Medium: Kindle (ARC)
Overview (No Spoilers):
First off, I would be remiss not to ponder if the release date for for Weir’s Project Hail Mary was deliberately set for May 4th, the unofficial nerd holiday. It seems like too much of a coincidence to not be on purpose.
Weir’s debut novel, The Martian was actually The Critiquing Chemist’s first book review ever and was one of my go to book recommendations for years. I loved Weir’s story from beginning to end, especially the multitalented Mark Watney and his colorful vocabulary. Due to Weir’s follow up novel, Artemis, being another adventure taking place beyond earth’s atmosphere, it shouldn’t be no surprise that his third novel is also set in space. That said, in his new story Weir takes us far, far beyond the borders of our own solar system in a whole new level of exploration. Forgive me for being vague but I don’t want to spoil anything of this delightful space odyssey for you.
Project Hail Mary follows the story of Ryland Grace, whose uncanny ability to science his way out of any situation, regardless of the specialization required made it easy to draw parallels to The Martian‘s Watney, despite their relatively different personalities. Grace embodies all of the characteristics of your favorite high school science teacher. This read as a whole had me hooked from about the third page on, and I couldn’t stop talking about what was happening in the novel, whether it was to my coworkers or family members. I think I even talked to one of the workers behind the meat counter at my local grocery story about Project Hail Mary. The overall premise was quite unique and constantly keeps the reader guessing as to how Grace ended up in this predicament, which is even footing with our memory starved scientist. Grace and the reader are both held in the dark, with the suspense mounting as his memories slowly return through cleverly triggered flashbacks. Following the pacing that harkens back to The Martian, Grace finds himself in situation after situation where he must somehow science his way to safety. Additionally, Weir has several key plot twists in store for the reader that will keep them on their toes and ever guessing as to what surprise he has in store next. There is a short section approximately three fourths of the way through Project Hail Mary that was rather plodding, but ultimately set up the unexpected grand finale.
Project Hail Mary does fall quite heavily into the realm and terminology of science, but the analytical chemist in me was reveling at Weir’s masterful writing style as he manages to convey complex scientific experiments, while utilizing and describing the use of general equations in applicable situations that any reader could understand, without taking away from the suspense of the story. Perhaps I need him to edit my next research paper. I did have a debate with my fellow scientific boffins on the use of an x-ray spectrometer that somehow switches a few pages later to an atomic spectrometer, where both instruments were properly described, just somehow merged. Atomic spectroscopy likely wouldn’t have been utilized in this situation as it would destroy the very precious, limited sample. Regardless, I’m curious if this science heavy material will cause people to lose interest, though this same terminology didn’t deter readers from falling in love with The Martian.
Overall, I couldn’t put down Project Hail Mary, finding that I thoroughly enjoyed the delightful mystery surrounding Weir’s new space adventure, along with his uncanny ability to take complex scientific concepts and eloquently merge them seamlessly into a natural situations.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- We found out at the end of the book that Earth survived. How bad did it get on Earth before the beetles made it back? Grace left them a record but do they know if he survived? Can Rocky help him send a message home?
- Was there any way that Grace’s crewmates that could have lived? How would the mission have turned out differently had they survived?
- Were the crewmates suspicious at all that Grace had been isolated completely before the launch?
- How would Grace’s wake-up had differed if his memory hadn’t been compromised?
- What happened to Stratt after the launch? Did everyone turn against her?
- How would the mission had been different if the two scientists that had trained for the mission not been killed in the lab explosion?
- What did Grace’s students think of him going on the mission?
- I may have physically cringed when Rocky resembled a spider. I loved Weir’s take on Rocky’s physical properties and how they differ from humans on a scientific and developmental level. Though, I did find it rather too convenient how many times xenonite was the miracle answer to an issue.
Servos: a power-driven mechanism that supplements a primary control operated by a comparatively feeble force
Gimbals: a device that permits a body to incline freely in any direction or suspends it so that it will remain level when its support is tipped
Apogee: the point in the orbit of an object (such as a satellite) orbiting the earth that is at the greatest distance from the center of the earth
Esoteric: requiring or exhibiting knowledge that is restricted to a small group
Scads: a large number or quantity —usually used in plural
Panspermia: a theory propounded in the 19th century in opposition to the theory of spontaneous generation and holding that reproductive bodies of living organisms exist throughout the universe and develop wherever the environment is favorable
Ameliorating: to make better or more tolerable
Kludge: a haphazard or makeshift solution to a problem and especially to a computer or programming problem
Collet: a metal band, collar, ferrule, or flange: such as a casing or socket for holding a tool (such as a drill bit)
Reprobates: an unprincipled or depraved person :
Truncated: cut short