After the (for me) disaster of a novel Artemis, I started Hail Mary with trepidation. But it opened well. The Martian back to form. A really interesting science fiction science problem, plausible enough to engage the reader. But trouble follows. Weir engages very unrealistically with the social consequences of the challenge confronting the planet. Like all good science fiction writers who have only read Robert Heinlein, he knows that all scientific challenges can be addressed by a hero who knows a lot of basic science, all of which can be extrapolated to any life-threatening problem, and generate an engineering solution involving duct tape. So, he creates two characters: a woman hero who is charged with saving the world and must make all the tough decisions. She is there perhaps because Weir’s editor said he needed a woman character? She has no life, no voice, no nothing, and is dropped halfway through the novel. That is when the second hero, Mr. Weir as middle school science teacher, takes over. Did he have a wife, or life, before being sent off to space? I honestly can’t remember as I write this. A most pleasant fellow, this one-dimensional middle school teacher. Wait! He has a second dimension, revealed about 5 pages before the end. Maybe an editor said, “The character needs some complexity, could you not add something?” “Gee most of the novel is already finished.” “What if he had amnesia, and then suddenly remembered the complexity?” “I can work with that! Where’s the duct tape?” So, slog through this if you wish. I would enjoy the first 100 pages and then skim. Then enjoy the introduction of Rocky. Then skim again. Done. There is a nice unintended consequence episode (about two pages) and the final image is sweet.
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