Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

In case you’ve been living on Mars, Andy Weir wrote The Martian. It’s so good they made a movie out of it starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, and some other famous people that I can’t remember now as I’m too busy thinking how cool it would be to hear that Matt Damon was going to star in a movie based on a book that you wrote. Plus, you might get Jessica Chastain’s autograph. Maybe take a selfie with them. *Sigh*

“Hail Mary” is an iconic phrase. It began as a Catholic (Christian) prayer to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here’s the full text:

Hail, Mary, full of grace,

the Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death. 

Amen.

Unless you’re a priest assigning penance to a parishioner, or a Catholic teenage boy griping to your buddies about how many Hail Marys you got assigned for thinking carnal thoughts about Jenny Sue, the girl who sits two rows in front of you in History, that’s not what Americans think of when they hear “Hail Mary.”

We think of football. American football.

Soccer ball Football

In that sport, a Hail Mary is a last-minute, desperate pass, offered up to the heavens in the hopes that your team’s receiver will consummate an immaculate reception (yes, American sports are rife with religious metaphors) in the end zone causing a victory for your preferred group of highly compensated professional athletes, most of whom get paid more for endorsing shoes than they do for playing football.

That’s the Hail Mary that Andy Weir is talking about, although considering the “hour of our death” part of the prayer, it might be the religious one, too.

The book: Ryland Grace awakes aboard a spaceship with no memory of how he got there or what he’s supposed to do. Two corpses are there with him. The tech that kept Grace’s body alive for the journey claimed his colleagues. His memory comes back slowly, and we figure it out along with him.

It’s not The Martian, but it’s close. Feral gives it an 8 for Story and an 8 for science. Props to Weir for doing the research.

It’s a great read if you don’t mind being occasionally bogged down in the technical problem – technical solution, lather, rinse, repeat sections.

Spoilers and science critique follow.

Space bugs (Astrophage) are eating the sun. Our sun. They’re using our sun’s energy to procreate. That’s cooling off the Earth. We’re all going to die a cold, miserable death. Our only hope is a Hail Mary flight to another star that’s also being used as interstellar sex fuel. Stars are being used to create the fruits of space-critter wombs.

I had the hardest time with that in terms of the science, but space is big and there’s no known physical law that says you can’t have interstellar space bugs. A little implausible to me, that’s where the fiction part comes in, so go with it.

Weir might have made some math errors, or “adjustments” to make the story plausible. He compares the atmospheric density of the two ships and assumes that’s the same as the planetary atmospheres – even though he tells us that the Hail Mary is running at 1/3 atmosphere. Maybe a quibble, but it messes up his rationale for the Erandi’s physiology.

His acceleration numbers seem off as well.

Xenonite is Weir’s equivalent of Star Trek’s Transparent Aluminum – essentially Wishonium or Unobtanium. Never say never, but highly unlikely.

Think they’d star in the SPARK movie?

Buy it. Read it. Then write a review of SPARK. Weir doesn’t need any more reviews. I do.

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