Project Hail Mary
By Andy Weir
Andy Weir had a breakout with his 2011 novel The Martian, an initially self-published hit that went on to become a bestseller and a blockbuster movie. While his next book, Artemis, was well-received it didn’t enjoy the same success with fans, who may have been primed to expect more of what made The Martian so popular.
If that is what they wanted, they get it in double doses with Project Hail Mary.
Once again we have a jocular nerd as hero, stuck on his own in deep space. This time he’s Ryland Grace, a rebel scientist who left the world of academia to teach junior high school but who is pulled from the classroom and sent on a mission to save the Earth from a recently-discovered space algae dubbed the Astrophage that is literally eating our sun.
The fact that Grace is a science teacher, and begins the book having lost his memory, lets Weir feed us the story in a way that’s easy to follow as we learn along with him, solving various problems and overcoming obstacles as though they’re levels on a video game. It’s a bit artificial, as is the cutting back and forth between the events Grace remembers from his life on Earth and what’s happening now on board the spaceship (which he shares with an alien he calls Rocky), but once you get started it’s a hard book to put down. And even educational.