Andy Weir earned himself a cult following with The Martian, which was adapted into a blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon. Now he's aiming to send fans into orbit again with a new offering, Project Hail Mary. Is it any good? Decide for yourself by reading this sample.
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.
Project Hail Mary: everything you need to know
What it's about: A lone astronaut, Ryland Grace, must save the earth from disaster. But problem is he's just woken up on a spaceship next to two dead bodies and with no idea of who he is, where he is, how he got there, or what he’s even meant to be doing.
What the critics say:"Artemis [Weir's second novel] exposed his limited interest in constructing relationships or a plausible future society. Project Hail Mary is a sensible course correction that supersizes the strategies of his most successful book." - Alec Nevala-Lee, The New York Times
"Project Hail Mary really is a smartly-written book - a thrilling adventure that celebrates science and the human condition." - Mark Harding, booktopia
WATCH: Andy Weir on how to write a great story and his strangest (and grossest) bit of research.