Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

‘What’ is two plus two?’ With this thorny question, which our hero cannot answer, begins the epic space quest that will end all quests – especially if our hero (who doesn’t know who he is) gets it wrong.

I got so caught up in this book that I missed my train stop twice. For me, this was a strange achievement for a novel more packed with science than a textbook. But what exciting science it is. Both the story and the science move faster than a detective thriller. Our hero must detect through rapid experiments and improvisations, not made any easier by being in the wrong gravity, how to survive. Next, there is the question of fulfilling his mission, if only he could remember what it was.

I don’t want to add more to my above comments and to what the blurb (above) says for fear of accidentally spoiling the story. But I will note that one fascinating thing about it is the reverse-take on climate change. In this story, the earth is going to cool down fast, too fast. I am going to quote a bit. I’m sure the author won’t mind -perhaps its even part of the reason he wrote the novel, for all I know. That and a love of science.

‘Nineteen years. That’s my estimate for when half the people now alive will be dead. .. The math of famine is easy. Take all the calories the world creates with farming and agriculture per day and divide by about 1500. The human population cannot be greater than the number .. The major crops are sensitive to temperature changes. Dr Leclerc, Ch. 14.

Dr Leclerc goes on in grim detail about how the messed up climate will mess up food production. The mission boss, Ms Statt, adds how once agriculture is disrupted, hungry populations go to war against one another for the remainder, causing further disruption to food production and thus intensifying the famines. So there it is: whether our climate cools down too fast, as in this fictional scenario, or warms up two or three degrees, as in our actual terrifying reality, bad things happen.

This is not just Science Fiction; it is SCIENCE fiction. By the way, it turns out that high school science teachers rock. Just as well. It’s looking like only young scientists can save us.

I will leave you will a list of Very Important Scientific Equipment: String. Tape measure. Stop watch. Pen. Something to write on (or use your arm or a wall. Optional extras include sticky tape and popsicle sticks. Never get stuck in space without these essential items! Do you want to know why? Well, now you have to read the book, don’t you!

You might also enjoy my revisit, after 50 years! to The Foundation Series by Issac Asimov.

Where to find the Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – who also wrote The Martian– which got turned into a movie with Matt Damon. Find it at BookDepository (free shipping) and Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops) or at Waterstones. Or visit the sci-fi section of your revered local bookshop. There is talk of turning Project Hail Mary into a movie too. But there is no way it could be as much fun as this book. Read it before the movie spoils it for you.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.