Book Review: Project Hail Mary

Carolyn Chen, Staff Writer

How much would it take for you to volunteer for a one-way ticket to space? Seeing stars? Aliens? Maybe even an entire new solar system? It sounds great in theory, but not many would take the chance even if it were offered to them on a golden platter. So, when science teacher Ryland Grace wakes up without his memories on Spaceship Hail Mary, his determination and character are tested by a reluctant truth: Grace is the last hope for humanity, and his mission is not one he will return from.

Through the beginning of the book, Grace and the reader slowly begin to grasp the danger behind Grace’s mission. Back on Earth, a lifeform alien to Earth began to feed on the energy produced by the sun at alarming rates. It was estimated that humans only had a few decades left before the sun would eventually run out of energy and the entire solar system would freeze over. That is where Ryland Grace and the “crew” of Project Hail Mary come in.

This reality, constantly repeated throughout the beginning and rest of the book, gives the entire story a sense of urgency. It is unclear just how long Grace’s mission will take, nor how long he has left. Even with Grace’s light-hearted, playful nature, the undeniable fear of the unknown keeps the tension of the book riding high even throughout its 476 pages.

With the truth of Grace’s mission left looming, the reader is distracted by complex formulas and systems that explore the mystic nature of travelling through space with humanity’s greatest scientific technology. The reader learns about aerospace engineering, astronaut training, and even language studies all within the encroaching threat of worldwide extinction.

What truly makes Project Hail Mary shine is Andy Weir’s grasp of character and how he manages to develop most of the main cast of the story through only flashbacks. For example, Eva Stratt, the main foil to Grace, is a cold-hearted, driven, and confident woman that does not hesitate to blow up the arctic ice caps to get a few more years of warmth for Earth. Despite her nature and demeanor, however, Stratt never becomes a true “villain” throughout the story. Weir excels at depicting desperation in his characters, and the reactions of not only Grace but also the people around him make for dynamic and interesting characters that sway the reader to root for them.

Overall, Project Hail Mary leaves the reader feeling full. And without delving too deep into the surprises and twists in the story, Project Hail Mary is definitely worth a read.