Project Hail Mary is a sci-fi novel from the author of The Martian and Artemis. Ryland Grace is a reluctant hero / scientist who wakes up on a spaceship with two other very dead crew members and no memory of who he is or how he got there. It’s a simple premise used time and again in movies, but not so much in novels. As he starts to explore his surroundings, Grace realizes that he is on a mission to save the Earth from an environmental disaster caused by a spacefaring micro-organisms and that he may be the last hope for humanity.

Weir’s writing style as usual is engaging and entertaining, with a mostly good balance between scientific explanations and character development (although I did find myself skipping some of the science waffle toward the end of the book). Much like his previous books, the science behind Project Hail Mary appears to be well-researched and plausible.

Yes, the idea of a single person being the last hope for humanity is a classic sci-fi trope, but Weir puts his own spin on it and makes it feel fresh, especially when help appears from an unexpected source – this is where the book really comes into it’s own and I’m not going to spoil it for any potential readers by telling you about the source of his help. it was a great surprise to me and I really applaud the writer’s imagination.

Caution – this video does contain spoilers

Much like Mark Watney in The Martian, Grace is a likable and relatable protagonist who carries the story well. Grace’s journey of self-discovery, problem solving and scientific discovery is a compelling aspect of the book. As you would expect, the plot has many twists and turns, making it a real page-turner. Just when you think Grace has got a problem licked, something else bites him in the ass.

There is also some measure of emotional depth to the novel perhaps lacking in Weir’s earlier work. The book explores themes of isolation, sacrifice, and friendship and this helps to elevate the book beyond a traditional ‘Major Tom’ sci-fi adventure. If /when it is made into a movie, I will be eager to see it. I thoroughly recommend this book and anticipate that it might make it onto my ‘best books I’ve read in 2023’ list at the end of the year. There’s a long way to go between now and then, but let’s see…