Aw man. I was so excited for this one. It’s been on my wish list since it came out. I haven’t read anything else by Andy Weir, but the reviews were fantastic and the premise was cool. It’s been a few days since I finished Project Hail Mary, and I’ve been putting off this review, hoping I’d like it more upon reflection. That didn’t happen, and now I’ve got to put it into words.
What it boils down to is that the narrator drove me nuts. In theory I like the idea of a positive, curious narrator. But in practice? UGH. The number of times Ryland Grace ends a sentence with ‘?!’ was approximately one billion. I kept thinking, ‘Seriously, who is this guy?! How did he end up as the second in command on this gigantic project?! ‘ The reason he ends up being kept around (I’m trying to be semi-spoiler free here) isn’t discovered until ages into the project. So why was this optimistic fool kept around until then?[!] His research was useless, he’s a grade 8 science teacher, and he doesn’t appear to be as smart as the people around him. He can’t solve problems without other people doing most of the work. SERIOUSLY, HOW DID HE GET THIS FAR?
He reminded me of a manic pixie dream girl, but in a male nerd’s body and put in charge of an insanely important project. He named a planet Adrian. Like, dude. It’s not funny and it’s not cute, and having to read “Adrian’s atmosphere” for the next 300 pages was tedious. If I met Grace at a party, I’d end up weakly chuckling at one of his weird outbursts while cringing internally. And then he’d follow me around all night because I made the mistake of being polite, and he’d enthusiastically telling me shit I don’t care about and making pop culture references that aren’t funny, and please god I just wanted to have fun just leave me alone. But he won’t leave me alone because he’s NARRATING A 500 PAGE NOVEL.
The characters and relationships in general were one dimensional. We’ve got Stratt, a mysterious figure that Grace seems to know next to nothing about, and yet he worked closely with her for YEARS. He repeatedly cries over the loss of his “friends,” but despite multiple flashbacks we have hardly any interactions to demonstrate that friendship. Weir says they were friends, and I guess that should be enough to make their memories hold weight. Rocky is ultimate mcguffin/deus ex machina. Oh, do we need to build Kensington Palace in space with two ounces of sand? Don’t worry, Rocky is on the case! But he talks like a two year old and he’s got a personality similar to the main character’s, so there’s no conflict or push-pull.
I have admittedly no appreciation for the science stuff. I found myself skimming over those descriptions by the end, because I didn’t understand what was happening. I felt that Weir wasn’t great at explaining down to my level, so it was just words with no meaning. The plot was pretty good, though. I did really want to finish it, and read the whole thing in a few days. What happens, how it happens, the progression and the time jumps, it was interesting enough. I wanted to find out how it ended, regardless of this twerp who’s narrating.
The more I think about Project Hail Mary, the less impressed I am. It’s narrated by a character I can’t stand, got a bunch of science I couldn’t follow, and takes 500 pages to find out how it resolves. I wish I’d just waited until this novel is inevitably made into a movie, and then read the Wikipedia plot summary.