Book Reviews

Project Hail Mary

In the new sci-fi novel, humanity manages to save itself not with social revolution but through reason, technology, and innovation.

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Anyone still eager for world-ending drama after the past 18 months of doom, gloom, and death might want to pick up Project Hail Mary. The latest novel from The Martian author Andy Weir (famous for turning a self-published novel into a huge hit, then a huge hit movie) puts readers in the shoes of Ryland Grace, an extremely overqualified middle school teacher who has predictably been called upon to save the world.

The plot treads some pretty familiar sci-fi ground: a mysterious existential threat from space, robots, aliens, and a last-ditch mission to save humanity, all delivered with enough ready-for-cinema twists and turns to keep the reader interested.

Weir, as usual for him, manages to give enough scientific detail to make his futuristic settings feel lived in while not giving so much that a lay reader becomes bored or confused.

The impending global ice age the characters are trying to prevent is a clear stand-in for catastrophic climate change, but the parallels are not heavy-handed. If anything, Weir delivers his climate science fiction with an optimistic, almost Randian twist. Humanity manages to save itself, not with social revolution but through reason, technology, and innovation.

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  1. Yes, saved through “through reason, technology, and innovation”, kind of like the Covid vaccines, but then – spoiler alert – 40% of the population decides it’s a conspiracy and tells our hero to get lost and the world ends.

    Gonna’ be a great movie!

    1. Why do you need another person vaccinated? You believe that low risk category Americans should receive vaccines before high risk category people in other countries?

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    2. Nothing says ‘single-handedly saving humanity’ like failing with anything less than 100% participation of all of humanity. It’s almost like you secretly desire Trump to “lead” you, or someone like him.

    3. Spoiler alert! You have been warned!

      The hero manages to save the world from global catastrophe all without having to involve the insanity known as other people, because the “solution” was not subject to votes or committees or coalitions or factions or social media or other people of any kind. He implemented the “solution” before he ever returned to Earth. It was literally a one man and one alien effort.

    4. Anything with “Hail Mary” in the name has got to be hokey. I mean, if petitionary prayer directly to JHVH-1 doesn’t work, how can intercessory prayer work either?

      You also bring up another great point. If what saves the world has no input or effort from the rabble, then what would they do to the world once it is saved?

      1. The impending global ice age… is a clear stand-in for catastrophic climate change,,, Weir delivers his climate science fiction with an optimistic, almost Randian twist.

        The usual oil patch PR flacks shot the Hail Mary prequel for the Heartland Institute years ago. Here’s the payday cast party :

        https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2015/12/its-christmas-time-in-cite.html

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  3. The sequel will be called Project Mail Harry

    1. Would the XXX parody be called Project Hairy Male?

      1. Project Full of Grace starring Hail Mary and Ryland Grace

    2. Mail Hairy Pothead right on back to Hogwarts! DOWN with witches and warlocks!

  4. The book is pretty good, with a great plot device to develop the main character.

    I had a couple complaints. One was that the tone was a little TOO reminiscent of The Martian.

    The other was a couple big scientific plot holes that remind us the author’s background is physics, not biology. One might be attributed to an editing error with regard to the composition of the atmosphere in the ship. The other was just … dumb.

    And if you read the book, don’t look at the diagram in the front. It ruins a really nice opening chapter that describes how the character explores a new environment. The illustration ruins the big reveal.

    1. what’s the other error?

    2. Yeah, he’s back into his typical “lonely smart guy faces cliff hanger catastophe at the end of every serialized chapter” mode. Still, a rolicking good ride.

      My complaint, which is a common failing in nearly all science fiction, is that the alien, the extremely alien alien, acts like a member of species homo sapiens. Like Hal Clement’s Mesklinites, the alien co-protagonist is basically some human dude in an alien suit. He even manages to crack bad dad jokes once the language barrier gets worked out. Again, nearly all science fiction fails in this regard.

      1. Again, nearly all science fiction fails in this regard.

        I agree it’s a common failing, but not nearly all.

      2. I think he did better than average avoiding “humanizing” the aliens. The improbability of the arrival timing/distance was a much bigger problem for me.

    3. The other was a couple big scientific plot holes that remind us the author’s background is physics, not biology.

      I keep stumbling across this in sci-fi. Factual/scientific errors, frequently that aren’t essential to the plot (with the threats of “space, robots, aliens, and a coming ice age” is the precise composition of a/the atmosphere that critical). I don’t know if it’s an ambition/hubris/Dunning-Kruger on the part of the author or a more systematic issue with ability to access information on the internet.

  5. I’m a sometime half-hearted sci-fi reader and follower of a private email chain for such readers. So I know there’s free ebooks coming up 25 thru 29 Sept here… On Amazon, authors run “ebooks for free” deals at times. “Etza B. Happenin” is running one starting tomorrow, runs for 5 days. FREE ebooks!

    I have actually read Etza B. Happenin’s 3-book series starting with “Graduation Day” here: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B07D2LG3XZ/reasonmagazinea-20/.+Happenin&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Etza+B.+Happenin

    I thought the books were good, but they’re not well known. There are TONS of writers of ebooks out there, and some don’t get read very much. Read the summaries out there for yourselves… No sense in babbling about them here.

    Anyway, FREE ebooks for a while coming up here! Amazon has to have your credit card number as usual, but double-check, the price(s) should be for FREE!

  6. “In the new sci-fi novel, humanity manages to save itself not with social revolution but through reason, technology, and innovation.”

    What about Biden?

    1. “What about Biden?”

      Senile Mackerel Snapper Bad?!? He BAD, all right! He SOOO BAD, He be GOOD! He be GREAT! He “Make America Woke”! MAW! All who are against Senile Mackerel Snapper Bad, are into MAWlessness, chaos, badness, and MAW-breaking! They are out-MAWs! MAKE AMERICA WOKE, I say!!!

      We KNOW He can Make America Woke again, because, as a bad-ass politician, He PUNISHED all of the MAW-breakers! He Hair Smeller-Feller in Chief!

      BACK from Beyond the Beyond, Beyond the Grave, it is the MAGA that Wouldn’t Die! MAGA Part II; Make America GREEN Again! The USA flag will now be… Red, White, and GREEN!

      See https://reason.com/2020/10/16/biden-tries-to-gloss-over-his-long-history-of-supporting-the-drug-war-and-draconian-criminal-penalties/

      All Hail to THE Hair Smeller in Chief!!! His Punishment Boner is BIGGER than ALL the rest of ours, put together!

      Most of all, HAIL the Chief, for having revoked karma! What comes around, will no longer go around!!! We CAN smell ALL of THEIR hair, and they will NEVER think of smelling OUR hair, right back!

      Senile Mackerel Snapper Bad-Ass Hair-Smeller all right!

      Yes, we can! We CAN smell all the hair, all the time, and NONE will be smart enough to EVER smell our hair right back!

      These voters simply cannot or will not recognize the central illusion of politics… You can hair-smell all of the people some of the time, and you can hair-smell some of the people all of the time, but you cannot hair-smell all of the people all of the time! Sooner or later, karma catches up, and the others will hair-smell you right back!

    2. What about Biden?

      Fuck ‘im.

    3. (Fuck Be Unto Him!)

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