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 (10 comments total) 3 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 [3 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 [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 [1 favorite]


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


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 [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 [1 favorite]


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 [3 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


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


DRAMATIS PERSONAE

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

ACT 1, SCENE 1

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 [1 favorite]


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