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Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

When a very dear friend told me I had to read this book because it’s the best sci-fi book she’s ever read, I didn’t muck around. I bought Project Hail Mary immediately and, as soon as I finished the book I was reading (and enjoying), commenced reading it. Nevertheless, I was a little apprehensive in case I didn’t rate it as highly as my darling friend. My fears were completely unnecessary.

From the opening page, the story of Dr Ryland Grace, who wakes up millions of miles from earth in a cobbled together spaceship with only two corpses for company and no memory of why he’s there, who he is or what he’s meant to be doing, grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn’t let you go. Gradually, Grace’s memory returns and when he comprehends he’s on a mission to save the earth from imminent destruction (or rather, save humanity from being wiped out), he also understands he’s in a race against time and that this mission to the outer reaches of the galaxy is a one-way ticket. But it’s when he encounters an unexpected ally, that his mission takes on a fresher urgency – one that promises life, for earth and beyond.

The narrative segues between Grace aboard the ship hurtling through space, and the months leading up to his departure, revealing aspects of his life, various professions, and how he was recruited for the mission. His voice is compelling, honest and often really funny. The narrative skips along and I laughed often, but was also deeply moved. But what I really loved about it was how plausible and real the entire scenario felt. The science made sense and is explained in ways that don’t baffle or lose non-scientific reader interest – on the contrary, its utterly compelling and completely believable.

While Weir has used the notion of a sole survivor working against incredible odds to secure some kind of future in The Martian, this is a very different story, even though it tackles many similar themes – resilience, embracing and acknowledging one’s flaws and working to overcome them. How people can thrive in adversity; rise to face seemingly insurmountable challenges by reaching within themselves to find courage. It’s also about trust, friendship and sacrifice. In fact, it deals with so many ideas, arouses so many emotions.

This is a brilliant story that will reside with me for a long time. Like my girlfriend, I am now telling people to read this book, because it’s the best science-fiction book I have read in a long, long time.

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