“What’s the cube root of eight?” the computer asks.
“Where am I?” I say again. This time, it’s easier.
“Incorrect. What’s the cube root of eight?”
I take a deep breath and speak slowly. “Two times e to the two-i-pi.”
“Incorrect. What’s the cube root of eight?”
But I wasn’t incorrect. I just wanted to see how smart the computer was. Answer: not very.
– Project Hail Mary, p.5 –
And with that opening, my friends, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to love this book 🥰 I mean, I’ve been spending most of the past week trying to get my computer to calculate things that it doesn’t want to calculate, so I immediately related to this protagonist with a mathematical sense of humor who obviously doesn’t trust his computer’s intelligence. And rightfully so, because even WolframAlpha can tell you that the cube root of eight is the same thing as two times e to the two-i-pi:
Your futuristic software has really got to suck if the free online version of a twenty-first century math program knows more about polar coordinates than your computer does…
But anyway, back to the book: From the very beginning, I was absolutely hooked, and then it just kept getting better! Project Hail Mary has everything I ever could have hoped for in an epic science fiction adventure – lots of math, wacky humor, one of the most adorable friendships I’ve ever read about, an alien threat that could mean the end of life on Earth as we know it – and things I didn’t even dream of asking for, like a bunch of language snippets and music trivia that made my inner nerd dance with joy! It constantly had me at the edge of my
seat bed because I just couldn’t put it down until I knew how it ended. Honestly, guys, I think I might like this one even more than The Martian…
Sure, maybe Project Hail Mary has its flaws. Maybe Andy Weir’s protagonists do always have the same personality. Maybe it’s a teensy bit unrealistic that a middle-school science teacher would be one of the few people chosen for a critical mission that could save the world and also happen to have a nearly encyclopedic memory for scientific facts. Or that a complete non-musician would, within a couple of weeks, be able to learn a language that involves distinguishing chords with perfect pitch abilities that I still haven’t developed after almost two decades of playing the violin and piano. But I don’t care. I LOVE THIS BOOK!! I think it may have snuck its way into my number two spot of the year. (I’m sorry, Project Hail Mary, but The Betrayals is still better.) So obviously, it’s getting all the stars! It just checked all the boxes for me!
SOME GENERAL INFO:
Title: Project Hail Mary
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Count: 476
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
[Is this date a coincidence? 🤔 Thankfully, though, this book has more Star Trek than Star Wars references, which I take to mean that Andy Weir also acknowledges Star Trek‘s vast superiority 😇]
Date Read: July 19, 2021
[Yes, I read this pretty much in one sitting 😅 I told you I couldn’t put the book down, didn’t I?]
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission – and if he fails, humanity and 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, Ryland 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.
If any of this sounded at all interesting to you, I highly recommend you go grab yourself a copy and start reading!
And as for those of you who have already read Project Hail Mary – let’s talk spoilers!! 🤗
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS IN THE NEXT SECTION! IF YOU HAVEN’T READ Project Hail Mary YET AND DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, STOP READING NOW!
First, Rocky!!!! I love Rocky!!! 😍😍😍 My compelling need to talk about him is actually a big reason why I’m writing this review in the first place because, unfortunately, I just don’t see how I can mention him in my wrap-up without spoiling that Project Hail Mary is, first and foremost, a first contact story.
You guys, you have no idea how much I lapped this stuff up! I absolutely loved everything, from learning about Rocky’s physiology – Finally, an alien that isn’t just a human with pointy ears and a weird skin color! – to figuring out how his language worked and how Eridian societies functioned. Seeing Ryland and Rocky get so excited about everything that had to do with the other’s culture and civilization despite their home planets being in mortal danger was the most adorable and relatable thing ever, and of course, I immediately fell for it. Just get two nerds in one room and they’ll be friends for life, no matter where they’re from!
And aahhh, the communication part! I absolutely love how excited both Rocky and Ryland got when they understood something about the other. Like, Rocky being over the moon when he found out Ryland could see light? Or him immediately welcoming Ryland as a friend and asking Ryland to watch him sleep, like his fellow Eridians would do? [Side note to Edward Cullen: Maybe you should check out this planet, it sounds like you might like it…] Or Rocky immediately offering his extra fuel to Ryland and being beyond excited about computers and relativity? It was too cute!! Seeing Rocky and Ryland together honestly gave me hope for humanity’s future. Although Rocky being the sole survivor of his crew was also beyond sad 😭
Also, can I just mention that I love that Andy Weir gave us a plausible explanation as to why humans and Eridians evolved similarly enough to be in the same place at the same time and be able to communicate? Lazily convenient first contact stories are actually one of my biggest science fiction gripes, so I love that Project Hail Mary went into depth and really tried to make Ryland and Rocky’s friendship plausible. All those thoughts on the history of mankind and life in general were fascinating, as was the background we got on the Eridians and their home planet. These aliens were different enough to make them interesting, and backed up so well through scientific arguments that I couldn’t help but feel they were actually real.
In general, I just absolutely love how much science and math were in the book 🤩 I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Andy Weir just knows how to write exactly the sort of science fiction I love to read. Stuff where you can nerd out and convert base six numbers into base ten numbers just for the fun of it or reflect on the number of protons in an iron atom.
I return to the tunnel to tell Rocky all about how smart I am.
He balls a fist at me as I enter. “You left! Bad!“
“I measured the mass! I made a very smart experiment!”
He holds up a string with beads on it. “Twenty-six.”
The beaded string is just like the ones he sent me back when we talked about our atmospheres –
“Oh,” I say. It’s an atom. That’s how he talks about atoms. I count the beads. There are twenty-six in all.
It takes a second to sink in. Then I slap my forehead.
“You are bad.“
It was a fun experiment, but a total waste of time. Rocky was giving me all the information I needed. Or trying to, at least. I know how dense iron is, and I know how to calculate the volume of a sphere. Getting to mass from there is just a little arithmetic.
Project Hail Mary, p. 209-210
And yet, all the science is always relevant to the plot somehow. It is never about info-dumping, but all about making this world Andy Weir created seem real. Even things that we have never seen before, such as Astrophage, have plausible explanations that the characters slowly have to discover through scientific method. And as a STEM-student, I just find that so satisfying!
However, science is never simple. There are always variables you didn’t think about and problems you run into along the way that you never even considered. There’s a reason why writing my thesis is so frustrating: When something finally works, it usually brings with it a whole lot of new problems that will require even more thinking. And Andy Weir perfectly captures that. Oh, you finally bred Taumoeba that are resistant to high levels of nitrogen? Well, too bad they also happened to evolve into something that can permeate your xenonite containers! These kinds of things made Project Hail Mary realistic, and it made things exciting. Like Ryland Grace and Rocky, you could only hope for the best and pray that whichever other variables you hadn’t considered wouldn’t have too drastic of an impact. Although when they did, the suspense was off the charts!
There was no pronunciation or inflection of the sounds. Just notes. Like whale song. Except not quite like whale song, because there were several at once. Whale chords, I guess. And he was responding to me.Project Hail Mary, p. 178
In addition to the math and science, though, Project Hail Mary also included my other big obsession: LANGUAGES!!! I mean, first, there are a whole bunch of snippets in different human languages, and I was in seventh heaven because out of the three that cropped up most often in the book, I speak two! So the whole time, I was reading all of these Russian and German bits and super excited about all the Easter eggs I was getting. Did I mention I love when books just include stuff in other languages without providing translations? 🥰🥰🥰 It is the best type of riddle ever! Unfortunately, though, I don’t speak Chinese and don’t know how to type the characters into my phone, either, so I had to rely on Google Translate’s picture recognition function to see what the Chinese bits meant 😅
Like, apparently, the end of this note on p. 92 says something along the lines of “Please take me to the official meeting room on the deck,” but how do I know for sure? Google Translate isn’t always the most trustworthy… So yeah, if any of you happen to speak Chinese and would like to give me a proper translation, go right ahead! 🙃
And then, as if I wasn’t already excited enough about all the real languages in this book, we also got alien first contact!! Oh my gosh, guys! It was so cool! If you know me at all, you’ll know that made-up languages that actually have a real grammatical structure are one of my absolute favorite things to come across in books or movies and TV shows. Both seeing Rocky learn English and Ryland learn Eridian was so cool! Especially the Eridian! I really think I should probably learn a language where pitch plays a major role eventually, seeing how obsessed I was with this one…
(Although I do wish there had been bar lines in the book so that we could also have gotten to see the exact pitch of the notes! And I wanted those chords! Why couldn’t someone have made a special font to accommodate that, huh? 😤)
Oh yeah, and before I forget in all my excitement about math and languages, I suppose the plot was pretty epic, too 😁 I mean, the sun in danger? Two planets in danger of dying out? The stakes are astronomical, the odds incredibly high. And yet, somehow, things work out because countries, different planets even, are able to come together to save one another. Ryland giving up a life on Earth to save the Eridians almost had me tearing up a little. If anything, Andy Weir’s stories are always so hopeful. If we work together, they tell us, we can achieve the impossible. If we encounter one another with trust and not fear, we can have some of the most beautiful friendships imaginable. Because that’s what Project Hail Mary really is. It’s a story about how two wacky scientists from different planets became friends while trying to save their home worlds from destruction. And who wouldn’t want to read about wacky scientist friends?
Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for now… But if any of you want to talk to me about Project Hail Mary in the comments, I won’t promise that there won’t be any more gushing 😁 This book was just so good, you guys! 🥰
(Oh, and also: In case any of you are wondering where I’ve been all week, don’t worry 😅 I currently have loads of exams to grade and loads of thesis to work on, so this semi-presentness will probably last a while… 🙈 It’s not you, I promise!)