The Hail Mary is one of the most common prayers in the Christian religion. The first line is a direct quote from the gospel of St. Luke: “Hail Mary full of grace.”
In his new book PROJECT HAIL MARY, author Andy Weir puts a high school science teacher named Ryland Grace aboard the spaceship Hail Mary. So, the Hail Mary, full of Grace, is heading into deep space… away from planet earth. Grace wakes up from a drug induced coma four years into the mission with very little recall. He is not at all sure what’s going on, but he is a scientist, and his powers of deduction are keen. So little by little he figures everything out, his memory comes back to him in large chunks, and what he remembers is terrifying.
The phrase “Hail Mary” has another meaning in the sport of American Football, and there’s no doubt that Weir meant his title to refer more to that second meaning. As we’ve said, Hail Mary is a prayer, and in football it also refers to a desperation prayer, or most specifically a long pass that is a last-ditch effort at the very end of the game when there is no other choice.
In football, you complete the Hail Mary Pass or you lose. So why have earth scientists named a project and a spaceship after a desperation play that’s only used when there’s no other choice?
Weir’s ingenious plot has to do with the discovery, by almost all the scientist in the world at the same time, that the sun is dimming so rapidly that, within 75 years, Earth will be a dead planet. With unlimited resources at her disposal and total cooperation from all the world’s countries for once, Project lead, one Doctor Stratt, is commissioned with the task of basically saving the world. In fact, she may be saving the universe because apparently all the other stars in the galaxy are dimming at the same time. Uh, except one. And so, the task of Project Hail Mary—as a last-ditch effort—is to send a small group of scientists to that star and find out why it alone, is resisting the dimming effect.
High school teacher Ryland Grace, wrote a brilliant paper at the start of his career, but his theories were controversial, and his paper was roundly criticized by his colleagues in the scientific community. The experience basically caused Grace to withdraw from research and hide in the world of high school science. But then it turned out that he loved teaching kids so much that he became comfortable and happy in the role.
Then things got desperate, and Stratt sought him out and gave him a role of growing importance in Project Hail Mary. By the time the story starts Grace is absolutely the most important person involved…
… at least until the alien shows up.
This is a brilliant, clever, funny work, full of humor, scientific procedures, goodness, sadness, and hope. Certainly, a perfect follow-up to Weir’s blockbuster novel and the subsequent movie, The Martian. Five Stars.