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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir | Thoughts

      Published in: 2021   ||   Format: ebook   ||   Location: US, Russia, Space

One line review: One not-really-an-astronaut wakes up in Space with the weight of Earth's entire humanity on him and with a single mission to save Earth, except he doesn't really know his name or what the mission is, or even where he is. 

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 "I penetrated the outer cell membrane with a nanosyringe." "You poked it with a stick?" "No!" I said. "Well. Yes. But it was a scientific poke with a very scientific stick." 


Ryland Grace wakes up in an unfamiliar bed with a robot caring for him, not remembering his name, not remembering how he got here, not even remembering what 'here' is. Over the next several days, weeks, and months, his memory gradually comes back to him, but for now, he very soon he realizes he is in Space approaching the sun. But on closer look at the sun (and a lot of math calculations), he realizes this isn't the sun but rather a completely different system. A brief panic ensues and in the process he vaguely recalls that Earth was headed towards doom and he is on a mission to find a way to save Earth. Now, if he could only remember what doom that was and what his mission in, then he could very well get on with it.

Having loved Andy Weirs' The Martian and enjoyed Artemis, albeit a little less, I've been looking forward to reading Project Hail Mary. The premise seemed to promise a return to everything I liked about The Martian and now that I've finished the book, I'll say that it is way too similar to The Martian. Ryland Grace is mostly the same character as Mart Watney - overly confident and extremely sarcastic, with an apparent knowledge of almost all scientific facts and trivia (the author's reasoning this time is that junior high school science teachers know a lot of things about everything). The plot also follows a very similar trajectory - starting from a point of impending doom, followed by several opportunities to use science in innovative and household ways to solve difficult problems, and then a curveball at the end.

So yeah, if you don't mind reading The Martian again with almost-the-same protagonist and the same arc, but with a different mission and problems, then you will enjoy Project Hail Mary.

I did enjoy it. Everything I said above bothered me but the plot was extremely engaging that it didn't matter.

As with The Martian, what I enjoyed the most is Grace's ability to solve big problems with simple answers. Even if you don't get all the science-talk, and some of it went over my head too, despite my science background, I couldn't help appreciate the problem-solving abilities on display here. It's exciting to see that happen - all within a spaceship that does see its fair share of disasters. It can take you on an appreciation of all things nerdy.

That said, this book is an extremely alpha-male, cisgendered oriented fiction, probably worse than The Martian was. As Earth slowly begins to learn about the upcoming apocalypse, a grandiose project is put together to help save humanity. Using the rationale that this is a save-the-earth mission, no expense is spared and no concessions are made for any purpose. And so, there is no good diversity representation among the characters. I would have sighed annoyingly and moved on if this wasn't actually made fun of in the book. Every region and character is stereotyped to the hilt and the head of the project (yes, this is a woman) goes on to say she was not in favor of representation, because she wants the best of the best, which, in her opinion, are usually white males. Research has shown that the reason women are not represented well at the top is not due to a lack of talent or intelligence but several social and economic factors. So other than making fun of this problem, the book does nothing to explore that idea. And that is what frustrated me. Why introduce a theme and then not dive into it? Especially one that does need a lot of context shared. 

The writing in Project Hail Mary is also somewhat immature - our protagonist exclaims and sighs and panics a lot and the writing over-expresses this. But reading it as a thriller, it didn't matter. Ultimately, this was a very exciting, somewhat poorly written, poorly represented thriller with a great plot.

There is a HUGE spoiler in the book though - I don't know how much of it has come out. When that actually happened, I couldn't put the book down and wanted to see where it went. I have so much to write about this spoiler because it actually is almost three-quarters of the book. I am glad it took that direction, especially since I was reading this book after months of watching Star Trek episodes every evening. But if you plan to read the book and haven't heard of the spoiler yet, I don't want to spoil it for you. All I'll say is, Rocky is the best. (Now, don't you google that.)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review. Project Hail Mary is now available for purchase at your favorite bookstore.