Review: ‘Project Hail Mary’ by Andy Weir

Imagine waking up, hooked up to a bunch of tubes, not knowing where you are, how you got there or why. That is how you feel when you first crack open Andy Weir’s latest book, “Project Hail Mary,” because that is how we find the main character, Ryland.

Ryland wakes up in what seems to be a medical unit, being cared for by a robotic machine. However, after a few days of slowly coming out of the lethargic fog that he woke up in, Ryland takes a precursory glance around to deduce that he is on a space craft on a mission. What that mission is has yet to be known, but he knows that it must have been super important. As he struggles to regain his full memory, Ryland tries to move forward with the mission.

This was my first Andy Weir book and I was immersed from the first page. I have never had any aspirations to go to space so the fact that we are joining Ryland on this journey was a nail biter for me. Not only does Ryland not know what he is supposed to do, he is alone, so it’s like learning a new job on the fly. I couldn’t help but hold my breath every time that he touched an unknown button or did something that was clearly not a good idea. Luckily, although Ryland’s memory is hazy, he realizes quickly that many of the things on the ship come easy to him, helping him conclude that he has some type of background.

This book can get a little technical with the scientific terms and the numeric calculations, but it didn’t hinder my understanding of what was going on or what Ryland was trying to do. I was more than happy to let him drive the ship so long as we didn’t crash or he didn’t die. But then I got to thinking – could this actually be possible? Could we build a ship that was able to travel so many light years away and survive?

Are we alone in this universe? It is the age-old question that there is still no clear answer for. Yet, Weir would have us believe that not only is the answer a resounding no, but we can communicate with them and live with them despite our differences.

I loved the relationship between Ryland and Rocky and how the two work on each other’s strengths to get the job done.

I liked the way that Weir used flashbacks to flesh out the story as well as Ryland’s character. Sometimes in books, the flash backs are random but not here. Ryland will look at a piece of paper and what may seem like numeric garble at first, suddenly triggers a memory of him working in a lab on Earth and looking at similar numbers.

I am not one to read science fiction, which is probably why it has taken me so long to pick up one of Weir’s books, but this book was a fast read and thoroughly enjoyable. Now I can’t wait to pick up the “Martian”, which I have heard nothing but good things about.

Have you read “Project Hail Mary”? What did you think? What other Weir books would you recommend? Let’s discuss!

Audiobook: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Rating 5/5

I had never read this book as a child and I wanted to get to it before I saw the movie, though I am hearing that the book is far better. Which I am so glad. This was such a fun book to listen to and made me feel like a child again.

According to Goodreads:

a wrinkle in timeIt was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.
Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

This book is so imaginative and beautifully written. I didn’t want to stop listening to it. When Mrs. Whats It, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which are introduced, I knew that this was going to be a fun story. They just reminded me of someone’s quirky aunts that the family always laughs at but loves. Yet, all the characters are unique throughout the story and none are boring. I loved Charles Wallace for his uniqueness and Calvin for his insight. I definitely could relate to Meg but she irritated me to no end at times. Her absolute stubbornness and whinyness made me want to shake her. I think at one point, I actually yelled in my car for her to just shut up.

One of the main themes in the story is the scientific theory of time, which I thought was so interesting. Upon listening to her biography, I learned L’Engle loved reading the works of Einstein among other top scientists of the early 20th century. Einstein’s theory of time is what planted the seed for her to write “A Wrinkle in Time.” I was also surprised that many publishers criticized the book mainly because they didn’t know what genre it fell into. They thought it was too mature for younger audiences but wasn’t sure if it fell into science fiction, etc.  After so many rejections, there was a point that L’Engle was about to give up until one person decided to take a risk. I am so glad.

I haven’t had so much fun with a book in a really long time. It was an easy read/listen and definitely tuned into my imagination. I wish I could time travel.

Have you read A Wrinkle in Time? What did you think? Let’s discuss! 🙂

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Rating: ****

One of the reasons why I love book clubs is that they force you to read books that you would normally never even think of reading. Take this book for example. In my perusal of the shelves at the library, I would have casually glanced over this title without a second glance and it would have been a shame.

I am glad that I had the chance to read this book because it stretched my imagination with ideas that left it almost, for a lack of a better word, uncomfortable.

In the first chapter, we are dropped on another planet, called Winter or Gethen, where we meet our main character Genly Ai, who is from Terra. Ai is on a mission to convince Gethen to join the Ekumen, a confederation of planets. It is a bit of a shock and at first Le Guin almost loses me. Not only are you dropped in an unknown place, you are dropped alone for Ai has already been on the planet for some time.  I could feel my brain trying to process everything Ai is trying to tell me but it seemed too much.

And to make it even harder still, Le Guin has decided to make an “ambisexual society” or a society without a dominant sex.. At first my head could not wrap around this concept. Every living being has some sort of sexual orientation, whether animal, human or plant. How can this be? It takes awhile for Le Guin to fully describe how this society functions, but once she does, the plot makes a lot more sense and you totally get engrossed to find out what is going to happen.

While it took me a bit longer to read this novel than normal, all I have to say is that Le Guin is a genius. In reading up on the author, I found out that she wanted to explore what was left in a society when you take the female/male formula out of the equation. This book was written in the 70s when ideas such as adrogyny and sexual orientation were just being explored. Imagine if she wrote this today?

It gets even more interesting when Gethians want to reproduce. How? Well they all go through Kemmer, or our version of a female cycle, but in this case the individual transforms more into the more feminine role. There is one part when the king  is going to have a baby because during his kemmer cycle he had turned into the female being. Can you  imagine, men having babies?! It is every women’s wish come true! But think about it, wouldn’t it make life so much simpler? At a time when equality is still at the forefront of debate, it makes you wonder, why do we even have gender?

What I particularly liked the most was how Genly Ai’s character changes throughout the book. At first, he too can’t wrap around the non-sexual identity idea. You see this when he describes some of the other characters and how he is trying to label them either more male or female. He tries to give them the stereotypical labels: strong/weak, bony/soft, muscular/curvy. He is frustrated when he can’t.

Over time, as he is forced into their society, he slowly begins to understand them and you can see him transform his thinking. At one point he is telling Estraven, a politician who ends up helping him when becomes a fugitive, about Terra and how the males and females are different. This is his normal, but at this point in the book, we have been so engrossed in Gethian society, the idea that sexual identity seems to be foreign. It becomes even more apparent when other Terran reach the planet. Ai looks upon them in a different light. They are almost alien to him as he once was to the Gethian.

And this is all within a plot of two warring factions upon which Ai must play his cards in the hopes of staying alive and completing his mission. The book started slow but ended on a strong note.

Well done!