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audiobooks Science Fiction

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Or, what makes sci-fi go mainstream?)

It seems like everyone and their mother has read Project Hail Mary. Half of the reviews start with “I don’t read sci-fi, but this is really good…” Or some similar thought.  Even the audiobook is rated as one of the highest on Audible.  I’d go as far as to say that this was probably 2021’s most widely consumed sci-fi book out there. It almost won a Hugo. A movie is in the making.

So… What makes something with this much actual science & physics go mainstream? Is it the author’s popularity?  Word of mouth? Will bloggers plug anything slated to be popular? Or, is it actually just *that* good of a book to cross genre popularity? Is it riding The Martian‘s coat tails?

I… Don’t know.  Let’s see the bookish quick facts then I’ll share my thoughts, and then hopefully you all will share yours

Bookish quick facts:
  • Title: Project Hail Mary
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Andy Weir
  • Publisher & Release: Ballantine Books, 2021
  • Length: 496 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ For those interested
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

My thoughts:

I think I have a complicated relationship with science fiction right now. I normally read at least two per month, but with the SPSFC going and some ARCs that I picked up, I’ve been reading almost exclusively sci-fi and I just feel burned out.

PJM was a good read and had a lot of elements that I tend to love.  There’s a big disaster, plenty of snark, first contact, big problems that need solving, and linguistics issues that sci-fi as a genre is uniquely equipped to handle. All positives.  I genuinely thought he did a great job covering so many issues with real science and making things feel plausible.

Regarding my burn out – the thing is, I literally *just* read a book with space algae and fist bumps. I almost guessed maybe that book ripped this one off but the other came first. It is to be noted that the other book was vastly inferior to PJM, but the fact stands that it’s all feeling a little bit “the same” to me right now.

PJM had a ton of actual science in it too, which isn’t usually what occurs in popular sci-fi novels. I was never good at or a fan of physics despite taking it through a basic college level, and trying to listen to the explanations and experiments on the audiobook just had me tuning out. Bored to tears. It wasn’t overpowering and I hope high school physics teachers everywhere are salivating, but omg I’m not.

 Ray Porter was a good narrator and I don’t feel like I wasted an Audible credit, but I did much better with the actual text. My other issue with the audiobook was that there was practically no space between the past and the present tense sections so it was difficult to follow along and I was missing the transitions.

Overall: as I said, it’s a good story. It’s a good idea and is overall quite funny too. The first contact elements were the absolute favorite for me and I always love a book that tackles a good linguistics problem with a clever solution. The ending was absolutely priceless.

So my question is, can the general non sci-fi reading public tolerate a little hard science in the presence of a good story? Could we hype up more popular sci-fi if we really wanted to and send it mainstream? I’m sure we can, and all those “I don’t read sci-fi but…” readers will hopefully give more of the genre a shot


Thanks for checking out my thoughts & review of the Project Hail Mary book by Andy Weir and audiobook narrated by Ray Porter.  I originally used an Audible credit on the audiobook, then ended up grabbing the book instead. As always, all thoughts are my own ⭐

4 replies on “Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Or, what makes sci-fi go mainstream?)”

I have yet to read this one, even if it is on my list, but when I read The Martian ages ago, I started my review of it with “I don’t read sci-fi, but..” because even if my love for reading and for fantasy has started pretty soon (I always loved reading and I discovered fantasy in my early teens) my love for sci-fi is way more recent. I have started reading sci-fi more often only recently, in my adulthood and I cordially hate the science part. But Weir book was one of the books that made me realize that you can enjoy sci-fi even hating science!

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It seems that a lot of people also like this one, despite all the physics! There’s a lot of funny banter and alien relations too, overall I’m pretty sure if worst comes to it people can skim the physics and not lose anything from the story

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I haven’t read a good sci-fi in a while and it makes me kinda sad. I do have Loki’s Ring line up which is from an author that I really enjoyed the last time. And I’m reading Gideon the Ninth right now which is an odd mesh of sci-fi & “fantasy” (necromancy)

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