Project Hail Mary: Satisfying Space Sci-Fi


We wake up with our narrator on a space ship, he doesn’t remember who he is or why he’s there and the rest of his crew are dead. An amazing premise for a novel followed by equally amazing delivery–a must-read if you’re looking for high stakes, top-notch sci-fi.

If you are at all geeked out by the plot, you will also be thrilled to see Astronaut Kayla Barron reading Project Hail Mary on the ISS:

Spoiler-Free Summary

You may already be familiar with Andy Weir’s previous work, The Martian, which was adapted into a movie starring Matt Damon. If so, then you already know Weir’s schtick – optimistic sci-fi, heavy on the “sci”, and always rewarding.

Weir is part of a group of sci-fi writers whose optimistic view of technology and the future truly guides their story-telling and sets them apart. Ted Chiang’s sci-fi is also overwhelmingly optimistic, casting aside the strappings of gritty fascist dystopias full of angsty teenagers, and instead envisioning a better future. And a better future, as Weir argues, is not as unlikely as popular pessimistic views may lead you to believe. Weir points out, pick any year and then ask yourself if you would choose to live in that year or one hundred years earlier. His point: the world gets better and better. From reading Weir and Chiang, I have learned that sci-fi doesn’t always have to be a cautionary warning about mistakes we can make, but a view into good choices we can make, as well.

Ryan Gosling is attached the movie adaptation for Project Hail Mary—can’t wait for it!!

Spoilers Ahead…

Weir’s main character, Ryland Grace, is imperfect—he does not willingly risk his life to save the world, he is forced into it. We always celebrate flawed characters at Books & Bordeaux. But what I truly enjoyed about Grace was his dedication to his students. Even when he is afraid or uncertain, it’s his students that motivate him find solutions because he wants to make a future for them. Our society does not always make space for men to cultivate their nurturing side, but men are our fathers, our teachers, our coaches, our partners. We should celebrate men who choose to nurture and teach—as Ryland Grace chose teaching over a chance at life back on Earth. I have to elevate this part of the novel because it really got me and I was crying awkwardly at the end. (Note: no one else in our group was effected this way lol.)

More on the Ending

Teaching, when it’s done well, is already an extraordinary act of selflessness—giving of yourself to better others. (Yes, there can be elements of egotism and control, but there doesn’t have to be.) But Ryland not only chooses to teach—he could have easily lived on this alien world as a hero, curling into himself in this strange land with no light—he chooses to teach a people he has never known, a people completely different from him. He doesn’t know if this alien race will be a threat to humanity, he just has to trust. He is giving of himself to better an entire civilization. It’s altruism at its purist and no one can dissuade me from this.  

Wine Selection & Tasting Notes

Mayu Pedro Ximenez. “Drink the stars.” mineral, citrus, green apple.

Discussion Questions for Project Hail Mary

I’ll close with a quote from Weir, which gave me a laugh and helped make him real—famous authors struggle too:

Give a man a book, you give him entertainment for the night. Teach a man to write, you give him crippling self doubt for life. – Andy Weir

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