July Book Review: 'Project Hail Mary'

Jul 14, 2021

Get ready to cheer for the unlikely hero of the summer – a middle school science teacher. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir, takes its readers on a breathtaking mission with only the fate of humankind in the balance. Cathy Lanigan is here with the review.

This summer, two of businessmen are making their first space voyages. Richard Branson and Elon Musk are not NASA-trained astronauts. The purposes of their separate space travel ventures are motivated more by business development than the advancement of science. But what if the future of life on Earth as we know it depended on their journey? And what if, instead of corporate executives they were 8th grade science teachers?

In Project Hail Mary, his third novel, Weir pulls the reader in with a deftly executed blend of science, humor, humanity, and big ideas, as well as a protagonist you can’t help but root for. A space probe has discovered that a microbe has ‘infected’ our solar system and is leaching the Sun’s energy. If left unchecked, this extraterrestrial “virus” will make the climate on Earth too cold for most life to survive. Ryland Grace, a middle school science teacher, soon realizes that the collective governments of the entire world need him to be the science expert on the suicidal mission to stop the microbe. By turns witty, smart, exhausting and thrilling, the story of his adventure is breathtaking.

As in Weir’s previous novels, nothing comes easily.

But it is the dogged commitment to problem solving that is the heart of this story. When one system fails, find a solution. An experiment fails so engineer a work-around. It is hopeful. It is energizing. It has the reader both holding his breath and cheering.

Part buddy comedy, part science fiction fantasy, part road trip adventure, this story picks you up and carries you away.

At 476 pages, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is more than a page-turning thrill ride. It is a thought-provoking, smart, funny work of absorbing entertainment that had this reviewer up all night to finish because it is un-put-down-able. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir is available today at your local libraries.

For KPCW, this is Cathy Lanigan.