Project Hail Mary

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Somewhere around page 10, I thought to myself: This is like reading about playing a video game.

Then on page 32, the narrator says: "This is like being in a video game."

I'm not usually that perceptive.

The narrator wakes up, weak and confused, in a featureless room. Barely able to speak, he doesn't remember his own name, or why he's there. But there are two dessicated corpses in there with him. And a dumber-than-Alexa computer to talk to. And (fortunately) he's still got a firm grasp of kinematics, which leads to his first shocking conclusion!

(No spoiler on that, but if you want to remain as clueless as the narrator, I recommend that you not read the plot blurb on the dust jacket, and you might also want to avoid the picture after the title page.)

As he explores his environment, his memory gradually returns and his purpose is revealed. (Ok, small spoiler: he's supposed to save the world from disaster.)

Nice style detail: flashbacks are in past tense, the present in, duh, present tense.

This is by Andy Weir, and it's his usual so-hard-you-can-count-the-rivets science fiction yarn. Much like his first book, The Martian, the narrator needs to "science the shit" out of his situation. Solve a lot of problems endagering his mission, and his personal safety.

The prose, especially the dialog, is more than a little clunky. (As if Weir was thinking "This line will get laughs in the movie.") But the plot is compelling, the science is ingenious, the main character is likeable, and the pages kept turning. It's full of "I did not see that coming" stuff. (OK, I knew something had to be coming to get us to page 476—a bunch of things, actually—but I never expected the details.) And a totally unexpected and gratifying climax/ending.

Final fun detail: it's full of offhand pop culture references. One I especially chuckled at on page 92, where the narrator is led through "a maze of twisty little passages, all alike". (Classical reference explained here.)

Last Modified 2021-10-13 6:19 AM EDT