Review - Project Hail Mary 🧑‍🚀

(This review contains spoilers)

I read most of Hail Mary between the hours of 2am and 9am, having most uncharacteristically woken up in the middle of the night and failed to get back to sleep. I’m not sure if this unusual reading situation made me like the book more or less than I should have, but I did overall like this book and find it entertaining the whole way through its almost 500 pages.

Project Hail Mary is a near-future science fiction story with hard-science aesthetics and aliens. Like The Martian it involves a single male protoganist in a lonely and crazy situation, but it is far, far, far superior to that predecessor book (more on that later).

This was the first Andy Weir book I read, having only sampled his work via the movie adaption of The Martian (which is great.) I did not expect the writing to be good, and it was not good, but passable. I expected the protoganist to have a kind of annoying personality, like The Martian’s Mark Watney did, and Ryland Grace the protagonist did indead have an annoying personality. Finally, I expected the book to spend too much time focused on science-problem exposition and not enough actually telling a compelling story, and its true that much of the book reads like and-this-then-this-then-this puzzle solving. But I still liked the book. Once the endearing and interesting alien comes into the picture, the book balances cool-science-shit against actual drama and is better for it. The genuine enthusiasm that Andy Weir brings to the page is also infectious and applaudable; science is extremely cool and more novels should advance its coolness. By the end, I cared about the fates of each main character and was satisfied with their arc. I also look forward to the movie adaption which apparently has secured Ryan Gosling as lead.

This review is dated Dec’ 2021 because that’s when I finished the book, but I am actually writing this short review in Dec’ 2022, a couple of weeks after I picked up and finished Weir’s first book, The Martian. Holy shit that book sucked. It contains the worst prose and character development that I’ve read in many years. The main character, Watney, is gratingly juvenile and chipper. His dumb wise-cracks wouldn’t be amusing in an actual young adult fiction book about a high school senior, but in a book about an astronaut that is left to die alone on Mars the attitude Weir gives his main character is absurd.

If you’re the kind of person that only reads highly-recommended and awarded books, take a quick dive into The Martian to be reminded what awful writing looks like, and then retreat to Steinbeck or Houellebecq or whatever with a renewed appreciate. The Martian is a 1-star novel, totally rotten, but Project Hail Mary shows Weir has improved as an author, and I’d say it just does enough to certify fresh.