Publisher: Ballantine Books
Released: May 4, 2021
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.
Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.
All he knows is that he's been asleep for a very, very long time. And he's just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.
His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that's been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it's up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.
And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.
Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian--while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.
My expectations of Project Hail Mary were measured. After all, The Martian is a unique book, and I figured this would be another “good, but not spectacular” book in the vein of Artemis. It wasn’t. Project Hail Mary is another spectacular book. The Martian remains unique because, miraculously, Project Hail Mary is not just spectacular, but unique in its own way.
The book is, on the surface, about a man who wakes up without remembering what has happened to him. Space is involved somehow. That’s all I want to say about what happens. The official synopsis of the book goes into much more detail than this, but I won’t. Having gone into the book completely cold, I really enjoyed the twists from the start which are given away by the synopsis. So if you are fortunate enough not to have read the synopsis yet, continue avoiding it. I won’t give away anything in this review.
There is one very sharp double-edged sword in this book. Quite a bit of the thrill is not just built around science being done (as it was in The Martian), but around how the science itself actually plays out. Everything is meticulously and entertainingly explained, but if anyone were to skim the “this is how stuff works” parts of the book, a lot would be lost. There are plot points, twists, turns, and suspense that all rely on some understanding of how the science behind the premise in this book works. I think the book would be enjoyable regardless, but I think some effort has to be put into following what’s going on for this to be a great book. Some people won’t want that, or won’t like that, which is perfectly fair. But Project Hail Mary does ask you to put some effort into it, and, once you do, you get so much back. It certainly asks for more effort from the reader than The Martian did.
It’s not that the parts that go together to make this book great haven’t been done a thousand times before. Science-heavy sci-fi has, of course, been done. Emotion-driven thrillers are a dime a dozen, but there is something about how Project Hail Mary wraps up those things, with humanity and charm oozing out of every page, that makes it an absolutely brilliant read. This book is just so incredibly likeable in a way which feels magical.
Of course, there are things about the viability of things in Project Hail Mary that one could pick holes in, but there is absolutely no reason to do so, and I can’t see anyone wanting to do so. It’s a great story built on a foundation of science that sounds viable, and there is much less suspending of disbelief than with almost every other book in this genre.
It would be inaccurate to say “if you liked The Martian you will like Project Hail Mary”. Whereas I think The Martian has a near universal appeal, the audience this book appeals to is a little narrower. That said, while I wouldn’t recommend this book as widely, I’d recommend it all the more forcefully. Project Hail Mary is a brilliant book, and I really hope this book becomes as popular as it deserves to become. If the sci part of sci-fi appeals even remotely to you, read it now.