Andy Weir's latest in science fiction: Humanity’s hail mary to save itself
Earth is doomed. A mysterious microorganism called Astrophage is eating away the sun's energy. If you are concerned about the planet getting warmer, fear not! The sun is getting colder and colder, and if this keeps on happening, everyone on earth is going to freeze to death soon. To keep humanity alive, the best minds of planet Earth come together to save the sun. They find out that about 12 light years away, another star named Tau Ceti had been infected by the same Astrophage, yet somehow, survived. Looking for the cure, they decide to send someone on a suicide mission to Tau Ceti's solar system.
The bestselling author of The Martian (2011), Andy Weir, in his latest science fiction, Project Hail Mary (Ballantine Books, 2021), follows the story of Ryland Grace, a high school science teacher, who is the last hope for humanity's survival. Waking up after a long slumber in the spaceship named Hail Mary, and finding himself strapped to his bed, Grace has no recollection of how he got there. In front of him, he finds two others in the same predicament, only they are both dead.
In the beginning of the story, as a reader, you find yourself as clueless as Grace, hurtling towards space. But as it progresses, Grace's memory starts to come back in fragments. He discovers soon enough that he is Earth's lone surviving champion to defend it against the sinister parasite, and should he fail in his mission, the end is nigh.
Soon it becomes evident that Grace isn't the only one burdened with this herculean task; he meets an extraterrestrial being from another planet whose sun is infected by the same disease. The being, however, who Grace calls Rocky, isn't the typical alien you see in movies, with conveniently human-like limbs or eyes and ears. Rocky sees, and even breathes, differently—and it demonstrates Weir's brilliance in imagining alien life in such a novel and fresh way. The two characters find an unexpected ally in one another; both Grace and Rocky are brilliant, witty, and brave in the face of danger. Their camaraderie is undoubtedly what keeps the readers engrossed.
Andy Weir loves science, and it is evident in his trademark writing style. He explains the science behind each of the characters' courses of action in a way that understanding it feels rewarding. It can, however, feel tedious at times. At the height of the story, the focus tends to shift towards explaining scientific logic rather than the storytelling itself. In some instances the explanations come across as flawed, especially the reason why Ryland Grace, a high school teacher, is one of the chosen ones to save the planet instead of it being a more competent scientist.
Project Hail Mary is a book about the impending death of stars, and the looming threat of oblivion for civilizations. It tells the story of saving planets, and the most unlikely friendships and sacrifices. But despite what the synopsis suggests, it is not a sad story, far from it; Weir knows perfectly well how to lighten the mood. Even in the bleakest moments he manages to salvage some laughs out of a situation and in this regard, Rocky, the alien, steals the show. Weir makes you root for a lifeform that could not be more different than ours. And that is what makes the story so compelling.
Md Tawsif Mostafiz is currently studying EEE in IUT. In his pastimes, he regrets his life decisions and often wonders what he could do with second chances. You can find him at [email protected]