Project Hail Mary is a 2021 science fiction book by renowned author Andy Weir.
I first got to know about author Andy Weir, when in 2015 I watched “The Martian” at the cinema in 3D. It was the most amazing film I’d ever watched. I was so taken aback by the modern day Robinson Crusoe story, the humour, the scenes and all the obstacles Matt Damon had to overcome to get back to Earth.
I then read the novel. Wow! It was even better than the movie. More details, more scenes and more backstory. I knew then that I was a fan.
I then read his next book Artemis. I found it a good read but not in the same league as The Martian. So I had my hopes up for Project Hail Mary – and boy was I not disappointed!
The book starts with our hero, Ryland Grace, waking up from coma to find himself in unfamiliar surroundings. He is in a room with two dead bodies, who we quickly learn are two experienced astronauts. As Ryland’s ability to think and move about returns without his amnesia going away, he discovers that he is in fact on board a spaceship. Shortly after he also learns, that the spaceship is in fact not in our own solar system.
Ryland has to discover, where he is, why he is there, and what to do about it. The success of his mission will determine the fate of our entire solar system, and failure would doom the human race to extinction.
As it turns out, an alien organism is slowly but determinedly eating the Sun, causing it to dim. This will only get worse over the coming years eventually leading to a new ice age. Scientists learn that all other stars in the vicinity of the Sun is also infected expect. However, one of our neighbouring stars, Tau Ceti, is not affected and they send a mission there to figure out why.
The book skips between present day aboard the spaceship Hail Mary and the events leading up to the mission back on Earth. We learn that Ryland Grace isn’t an astronaut, but a high school teacher and scientist who by degrees get dragged in to Project Hail Mary even ending up as part of the three person crew.
Shortly after waking from the coma, Ryland’s ship is approached by an alien spacecraft. And this is where the book takes an imaginative turn. Andy Weir is effectively the Arthur C. Clarke of our day. The alien craft makes contact with Ryland and we learn, that it is there for the same purpose as the Hail Mary. To find out how to stop the organism from eating their star. The alien is described as a five-legged spider the size of a dog, without eyes and communicating through sounds. Having learned to communicate the two team up to find a cure for their respective stars and the story follows their attempts, both successes and failures.
I can highly recommend the audio book. It gives an especially great representation of the alien language, which is somewhat lost on paper. Rumour has it, that a movie is being planned. You can be sure, that I’ll be at the cinema for this one too.