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 crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.
And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.
I have vague memories of The Martian. I'm pretty sure I listened to the audiobook and read it before watching the movie, so I don’t think I can blame Matt Damon for my rose-coloured glasses. It may be time, or the fact that there is no favourable movie or actor to compare it to, or maybe the narrative is more heavy-handed this time, but there’s a lazy arrogance so predominant in Project Hail Mary that it should be called American Male in Space.
Dr Grace is so incredibly demonstrative in his emotions that you would expect him to be on the stage, not drifting alone in space with no audience. Every action is so heavy with privilege; it doesn’t matter that he has no memory - it’s clear he’s never struggled a day in his life. He never once questions why he, a high school science teacher, is humanity’s only hope for survival.
The ‘reveal’ that he’s a massive coward who was forced on the ship is the only thing that actually makes sense in this entire book.
I’m not saying you have to have imposter syndrome to be successful; I’m just saying I’ve never met anyone in a STEM field without some level of insecurity. Well, anyone who was a decent human being.
“Amaze is wrong word,” he says. “Amaze is compliment. Better word is ♫♪♫♪.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It is when person not act normal. Danger to self.”
“Ah,” I say, adding the new chord into my language database. “Crazy. My word for that is ‘crazy.’ ”
“Crazy. Humans are crazy.”
Rocky’s introduction to the story almost humanised Dr Grace. Sure, you had to ignore that he named him Rocky rather than let him name himself in English. Or that he almost immediately expected Rocky to follow human protocols while resisting Eridian social or cultural norms. Considering Dr Grace was the science guy, and Rocky seemed to take the role of mechanic and maintenance guy, Rocky came up with a lot more fixes and ideas than Dr Grace did. And he definitely took up less space with pride and posturing when he did something useful. But seeing this weird friendship form between them made Dr Grace seem like he could be more than one-liners and self-indulgence.
Despite Dr Grace’s attempt to drag down the narrative with his personality, I did enjoy the story. I know it wasn’t realistic to have updates about Earth and Erid, but it would have been nice to see how the population was dealing with the climate changes while waiting on information from Hail Mary and Blip-A. For all the details we get about complex science experiments and equations and space travel, the human element is missing a little. The flashbacks were often more interesting than the main story, seeing how Stratt uses her power to pull together what’s needed to save the planet.
I think I’d be scared to go back and reread The Martian now, after how poorly Dr Grace’s character came across in Project Hail Mary. While I enjoyed the story, it took longer than it should have to push past the blatantly American attitude and overtly male privilege that defined so much of Dr Grace’s running commentary. While he is eventually forced to grapple with one aspect of his personality