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REVIEW: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, narrated by Ray Porter

illustrated cover, long view of an astronaut on a long tether floating in space before a yellow planet (or star?) streaked with blackWhy I read it:  I really enjoyed The Martian so I picked this one up when I heard the buzz.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads) 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.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian – while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

PLEASE NOTE: To accommodate this audio edition, some changes to the original text have been made with the approval of author Andy Weir.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): I so enjoyed this audiobook! The narration is fantastic; Ray Porter nails the humour and pathos in the story and delivers a pacey performance which was *chef’s kiss*. I’m kind of curious what the experience would be like in print – as the note at the end of the blurb indicates, there are changes to the original text made in the audio version to enhance the listen. I think those changes made the book better; particularly when it came to understanding Rocky, the alien life form Grace meets while in the Tau Ceti system. Rocky communicates in chimes and musical chords and that’s exactly what you hear at first. Then later, once they learn to communicate with each other, there’s a vocal overlay of Porter’s voice which gives it a musical sound and serves to make it screamingly obvious when Rocky is talking. There is no need for dialogue tags in the sections where Grace is in space as the only two beings talking are he and Rocky. Clearly Porter had the benefit of the direction of the original text when it came to portraying the emotions called for but, hearing them, it was unnecessary to also listen to them described. The dialogue itself did that.  The entire experience was much more immersive and was also easier to understand. I don’t know of course because I listened and did not read, but I expect I’d have struggled to come up with the same voice for Rocky in my head. I’m sure that the listening experience made it easier to relate to him.

The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by RC Bray

themartianWhy I read it:  This sci-fi book was highly recommended and I bought the audiobook a little while back. It’s not a romance but I don’t mind a little break every now and then and, as I’ve said before, I tend to be more adventurous with audiobooks anyway.  I hear this one is being made into a movie starring Matt Damon, to be directed by Ridley Scott.  If they don’t muck it up, it will be awesome.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive?and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills – and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit – he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This book was an absolute cracker. Honestly, I was hooked from the beginning and the story kept me gripped right until the end. I am trying to restrain myself from just fangirl gushing about it – it was just that good.

Mark Watney has been left alone on Mars.  His crew, for valid reasons, thought he was dead and they had to leave in a hurry.  He is alone, in a hostile environment and has no communication with Earth or his crew’s ship (Hermes) because the same storm which caused the quick departure took out the comms.  So, at first, no-one even knows he’s alive.  What follows is him making a plan to survive until the next Mars mission which is four years away.  He is a mechanical engineer and a botanist, which, as it turns out, if you’re going to be stuck alone on Mars, include the perfect skillset.  He basically MacGyver’s what is available to him in order to survive.

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