When Ryland Grace wakes up from an induced coma, he has no idea where he is or even who he is. He just knows that the two people with him weren’t so lucky, both are dead in their pods. He doesn’t remember them either, yet. But the grief will come. Slowly, and with the rather annoying ‘help’ of a very basic AI, Grace realises that he has been asleep for a very long time, he is aboard the spaceship Hail Mary and that sun out there isn’t even Earth’s. He remembers his mission – he is the only chance Earth has. Earth’s sun is under attack by small ‘things’ that are consuming its power. In one generation, much of life will be dead. But a seed of hope has been detected here, light years from home and, Ryland Grace, a scientist and school teacher, is going to have to work out how to fix the sun.
How a school teacher ended up in this situation forms half of Project Hail Mary as the chapters flit between Ryland’s current predicament and the months that led up to it – and this means we meet Eva Stratt, my favourite character of the novel. This woman has been tasked with project managing the salvation of Earth. She has absolute authority over everyone on Earth, fully aware that one day, if her project succeeds, she’ll pay for it. Anything she needs, she gets, including Ryland Grace, who seems to have an innate understanding of what he has named Astrophage. I absolutely loved Eva who embodies control while also suffering under its burden. Some odd statements are given to her, though, such as when she says that an ideal crew would comprise ‘all heterosexual males’. Not a particularly useful or helpful statement to present as fact in a novel in this day and age.
There is another amazing character in this novel but I’m not saying a word about them but I really want you to meet them – if you’ve read the book, you’ll know just who I mean!
Ryland Grace is, to all intents and purposes, Mark Watney (of The Martian fame, although there are some interesting aspects to Grace’s character that are slowly revealed which are unlike Watney. But it’s true to say that with Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir has returned to the ‘safe’ territory of The Martian after the disappointment that was Artemis, and that is very good news indeed. Once more we have a practical scientist, out there in a perilous bit of space, who has to science his way out of it, with us egging him on.
The humour is similar to that of The Martian. It can be a bit irritating at times (especially in the audiobook, which is how I read this) but there are some laugh out loud moments, despite the predicament, and I really enjoyed spending time in Ryland Grace’s head. I should mention that the narrator of the audiobook, Ray Porter, is absolutely fantastic.
Then we come to the science itself. I’m pretty sure that 95% of it flew right over my head. There are info dumps and they’re the size of Everest. But it’s that sort of book. They need to be there and it didn’t bother me that I hadn’t a clue what he was going on about. I was there for the story and that I loved. I really enjoyed The Martian and I was thrilled to have more of the same. Andy Weir is so good at it.