another catastrophe.
That’s it from me.
Project Hail Mary, buy it, borrow it, listen to an audiobook, I think you will probably enjoy it. The book certainly got the bad taste out of my mouth which was left after watching The Martian. If you found this interesting please share on Twitter and other social media. (If you found it pedantic, annoying, boring, and a waste of time, please tell people on social media since they will probably want to check it out!) Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/John-A.-McCormick/e/B00287RNFS
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