Tuesday 11 January 2022

Review: Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Your friend, question?"

So I saw a physical copy of this book in a Bookstore in Jakarta some times ago. It was the first time I saw it. The book looked thick and heavy. I read the back cover. "... Adventure of a lone astronaut to save the Earth..." or something like that. I was sceptical, so I didn't buy it. Then one day I checked that the (digital) book is on discount, in Amazon. I got it for about 100K. Enough said.

Then I read and read... exhausted, paused for a little while. Then continued reading until I finished it, today (11/01/22). I am speechless. Especially, the end part of the book makes me speechless. My expectation for this book is high, since I read The Martian by the same author. And in short, the book surpassed my own expectation.

At first, I thought that it will be full of scientific mumbo-jumbo and stuff, but turns out it is as good as The Martian or even better than that. The science is (as far as I understand) accurate, the story progression and character development are on-point, the jokes are outstanding (the very special trait of Andy Weir himself), etc.

Speaking of story progression, the first half (or third) of this book seems so slow. Well, the main character got amnesia and was stranded alone in space. He didn't even remember his own name, who he was, where he was, and what he was doing.

The main premise is excellent: Humanity was doomed to destruction. The story was smooth as butter. There was this government agent to deal with the situation, bunch of geniuses that they hired, alot of science and engineering stuffs going on, etc. Just what you would expect for a science-fiction doomsday themed book.

Back to our amnesiac lone astronaut. So his memory slowly returned, he knew who he was, what he was doing, and finally found out where he was. Ryland Grace was his name. He flew to Tau Ceti (about 12 light-year) from Earth to solve the doomsday situation and helped Earth to recover. And the doomsday situation was caused by a microorganism called Astrophage, which got its name for its "star-eating" characteristics. The sun was getting dimmer and dimmer because of them, and life on Earth was predicted to disappear in less than half a century.

All things set.
I stopped reading for a couple weeks when (I don't remember on which chapter) suddenly an alien lifeform emerged. An alien spaceship that Grace called Blip-A appeared. Well, the very premise of this book is about an alien "Astrophage" but I don't know I suddenly found it disturbing that suddenly an alien intelligent life was introduced. I hoped that the book was like The Martian. As scientifically accurate as that. But the alien life kind of made me off.

But then I continued. This is a fiction, after all. It's not a science text book.
Then the story progressed faster and faster little-by-litter, as Grace's memory became clearer. The alien life, that Grace called Rocky was a creature as hard as stone, living in an atmosphere of ammonia with a pressure 20 times of the Earth atmosphere. In short, Rocky was very different from humans in every way.

Grace who struggled to communicate with Rocky then found a way. They shared their languages. Grace said anything in English and pantomime as far as he could, than Rocky will repeat the word in his language. They spent much time learning each other's language and shared their story respectively. It turned out that Rocky's planet, in the 40 Eridani system had the same doomsday situation. So they worked it out together in the Tau Ceti system.

They worked together in Grace's ship (which was called Hail Mary, by the way) and finally found the solution. It was the Astrophage's predator that they found and hoped to be able to solve the doomsday situation in their solar systems, Grace called the organism Taumoeba, because why not. The many weeks that they spent together working on, bonded their friendships stronger and stronger.

The ending (which I say makes me speechless) was really heart-breaking. Rocky and Grace finally waved good bye and went home to their respective planets. Grace to Earth, and Rocky to Erid (the very planet Rocky lives in the Eridian solar system).

In his way to Earth, Grace found out that the Taumoeba would cause trouble to Rocky's ship and Erid would not be saved. So he sent the Beetles (an unmanned system from Hail Mary to send back to Earth about the doomsday solution) back to earth, and flew to find Rocky...

Well, enough to not give too much spoiler. Project Hail Mary is so well-written that you can't just put it down. You would spend all night long, until you grow drowsy and give up. I am not a "hardcore" sci-fi reader but I find Project Hail Mary so enjoyable. Weir's imagination is amazing, and he could translate it into this amazing story. The science stuff is not at all a "mumbo-jumbo" as I first thought (and kind of expected). He really put so much research into it.

"Amaze amaze amaze!"
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Tangerang, 220111
*jazz hands

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