I have read Artemis, which I enjoyed more than Weir purists, but not the Martian so I was looking forward to another interesting science fiction novel based on the near future. Notwithstanding that, many The Martian fans found Artemis a dreadful follow up.
Andy Weir has a witty if a little pithy style of narrating. He is able to confidently story build without too much need for complex style. Artemis was more of a whodunnit yet also grounded in its near future location on the Moon.
However, according to Weir fans, Project Hail Mary is a return to the successful style of The Martian. The plot centres around one person, Ryland Grace, on a space ship who has to figure out a way back to Earth. Simple enough. In the Martian he is figuring a way back to Earth as well. Now, in both stories, to return to Earth he is do a lot of science. In Project Hail Mary, this is hard science, and where I skipped ahead as whilst it demonstrates a hard scientific logic I simply had no idea what he was saying.
So the plot, firstly is to understand why Grace is there (in a space ship) which is slowly fed to us through flashbacks. A simple if slightly unconvincing plot device. We learn early on that Grace was a teacher and I soon struggled to be convinced with his journey to being the saviour of Earth.
Then When Grace meets the alien the plot centres on jointly solving the threat to both Earth and the alien’s planet. Whilst their shared aim creates a challenge that is as insurmountable as one would expect, it is the mateyness of the friendship – in stark contrast to the civilisation threatening challenge – that failed to convince me.
Andy Weir carries on in Project Hail Mary with the casual witty style, this time with a new friend – a crab-like alien. But this is no “Alien” movie creature that is full of acid and bent on murder. This just happens to be a friendly engineer who shares the same sense of humour. It lacked edginess for me.
This novel will entertain fans of The Martian – accessible, witty style combined with hard science but I was left wanting a grittier relationship with the alien, a more fearsome feel for the crisis and sense of how far away from Earth Grace is. The fear factor is not quite there – but that may appeal to the fans.