Holy fucking shit did I adore this book. This has made it into my top 20 all time favorite books. It’s as thought Andy Weir took a dive into my mind and then set off to write a book, and the goal was to make me as happy and excited as possible.
OK. So, Earth is in some serious shit because the sun is starting to dim by 1%, which may not sound like much, but it would be catastrophic. There are predictions that if the dimming continues, more than half of humanity will be dead within a couple decades with the rest following not much long after. Earth’s leading scientists are trying to figure out what’s going on when they discover the first evidence of live alien life forms. The problem is that they’re parasitic and feed off the sun. Literally, they make a straight line for the sun, they hang out absorbing its energy causing it to dim… and then head towards Venus — all of the scientists are stumped. What they have discovered is that these life forms are simple and don’t appear to be sentient. They are what amounts to a stellar infection, which is as odd as it sounds. What’s worse is that all of the stars in the near vicinity are starting to dim, too. Except for one.
The mission is called Hail Mary, and it’s goal is to send a group of scientists to the star without an infection to figure out what makes it special. It’s a suicide mission. There’s not enough resources to get them there and back. Those that volunteer know it’s a one way shot.
It’s not a spoiler to say that our main character, Ryland Grace, wakes up on a ship and he’s the only one left alive. The story starts there, and from that point on there’s a dual timeline; the present, and the reader gets glimpses into the past as Grace slowly regains his memories.
Given that he’s the only human left alive on the ship, it leads to a very intimate setting and cast where I got to know Grace extremely well. It reeled me in hard. I got to know him so well, what makes him tick, his motivations, his aspirations, and fears — all of it. The character development also continues through to the end of the story. Now, it’s the second character that made this book 10x better than it would have been without him.
Second character, but Grace is the only one alive?!
Fuck yes, it’s the first contact with an alien life form. I adored everything about this, literally everything. I love the fact that Rocky was not a “human put in an alien suit” — which is a term I’ve heard used to refer to a sci-fi that uses a bipedal lifeform with two eyes a nose and a mouth and acts extremely human-like. No, this is a spider-rock-type creature that lives in an atmosphere of dense ammonia at 29X Earth’s atmosphere. What’s remarkable about this is that nearly all aspects of Rocky’s evolution were thought about and taken into account when they get to know each other. Rocky has no eyes and does not have any sort of visual spectrum since his planet is essentially pitch black. The atmosphere is so thick that there’s no visible light penetration as we understand it. He uses echolocation on steroids. Their language is a kind of music that our MC had to decode using a computer. I loved all of that. There is thought put into their culture and how it would be affected by no visual stimuli, how their cities were built, what they eat, how they sleep, how they think, all of it was delved into since there were just two characters sitting in space together getting to know one another as they both work on solving the Astrophage problem — since it’s a problem for Rocky’s world as well.
This could also be said to be a book about friendships and working through cultural differences and bonding between loners. I adored the friendship these two built, how they learned each other’s languages was fascinating. I love the line that Weir balances between being so hard-scifi that some people may be put off, and just enough added to make those who love biology riveted without becoming weighed down by too much focus on the science aspect, and gave equal attention to the heart and soul of the story.
This was fast paced, there was always something going on, some problem to be solved whether it be mechanical or social/communication. This was about 500 pages but it absolutely flew by. I was listening to it on an audiobook and it took me just one day. I didn’t stop listening all day, I couldn’t, I was enraptured.
I can’t recommend this book enough. There’s a square on r/fantasy’s bingo this year asking for Comfort Reads. Comfort Read Hard Mode is finding a NEW comfort read. Oh yeah. This is it. This has an optimistic look on life, humanity, and interstellar first contact. This is more like Star Trek and less like the post apocalypse doom and gloom kind of sci fi. This would absolutely appeal to those who like Becky Chambers books, full of warmth, humor, and characters you’ll remember.
- Plot: 14/15
- Characters: 15/15
- World Building: 15/15
- Writing: 14/15
- Pacing: 14/15
- Originality: 14/15
- Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Score: 96/100