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Project Hail Mary: A Novel Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Ray Porter is an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator and fifteen-year veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He has appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Almost Famous, ER, and Frasier.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
“What’s two plus two?”
Something about the question irritates me. I’m tired. I drift back to sleep.
A few minutes pass, then I hear it again.
“What’s two plus two?”
The soft, feminine voice lacks emotion and the pronunciation is identical to the previous time she said it. It’s a computer. A computer is hassling me. I’m even more irritated now.
“Lrmln,” I say. I’m surprised. I meant to say “Leave me alone”—a completely reasonable response in my opinion—but I failed to speak.
“Incorrect,” says the computer. “What’s two plus two?”
Time for an experiment. I’ll try to say hello.
“Hlllch?” I say.
“Incorrect. What’s two plus two?”
What’s going on? I want to find out, but I don’t have much to work with. I can’t see. I can’t hear anything other than the computer. I can’t even feel. No, that’s not true. I feel something. I’m lying down. I’m on something soft. A bed.
I think my eyes are closed. That’s not so bad. All I have to do is open them. I try, but nothing happens.
Why can’t I open my eyes?
Aaaand . . . open!
Open, dang it!
Ooh! I felt a wiggle that time. My eyelids moved. I felt it.
My eyelids creep up and blinding light sears my retinas.
“Glunn!” I say. I keep my eyes open with sheer force of will. Everything is white with shades of pain.
“Eye movement detected,” my tormenter says. “What’s two plus two?”
The whiteness lessens. My eyes are adjusting. I start to see shapes, but nothing sensible yet. Let’s see . . . can I move my hands? No.
Feet? Also no.
But I can move my mouth, right? I’ve been saying stuff. Not stuff that makes sense, but it’s something.
“Incorrect. What’s two plus two?”
The shapes start to make sense. I’m in a bed. It’s kind of . . . oval-shaped.
LED lights shine down on me. Cameras in the ceiling watch my every move. Creepy though that is, I’m much more concerned about the robot arms.
The two brushed-steel armatures hang from the ceiling. Each has an assortment of disturbingly penetration-looking tools where hands should be. Can’t say I like the look of that.
“Ffff . . . oooh . . . rrrr,” I say. Will that do?
“Incorrect. What’s two plus two?”
Dang it. I summon all my willpower and inner strength. Also, I’m starting to panic a little. Good. I use that too.
“Fffoouurr,” I finally say.
Thank God. I can talk. Sort of.
I breathe a sigh of relief. Wait—I just controlled my breathing. I take another breath. On purpose. My mouth is sore. My throat is sore. But it’s my soreness. I have control.
I’m wearing a breathing mask. It’s tight to my face and connected to a hose that goes behind my head.
Can I get up?
No. But I can move my head a little. I look down at my body. I’m naked and connected to more tubes than I can count. There’s one in each arm, one in each leg, one in my “gentlemen’s equipment,” and two that disappear under my thigh. I’m guessing one of them is up where the sun doesn’t shine.
That can’t be good.
Also, I’m covered with electrodes. The sensor-type stickers like for an EKG, but they’re all over the place. Well, at least they’re only on my skin instead of jammed into me.
“Wh—” I wheeze. I try again. “Where . . . am . . . I?”
“What’s the cube root of eight?” the computer asks.
“Where am I?” I say again. This time it’s easier.
“Incorrect. What’s the cube root of eight?”
I take a deep breath and speak slowly. “Two times e to the two-i-pi over three.”
“Incorrect. What’s the cube root of eight?”
But I wasn’t incorrect. I just wanted to see how smart the computer was. Answer: not very.
“Two,” I say.
I listen for follow-up questions, but the computer seems satisfied.
I’m tired. I drift off to sleep again.
I wake up. How long was I out? It must have been a while because I feel rested. I open my eyes without any effort. That’s progress.
I try to move my fingers. They wiggle as instructed. All right. Now we’re getting somewhere.
“Hand movement detected,” says the computer. “Remain still.”
The robot arms come for me. They move fast. Before I know it, they’ve removed most of the tubes from my body. I didn’t feel a thing. Though my skin is kind of numb anyway.
Only three tubes remain: an IV in my arm, a tube up my butt, and a catheter. Those latter two are kind of the signature items I wanted removed, but okay.
I raise my right arm and let it fall back to the bed. I do the same for my left. They feel heavy as heck. I repeat the process a few times. My arms are muscular. That doesn’t make sense. I assume I’ve had some massive medical problem and been in this bed for a while. Otherwise, why would they have me hooked up to all the stuff? Shouldn’t there be muscle atrophy?
And shouldn’t there be doctors? Or maybe the sounds of a hospital? And what’s with this bed? It’s not a rectangle, it’s an oval and I think it’s mounted to the wall instead of the floor.
“Take . . .” I trail off. Still kind of tired. “Take the tubes out. . . .”
The computer doesn’t respond.
I do a few more arm lifts. I wiggle my toes. I’m definitely getting better.
I tilt my ankles back and forth. They’re working. I raise my knees up. My legs are well toned too. Not bodybuilder thick, but still too healthy for someone on the verge of death. I’m not sure how thick they should be, though.
I press my palms to the bed and push. My torso rises. I’m actually getting up! It takes all my strength but I soldier on. The bed rocks gently as I move. It’s not a normal bed, that’s for sure. As I raise my head higher up, I see the head and foot of the elliptical bed are attached to strong-looking wall mounts. It’s kind of a rigid hammock. Weird.
Soon, I’m sitting on my butt tube. Not the most comfortable sensation, but when is a tube up your butt ever comfortable?
I have a better view of things now. This is no ordinary hospital room. The walls look plastic and the whole room is round. Stark-white light comes from ceiling-mounted LED lights.
There are two more hammock-like beds mounted to the walls, each with their own patient. We are arranged in a triangle and the roof-mounted Arms of Harassment are in the center of the ceiling. I guess they take care of all three of us. I can’t see much of my compatriots—they’ve sunken into their bedding like I had.
There’s no door. Just a ladder on the wall leading to . . . a hatch? It’s round and has a wheel-handle in the center. Yeah, it’s got to be some kind of hatch. Like on a submarine. Maybe the three of us have a contagious disease? Maybe this is an airtight quarantine room? There are small vents here and there on the wall and I feel a little airflow. It could be a controlled environment.
I slide one leg off over the edge of my bed, which makes it wobble. The robot arms rush toward me. I flinch, but they stop short and hover nearby. I think they’re ready to grab me if I fall.
“Full-body motion detected,” the computer says. “What’s your name?”
“Pfft, seriously?” I ask.
“Incorrect. Attempt number two: What’s your name?”
I open my mouth to answer.
“Uh . . .”
“Incorrect. Attempt number three: What’s your name?”
Only now does it occur to me: I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I do. I don’t remember anything at all.
“Um,” I say.
A wave of fatigue grips me. It’s kind of pleasant, actually. The computer must have sedated me through the IV line.
“. . . waaaait . . .” I mumble.
The robot arms lay me gently back down to the bed. --This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B08FHBV4ZX
- Publisher : Ballantine Books (May 4 2021)
- Language : English
- File size : 7122 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 482 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #181 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from Canada
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The earth is facing annihilation in the not-too-distant future. Alien microorganisms, astrophages, are absorbing energy from the sun. The sun is cooling, and it is predicted that this will lead to an ice age, famines, wars for resources, and the eventual extinction of most of the life on earth. There seems to be a glimmer of hope on a planet, Tau Ceti, in a distant solar system. This is the only place discovered where astrophages are being destroyed.
The Petrova task force has been set up consisting of the worlds' greatest minds from many nations. They establish Project Hail Mary under the leadership and authority of the director (dictator) Eva Stratt. She is driven to save the world from impending catastrophe at all costs. What she possesses in authority puts her on a power trip. She is cold-hearted, lacks scruples and willing to set aside legalities, morality and ethics to achieve her goals. She will select a three-person crew of the best scientists and astronauts capable of withstanding a prolonged coma on their long one-way suicide journey into interstellar space.
Sometime in the future, aboard the spaceship Hail Mary, Ryland Grace awakens from an induced coma. Tubes, electrodes and IV lines are attached to his body. Nearby are the mummified bodies of his two crewmates. He cannot recall his name, where he is, or why he is there. As his physical body gains strength, he recovers snippets of memory of the past.
He was a dedicated, enthusiastic, and popular Junior High science teacher whose work was inspiring to his students. He had few friends. How did he come to be selected for this mission, and for what purpose? He is horrified to learn he is somewhere in deep space with no way back to earth. He knows he doesn't want to die, but there is no way home with insufficient food and fuel. His two crewmates could have explained the mission and helped him, but they are dead. He realizes this will soon be his solitary fate. As bits of his memory and thoughts begin to clarify, we learn more about his life and how he got to be on this mission into outer space. If only he could remember what he is supposed to do now!
He makes contact with a masterful engineer and mechanic named Rocky. To say more about this endearing and wonderful character would be a spoiler.
Ryland Grace has a snide, witty, and sarcastic sense of humour, usually directed at himself. It is a wild, exciting journey towards his destination, Tau Ceti. The ride is full of danger, twists and excitement. Through his tireless ingenuity, he manages to overcome obstacles never before faced by anyone. Does Grace muddle through and save the earth? What difficult choice must now face him? Of all the endings I could envision, I never thought of its fantastical conclusion which was most unexpected and satisfying for me.
The book isn’t so much a novel as a series of vignettes, half of them going through the years prior to the opening scene. The second half, interleaved with the first, are the chronicles of the protagonist, going on from that first scene. For those familiar with The Martian, we again see the universe, and Murphy, working together to present endless challenges which our hero defeats (for the most part) with the diligent application of Science. The book is wrtten almost entirely in the first person. Each of the scenes are easy reads, and many I read multiple times, because they’re fun! (Court battle.)
While this format is distracting it is entertaining. It probably slowed my reading down, which could be good or bad.
The author uses foreshadowing ... alot. At least half the twists i saw coming. Between that, and Murphy, you knew when things were going well, it was going to crash.
But it was STILL an easy and very entertaining book.
I was a huge fan of The Martian. I especially liked how Andy Weir "did the math" in that story to describe technical problems and their solutions. Even though I'm terrible at math and it was my worst subject in school, the author makes it so approachable and interesting. So when I learned that Andy Weir had written an interstellar, alien first-contact novel, I was concerned that he would focus on the dramatic and get less into the guts of individual problems and the details of their solutions. I am pleased to say that my concerns were unfounded.
The story is compelling from start to finish and, although it includes the techie stuff that I like, character development was superb, the drama was intense, and the emotional aspects of the story were compelling.
Overall, Project Hail Mary is the best book that I have read this year, and possibly ever!
It is a fun and fast moving book. There is a fair amount of science and technical jargon but not enough to put off the average reader.
It is a well told story and even though it isn’t the Martian, it is a very worthwhile read.
Top reviews from other countries
"The Martian" was a great story. "Artemis" was a great story. This one is better than either of those. If you like science fiction with actual science, this is for you. If you like stories with interesting, well developed characters, this also has that. If you want excitement and a thrilling plot, here you go. If you want romance and sex, well, there you're completely out of luck. But if that was the kind of book you wanted I doubt you'd be reading this review anyway. Speaking of, why *are* you still reading this review? Go read the book!! It's way better than this.
To be frank, I believe in climate change. I believe the climate changes every three months (roughly); they're called seasons. What I don't believe in is soft science and doomsday predictions based on data that's easily manipulated by activists to say anything they want.
The second problem I have with the book so far is that it reads too much like the The Martian, but without the emotion. There's no reason to like or dislike the characters beyond the superficial aspects of their personalities. Everyone is two-dimensional. The main protagonist spends his days dodging his emotions, and every supporting character on Earth is a stereotype--without enough personality for me to care about any of them.
Maybe things will get better as I continue to read, but only if the author puts away his soapbox and get's back to story-telling.
1. The characters are individualized and (mostly) likeable. It’s really nice to have a male protagonist in a sci fi book who’s compassionate, caring, and human.
2. Plot twists and turns kept me reading in spite of some long tedious sections.
3. Alien life forms are creatively and imaginatively rendered.
4. A bit of humor here and there helped enliven the story.
1. The author is mainly concerned with engineering solutions to survival problems–one after the other after the other. Some of these are exciting, but there were just too many.
2. The plot drags on and on as one technical problem after another takes center stage. If you’ve been dealing with computer, electrical or mechanical problems in your own life, you might find the endless series of equipment disasters a bit frustrating to read about.
He has to work out why he’s there, and what he has to do, from scratch. And then work miracles. Or in the words of Mark Witney in the Martian, ‘science the s*** out of it’.
Written in a similar style to the Martian, with sections alternating between Ryland-on-Earth and Ryland -in-Space, it’s hard not to picture Matt Damon as Ryland, but though they share the same love of science trivia, and self-deprecating humour, they are very different.
There’s loads of geeky science as he McGyvers his way from one situation to another. Maybe a little too much if you’re not a science nerd or sci-fi fanatic but I loved it.
I loved the quirky characters of all the ‘supporting actors’ (This is so definitely going to be a film!), especially Rocky. Oh, Rocky! Just... read it, ok?