“Project Hail Mary” is about humanity in its many forms, and humanity can be pretty impressive when one thinks about it. Minds working together can overcome obstacles of multitudinous complications. History is filled with exciting moments, and this is the story of one of those. It is a gripping science fiction thriller that will keep any reader turning pages as the clock counts down.
The story unfolds in Dr. Ryland Grace’s first person narrative, a man, alone, with amnesia, and yet a consciousness of language and connections. He talks to himself because there is no one else. The narrative goes back and forth in time as he remembers his past and adjusts to his present. Dr. Grace is a middle school science teacher, and he knows a lot of random facts. That random knowledge is certainly needed to survive perils with students, but little did he know that it would help him in other ways as well.
Readers learn everything we need to know in the order in which we need to know it. What readers really need to know is can earth survive. The sun is infected, and Astrophage is stealing energy; Earth is cooling down. Another ice age type catastrophe is about to begin. The “Project Hail Mary” ship is Earth’s only hope. But is it enough? Will there be time? Dr. Grace alone must “save the universe” and the entire population of Earth. Is he is up to it? Of course, he has wrangled middle school kids, after all. He also knows about Astrophage; it is a living being of a sort. Grace wonders if he will find more of them, intelligent species. What he actually finds is something more astounding that he ever expected.
I am not a regular reader of science fiction novels, so I am not well versed on “space stuff” but “Project Hail Mary” has everything any reader looks for in a great thriller. The characters are compelling, complex and believable even within the context of a very “unusual” situation. The alternating chapters add to the suspense as the two timelines gradually merge. There are unforeseen events along the way, and the ending is a shocking twist but an appropriate one. I received a review copy of “Project Hail Mary” from Andy Weir, Ballantine Books, and Random House Publishing Group.