Reviewing Sci-Fi Books: Project Hail Mary + A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Hi everyone! I’ve been trying to catch up on some 2021 releases that I didn’t read last year and these two sci-fi books were at the top of my list. I’m happy to say that overall I enjoyed both of them even if I had some issues that prevented me from completely loving them. Here are my thoughts:

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

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, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

The humorous tone of the book captured my attention as soon as I started reading, and it worked really well to offset the tense and hopeless situation the book revolves around. The first part of this book was so strong because it was easy to feel the tension and how desperate the situation was for the entire population of earth. Andy Weir used the two timeliness perfectly to create intrigue and keep the reader engaged; having this middle school teacher wake up in a spaceship with no memory of how he got there and then seeing the past and slowly understanding the dire situation kept the book interesting. And then the story takes an unexpected turn that added a very compelling element to the story and the way the book explored the consequences of that change in direction was very engrossing at first.

Nonetheless, after a while, the plot basically stopped progressing and the new elements stopped being as interesting. The book started to drag because there are certain interactions and developments that were interesting at first but that became repetitive and monotonous, and that may have been the author’s intent since that’s a realistic portrait of those experiences but it did make the reading experience a little less fun. Also, sometimes it felt like the author got caught up in showing all the cool science and forgot about the story.

Still, the book picked up again once things started to progress and I was at the edge of my seat for most of the last 25% when everything kept going wrong and the characters had to come up with riskier plans to try to save the world. Nonetheless, while everything going wrong can add tension and excitement, there’s a fine line before it stops doing that and instead, it makes the reader go “when is this going to end?”, and this book was very close to crossing that line for me. But I feel like ultimately it didn’t cross it and I actually enjoyed the ending. It was bittersweet, unexpected and it fit the story well.

RATING: 4 STARS

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

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, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

My expectations for this book were really high because I loved the two Becky Chambers books I’ve read, and while this wasn’t everything I hoped for, it was still a good read. The concept of the book was really interesting, a world where robots suddenly became self-aware and decided to live apart from humans without contact with them, and humans are trying to fix the mistake of the past by looking after nature and respecting the decision of robots. Overall, the book had a very hopeful tone that started with this concept, the idea that humans can change and decide to work together, commit to saving the environment, and learn to respect other beings.

My main problem was that I found Sibling Dex to be a boring main character, and since almost half of the book is focused only on him, his job as a tea monk and his journey, I wasn’t that invested. Nonetheless, I really appreciated the casual queerness (Sibling Dex is nonbinary) and getting to see different parts of the world because of his job as a tea monk implied a lot of traveling. Furthermore, once Mosscap, a robot and the second main character, is introduced things become better (plot and character-wise). Mosscap is a really wholesome character and it adds so much warmth to the story. Also, it was interesting seeing Dex and Mosscap learning about each other’s cultures and ways of life. This book does a very good job of addressing difference and otherness, the way two cultures can see and understand the same thing in very different ways.

Lastly, this book is thought-provoking in more than one way, but what stuck with me the most is the powerful commentary on separating our value from what we do, what we contribute and our productivity, which is reflected in my favorite quote from the book: “You keep asking why your work is not enough, and I don’t know how to answer that, because it is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that, or earn it. You are allowed to just live.”

RATING: 4 STARS

Have you read these books? What Sci-Fi books have you read and loved recently?

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