Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (author), Ray Porter (narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2021

Ryland Grace was a microbiologist, and then he wrote a paper that pissed everyone off. He quit and became a schoolteacher. He was very happy as a schoolteacher.

And then another scientist, in a very different field, saw something strange happening to the sun, and a strange, infrared radiation line connecting the sun and Venus. When amoeba-like forms were identified as the likely cause, someone decided it was right up Ryland's alley.

Which is why, one day, he wakes up in what at first seems to be a very strange hospital room. His two fellow patients have died--years ago, from the states of their bodies. He doesn't know why he's here; he doesn't even know his own name. Which is especially awkward, because the automated computer system won't answer some critical questions until he can correctly give his name.

Slowly, little accidents trigger some memories. His name comes back. He remembers being a teacher, and then having been a scientist before that. Together with his cautious exploration of where he is, he realizes he's on a spaceship, headed--somewhere.

Gradually, he remembers why he's here. The amoeba-like things are eating the sun's energy, fast enough to become an extinction-level event if they're not stopped. And nothing on Earth can stop them. Worse, all the stars in Sol's neighborhood are infected and suffering the same fate. 

Except Tau Ceti. Tau Ceti has the amoeba things, but it is somehow controlling them. Tau Ceti has a resistance that other stars, including Sol, don't have.

Ryland Grace is the sole surviving member of a three-person crew dispatched to find the answer, and send the information back to Earth. It was a suicide mission anyway; not enough fuel to return the crew. Just four, much smaller, "beatles" to provide redundancy in the return of the information. Now the chances of success are even longer.

Then he makes another worldview-shattering discovery. Humanity isn't alone after all. There isn't just other life, the sun-killing amoeba, but  other intelligent life. Not from Tau Ceti, but from 40 Eridani.

Ryland isn't alone anymore, and all his expectations have been turned upside down and inside out.

It's a hard sf story, just as we would expect from Andy Weir. It's a scientific mystery. And it's a first contact novel, with two very good main characters, and a variety of interesting and complicated characters whom we meet as Ryland recovers his memories, in fits and starts and not necessarily in order. The narration is excellent, making the characters clear and distinct.

Highly recommended.

I received this book.as a gift.

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