Friday 1 July 2022

CBR14 Book 8: "Project Hail Mary" by Andy Weir

Page count: 482 pages
Audio book length: 16 hrs 10 mins
Rating: 4 stars
Official book description:
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission - and if he fails, humanity and the 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 crew-mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he 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. 
First of all, I want to apologise to any and all Cannonball reviewers if I'm in any way repeating things they have already said in their own reviews. I have very deliberately avoided reading them, so my review wouldn't be influenced by them. I would also like to apologise to all of my readers, because I probably don't remember all that much about this book, having finished it in February (a month after it was a book club selection for my fantasy/sci-fi book club - I even skipped the meeting so as not to get spoiled for the ending). 

It's been way too long for me (seven years, in fact) to be able to make accurate comparisons between this book and Andy Weir's first runaway success, The Martian. I would not be surprised to discover that the adaptation rights for this book were sold before the book was even published, as it's also about a wise-cracking astronaut stuck in space, so Ryland Grace and Mark Wattney probably share a lot of similar traits. The situations the two are in are generally pretty different, though, although so as not to spoil too much of the plot of the novel - why is Grace the sole survivor in a small spacecraft? Why is his mission so crucial for the survival of Earth and humanity? Why does he seem to suffer from complete amnesia when he wakes up? All of these questions are a lot more interesting if you discover them as you read.

I listened to the book in audio, and Ray Porter was a really engaging and well-balanced narrator. While Grace is stuck alone on the spaceship, there are a LOT of flashback sequences to before he ended up in space, and in these we encounter a lot of characters of both genders with a number of different accents. I think Porter managed to differentiate between them in a really good way. Later in the book, Porter is also given some rather interesting narration challenges, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book throughout, probably more so than if I'd read it on paper.

My main gripe, which I'm sure others have also mentioned by now, is that the major threat to Earth and humanity requires teamwork on an international and global scale, which sadly the pandemic of recent years has shown is entirely and utterly unrealistic. Were humanity ever faced with the sort of challenges they meet in this book, we would all be doomed, there would be no global coming together to solve a problem. Possibly the rest of the world with the USA opting out, but absolutely nothing like we see in this book. Now, this is a work of fiction, and I can see why Weir didn't want his version of humanity to suck as much as it turns out our real one actually does. But it was sadly rather grating.

Judging a book by its cover: While I'm not sure this cover really conveys most of the feel of this book, it does give the impression that it's a pretty action-packed sci-fi story, which is really all you need. The dramatic image of an astronaut seemingly plummeting through space in free-fall is certainly eye-catching, if possibly a bit misleading.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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