Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Ryland Grace wakes up alone, light years from Earth. He has no memory of how he got there, and his two companions are dead. As his memory slowly returns, he remembers he’s on a mission to save humanity—the sun is fading and triggering an extinction-level event back home, and it’s up to him to stop it. If only he can remember.
I excuse myself for an hour to write some software. I’m not a computer expert, but I know some rudimentary programming.
I think the collection noun for Andy Weir books is a frustration. Because after the incredible The Martian, I was massively disappointed by Artemis, which was basically a white man attempting to write a woman of color and getting female Mark Whatney, and then I was like, okay, Project Hail Mary is getting great buzz, let’s try this. And I got…Mark Whatney Light.
Which would all have been fantastic, except I was hoping for something a little different, not just the same character over and over and over, each version a little more muddied down, a little more obnoxious.
Ryland Grace is basically a watered down version of Mark Whatney, and his voice and personality (or lack thereof—being excited about science! and being a little sarcastic do not a personality make) really dimmed my enthusiasm for this one. He is a very excitable Gary Stu in the trappings of an everyman. And, quite frankly, he just felt really gimmicky and more of the same type of main character Weir has produced.
Plus, the other human characters, particularly those of color, were one-dimensional stereotypes of their cultures, if that. And there was that wonderful conceit of treating Africa like a singular, homogenous country instead of a continent filled with a diverse group of communities, countries, tribes and peoples, all with different values, needs and resource levels.
Sure, there were some great quips. This one, in particular, had me laughing:
So I’m a single man in my thirties, who lives alone in a small apartment, I don’t have any kids, but I like kids a lot. I don’t like where this is going…A X! I’m a X! I remember it now! Oh, thank God. I’m a X.
Those moments were few and far between, as in between Ryland going into flashbacks, he’s getting very, very, very excited about sciencing all of his solutions, complete with lots of exclamation points.
So. Many. Fucking (oops, my bad, I swore, and Ryland Grace rarely swears—it’s always some milquetoast 1950s euphemism). Punctuation Marks.
“Why?!” I demanded. “Why the heck can’t you just be normal, Stratt?! If you want fast military transport, well, okay, but why not just work at an air base or something sane people would do?!”
I lost count at 50 for the double use of ?! used in this book. Don’t get me started on how many fucking exclamation points there were, in places where there does not need to be one (including the doubled question mark and exclamation point). I don’t know if the final book has these, or if the editor did one last run through and toned it the fuck down, but let’s just say that punctuation rarely gets me heated but this abuse was pissing me off. Thankfully, it does settle down towards 75%, but that is…the majority of the book reading about a man who is just so! Excited! About! Everything! And! Is! Just! So! Smart! And! Happy! To! Science! It! Out! With! His! Big! Brain! I really just…could not buy it, even with the half-assed explanations for why Ryland Grace was the Forest Gump (always there in the room where it happens) of Project Hail Mary.
Of course, I’m being incredibly vague here (I even x’d out what Ryland’s job is) I because there are some plot points that really need to be experienced going in knowing just as much (okay, far less, because as an X Ryland knows everrrrrrrrrrrything).
So if I hated the character so fucking much I just spent multiple paragraphs ranting about this, why did I give it two stars instead of one?
Gary Stu aside, this was a fantastic story! Unfortunately, it’s trapped inside poor story telling, with a main character who has the personality of a golden retriever! Enthusiasm and a touch of snark!
With all seriousness, the concept of space algae eating the sun was brilliant, and I adored Rocky. I even enjoyed the sciencing of it all (just not how the sciencing was approached or written, because it felt like Ryland was on the verge of jacking off each time he got near a microscope or did brilliant thinking). Although that ending was obnoxious as hell, but, very fitting for a man like Ryland Grace.
However, this book has a 4.46 rating on Goodreads (pre-release rating), so I highly suspect my opinion will be in the minority.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
Project Hail Mary released May 4, 2021.