Project Hail Mary
May 9, 2021 9:42 AM - by Weir, Andy - Subscribe

A man wakes up, alone and amnesiac. He gradually remembers that he's on a mission to save humanity.
posted by jessamyn (21 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I thought it was very good, return to the form of The Martian. It's got all the classic Weir virtues and vices. The Space-McGyver problem solving / scientific thinking and strong plotting are good. The main character in many ways feels the same as the narrator from The Martian and Artemis which some won't like but I didn't particularly mind.
posted by atrazine at 1:30 AM on May 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

I just finished it - very quick read. Because I was initially annoyed with how similar the narrator's voice was to the Martian, I mentally gender-swapped both main characters and it worked really well =)
posted by Illusory contour at 7:15 PM on May 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I may be the only nerd on earth who didn’t read The Martian so I’m not qualified to compare and contrast, but I liked this one. It does seem like more or less the same character voice as Mark Watney, but if Weir’s good at it, I can’t complain.

I liked the “someone with an engineering background writes about more speculative parts of speculative fiction,” and without getting into spoilers, the speculative bits are interesting and at least scan as reasonable (and the plotting decisions Weir makes to get us there without needing to come up with full explanations for the speculative bits are reasonable). There was only one bit where the writing leaned into “As you know, Tom...” (people explaining things to other characters so that it can be explained to the audience) to a notable/problematic extent for me (the bit about cosmic rays and radiation). I’m curious if people had feelings about other infodump stuff. It was definitely there but that one felt the most like a scene that existed for the sake of the reader.

The coda at the end made me a bit weepy, and seemed like it was earned, and true to what the characters would do.
posted by Alterscape at 8:09 AM on May 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I loved it. I only had one problem – early on, he senses he was close to the other two passengers on his ship, and has to suppress his grief to be able to proceed. But in the flashback stuff, we never see those bonds develop. The three astronauts were never aboard ship together while conscious, so they don't have that kind of experience as a bond.

We also never find out why the two others died and Ryland Grace didn't. He doesn't need to investigate that question while sciencing the shit out of the main issue, but it would've offered some closure if it was eventually explained.
posted by zadcat at 10:03 AM on May 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah I definitely had some questions about some of the dangling threads including that one, like wasn't he curious? Might figuring out their deaths not be necessary if he had been considering going home at some point? Was the food issue really such a big deal that it would keep him from getting home? Couldn't you maybe fix that with more fuel and a faster transit? I mean I get that he was satisfied with how things worked out in the long run, I just had some questions.

I was pleased that the heroin (Weir seems to not know that there are perfectly legal ways of obtaining heroin if you are in law enforcement - to do drug analysis and have as a control) and the gun did not turn out to be crucial to the plot. I felt it dragged a little bit towards the end when he had the second astrophage crisis before actually getting that sorted because you knew you were near the end and you were kinda like "Cmon cmon how are you going to fix THIS? Because I know you're gonna fix it...."

I’m curious if people had feelings about other infodump stuff.

Yeah I did think that the inclusion of Rocky, while interesting in its own right, was also a bit of an excuse to do a little more "Let me explain these concepts from first principles" and while I didn't mind it, it did feel a bit outside the regular narrative. I appreciated when those explanations were shorter.
posted by jessamyn at 11:30 AM on May 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

I thought Project Hail Mary was basically The Martian v2.0, which is perfectly fine by me. The main character is basically an author stand-in, solving one problem after another like a player in a text adventure. Whether this makes for a great novel is up for debate but I enjoyed another dose.

The addition of Rocky with their magic metal and engineering skills allows for some back and forth. Perhaps a better writer would take the opportunity to use the contrast between the characters to examine the human condition or some such thing, but Weir is uninterested in telling that story which I actually applaud. Weir knows his limitations and plays to his strengths.

I found some of the contrivances a little hard to swallow but the payoff in the form of ridiculously entertaining reveals was well worth it. My favorite being the revelation near the end that Grace was not the willing hero he (and the reader) had assumed.
posted by AndrewStephens at 5:52 AM on May 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

I liked the ending, and thought it was very sweet, which is not usually a word I associate with Weir novels. I was a little frustrated that we never found out what happened on earth, although that was probably the right choice -- not sure Weir could do an apocalypse justice.

I did feel like it slowed down and became Disaster-a-Minute Space Adventures! once they discovered the Taumoeba. It felt a little tedious to me there.

Micro McGee (my Weir-loving child) and I were reading along together but after Rocky got injured, I had to finish really fast b/c I needed to know Rocky would be okay, so I'm a bit in the doghouse with Micro McGee for flexing my adult reading speed and lack of bedtime. But he's about 84% through.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:21 AM on June 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

Felt it was very much the Martian 2.0, and the disaster-a-minute pace the book takes on is also very similar to the Martian. I both love it and am frustrated by it by equal measure. The inclusion of Rocky at least meant there was a means for conversation, character interaction, and having a different skill set. The process created for building the Hail Mary project felt a bit like the Wallgazer process from The Dark Forest.

Would love a sequel that lays out what happens on Earth after the Hail Mary left and the return of the Beatles.
posted by nubs at 9:54 AM on August 13, 2021

I'm surprised we've had so little discussion about this book. Maybe if/when the movie comes out?
posted by zadcat at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2021


Andy Weir, a sci-fi author -- Anakin Skywalker
Mr. Encyclopedia, a book reader -- Padme Amidala


Andy Weir and Mr. Encyclopedia sit to have an idyllic picnic

Andy Weir
So then we discover the alien species has a music-based language.

Mr. Encyclopedia
Oh, I bet the two bond by sharing each culture's music.

Andy Weir gives a knowing smirk.

Mr. Encyclopedia
They bond over music, right?
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:50 PM on August 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

The prose is at a grade-school level, there's hardly a sentence or a description or a feeling that is thought-provoking. It's pretty light on character development, and mostly frustratingly the book was page after endless page of detailed sciencey exposition. Here's how molecules work, here's a calculation I did, here's an engineering thing we did to conduct an experiment.

I saw The Martian, but never read the book, so yeah maybe I should have known to expect this, I dunno. The movie had human elements that engaged me; this book had the bare minimum. I cared, yes, but I was also tearing my hair out over the endless science stuff. It was just so artlessly done that it came to define the reading experience.
posted by stevil at 8:26 AM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I listened to this in audiobook form, which tbh I feel is the ideal way to read Weir's books. The science infodumping and unexciting prose are a lot more bearable with Ray Porter's performance injecting life and personality into them. (Also, a lot easier to kind of gently tune out the more tedious SCIENCE!! in audio form.) Also the audiobook used some neat tricks to render Rocky's dialogue.

Perhaps a better writer would take the opportunity to use the contrast between the characters to examine the human condition or some such thing, but Weir is uninterested in telling that story which I actually applaud. Weir knows his limitations and plays to his strengths.

I very much enjoyed the book, but throughout I was keenly aware of where Weir focused his storytelling attentions and what that revealed about his limitations. I almost wish he had a coauthor or something to punch up the feelings side of things, because the plot here is great and even managed a genuinely surprising reveal/twist with Ryland that gave much more depth to Ryland's character than Watney ever got in The Martian. An author more interested in digging into character and emotions could've wrung a lot of heartbreak and knife-twisting out of the dramatic ironies inherent in the structure, i.e., showing more bonding and friendship between Ryland and the dead crewmembers, deepening the Ryland/Stratt relationship so the betrayal hits even harder, seeding a few more hints about Ryland's flaws and failures.

Also, while I liked the ending, I wish we'd gotten some more resolution on the Stratt front! I loved her character, how competent she was, how driven, and how the exigency that drove her, while noble, led her to do something pretty monstrous to Ryland, even if it was for the good of the species. (Though also, you go Stratt, girlboss the human race into survival! You're doing amazing, sweetie!) I wish we'd had a chance to see Ryland really reckon with what happened between them there, because while I get that he had way more important stuff going on, the emotional resolution was lacking on this front.

Those are all things to address in my probably inevitable Yuletide fic exchange prompts about this book though. As it was, I enjoyed this audiobook a lot, and was really moved by the Ryland and Rocky friendship. Also, in a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Seveneves, only this was significantly more fun and hopeful and had approximately 80% less discussion of orbital dynamics, so I enjoyed it way more.

And in case anyone else failed to catch this groanworthy but delightful implied joke: the ship is called Hail Mary and it was full of Grace.
posted by yasaman at 5:21 PM on March 9, 2022 [6 favorites]

Hugo nomination for Best Novel
posted by Etrigan at 7:06 AM on April 8, 2022

I've read all 3 of Weir's books, and this one was my favourite. Entirely because of Rocky. I enjoyed that he was just smart and competent and loveable without any drama.

I'm not looking for beautiful prose in his stories. I'm not looking for interpersonal conflict.
I'm looking for a series of puzzles that get solved in a way that lets me feel clever-by-proxy for a minute. He does a great job at that!
posted by Acari at 3:17 PM on April 29, 2022

Also, in a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Seveneves

Having one of the science-astronauts be a black man named DuBois was a pretty heavy camera wink at that.
posted by phunniemee at 6:48 PM on May 27, 2022

I just got ahold of this after being on the library's ebook waiting list for several months. Loved it. I will happily read every single 5th grade reading level data dump that Weir churns out. They're fun. And when you're a hard sci fi fan with the attention span of a hamster, there's absolutely nothing better.

Rocky was a delight.
posted by phunniemee at 6:55 PM on May 27, 2022 [5 favorites]

Audiobook was great - hard agree with the text being brought to life by the narrator

. I never thought I'd tear up at this kind of novel but when Rocky and Grace reunited, man........
posted by lalochezia at 6:26 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also loved this as an audiobook, both for how Rocky's dialog was done and that I could coast through the science infodumps.

Somewhere along the way I started calling this "cozy sci-fi", and mean that as a compliment. No big tragedies, no interpersonal betrayals (in present-time at least), and I could tell that basically every problem would be solved. I genuinely enjoy watching Weir's characters solve problems, even if the characters themselves don't offer a lot of emotional complexity. About a third of the way into the book, I spent some time being stressed/anxious that there would be some interpersonal drama between Rocky and Ryland, but that worry eventually faded, and I was able to enjoy everything thoroughly. Well, there were a few times that I called Ryland a dumbass for being slower to reach conclusions that I did, but I don't have a science degree, so I don't really hold those moments against him.

The big missing piece was a conversation about human music! I can imagine that maybe Weir didn't feel he could do it justice or integrate it very well into the larger plot.
posted by itesser at 3:14 PM on June 27, 2023

Worth noting: the audiobook version won "Audiobook of the Year" in 2022. It's really good.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:01 AM on June 28, 2023

I just finished this last night and really enjoyed it. It's funny that the criticisms I've seen are that there is too little character exploration and too much science because that's exactly what I like about the book. I'm not good at all about following feelings, character and emotion in real life so it's very hard in books when it's mostly implied or nuance in a language I don't really speak. This book has comparatively little of that and when it's there it is spelled out clearly for a doofus like me.

The science and problem solving was really fun and didn't seem too impossible for me to enjoy. I am not great at biology so maybe that was laughable to some, but computer technology working like it should is refreshing when so much sci-fi gets tech so wrong. Setting the story in (I think?) roughly present day probably helped that a lot. It was well done, at least to my level of understanding, though probably people smarter than me think it was all goofy. I bought into the science to the point that one line jumped right out at me: Grace mentions that the Hail Mary has "a redundant RAID array." At first I cringed a bit since Weir works hard to get the science right and I was thinking "what does he think the R and A stand for?!" I've come around to wondering if it was intentional. That is a very redundant way to describe a redundant system. If it was meant as a joke it's not bad.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:39 PM on September 7, 2023

He didn't use radio. For better communication and in the event of any sort of events, you should be broadcasting data, and have the ability to talk to Earth. Sure, it will take years for your message to arrive, but it will be full of interesting and useful data. Earth should transmit to the spacecraft for the same reason.

I haven't read The Martian and now I likely will. This was fun to read. There's a solid assumption that dealing with Climate is urgent; I appreciate every form of communication that reinforces this.
posted by theora55 at 1:45 PM on May 24

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