I'm currently behind on reviews, so don't be surprised if the recent reviews are a bit sparse.

Project Hail Mary

Cover of Project Hail Mary.

Andy Weir has a thing he does well, and this is just another instance of this thing. If this had been my first Andy Weir book, I probably would have given it a higher rating, but after The Martian, it felt like a re-run.

The sun is dying due to mysterious circumstances, and a physics teacher with a suspiciously Mark Watney like voice is part of the desperate effort to find a solution. This part was great โ€“ competency porn for the sci-fi nerd, watching the whole world mobilise together in acknowledgement of an existential threat. (Ha.) Our protagonist couldn’t make it as a research scientist, but still has critical thinking skills that make him an asset to this operation (more competency porn for the institution-averse nerd).

As always, Weir is great at details: science details, but also human details. Fuel calculations, panic when weightlessness kicks in, weird ship design, storage logistics, you name it: Weir has thought about it and I love it.

That said: some things were tedious or broke my suspension of disbelief. Memory loss as an exposition device is tired even when it’s done well (which it is here). The resulting plot twist was visible half a book away. And what’s with the protagonist constantly commenting on his use of imperial units and pop-culture references? All dialogue feels like it’s trying way, way too hard to be funny, and rarely hits any kind of rhythm (to say nothing of the stereotypes, everywhere), to the point that it hurts. And, most importantly: a huge spoiler block (only read if you’re sure you don’t want to read the book).

The alien feels way, way humanoid despite looking like a mecha spider. The way learning a completely foreign language is portrayed ('Tenses, plurals, conditionals') highlights how much Weir is a science nerd, not a language nerd, and how extremely human his aliens are. It's disappointing, because there was so much potential there, and in the end, despite everything, the way Weir chose was kinda boring.