Book Summary —Project Hail Mary

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Michael Batko


1 paragraph summary:

Looooved this book, it started off super fun with lots of action. Took a completely unexpected turn and held the tension really well by going back and forth between the past and the present. On top of a bit of science, a fair bit of action, I just loved the writing style with lots of humour and sarcasm.

Alien Contact

Wow. I’m sitting here in a spaceship in the Tau Ceti system waiting for the intelligent aliens I just met to continue our conversation … and I’m bored. Human beings have a remarkable ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal.

Well, I say “his hand,” but maybe it’s her hand. Or some other pronoun I don’t have a word for. They might have seventeen biological sexes, for all I know. Or none. No one ever talks about the really hard parts of first contact with intelligent alien life: pronouns. I’m going to go with “he” for now, because it just seems rude to call a thinking being “it.” Also, until I hear otherwise, his name is Rocky.

Oh thank God. I can’t imagine explaining “sleep” to someone who had never heard of it. Hey, I’m going to fall unconscious and hallucinate for a while. By the way, I spend a third of my time doing this. And if I can’t do it for a while, I go insane and eventually die. No need for concern. I add his word for “sleep” to the dictionary.

“You have a strange logic to you,” I said. “Not really. When the alternative is death to your entire species, things are very easy. No moral dilemmas, no weighing what’s best for whom. Just a single-minded focus on getting this project working.”

Science Quotes

Don’t most scientists agree that liquid water is necessary for life to evolve?” “They’re wrong!” I crossed my arms. “There’s nothing magical about hydrogen and oxygen! They’re required for Earth life, sure. But another planet could have completely different conditions. All life needs is a chemical reaction that results in copies of the original catalyst. And you don’t need water for that!”

“Believe it or not, light has momentum,” I said. “It exerts a force. If you were out in space and you turned on a flashlight, you’d get a teeny, tiny amount of thrust from it.”

Everything emits light. The temperature of the object defines the wavelength of light emitted.

Anything smaller than the wavelength is functionally nonexistent to that photon. That’s why there’s a mesh over the window of a microwave. The holes in the mesh are too small for microwaves to pass through. But visible light, with a much shorter wavelength, can go through freely. So you get to watch your food cook without melting your face off.

Broadly speaking, the human brain is a collection of software hacks compiled into a single, somehow-functional unit. Each “feature” was added as a random mutation that solved some specific problem to increase our odds of survival. In short, the human brain is a mess. Everything about evolution is messy.

“Math is not thinking. Math is procedure. Memory is not thinking. Memory is storage. Thinking is thinking. Problem, solution. You and me think same speed. Why, question?”

“We’re as smart as evolution made us. So we’re the minimum intelligence needed to ensure we can dominate our planets.”


I’ve gone from “sole-surviving space explorer” to “guy with wacky new roommate.” It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

I’m naked and connected to more tubes than I can count. There’s one in each arm, one in each leg, one in my “gentlemen’s equipment,” and two that disappear under my thigh. I’m guessing one of them is up where the sun doesn’t shine.

I’m a scientist! Now we’re getting somewhere! Time for me to use science. All right, genius brain: come up with something! … I’m hungry. You have failed me, brain.

“This is not optional,” she said to my back. “Seems optional to me!” I waved goodbye. Yeah. It wasn’t optional.

“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.” “It took you two days to think of poking it with a stick.” “You … be quiet.”

And then, I swear to God, it waves at me! One of its little arms waves at me! I wave back. It waves again. Okay, this could go on all day. I head back toward the airlock. Your move, guys.

Another day, another staff meeting. Who would have thought saving the world could be so boring? The science team sat around the meeting-room table. Me, Dimitri, and Lokken. For all her talk about cutting out bureaucracy, Stratt ended up with a bunch of de facto department heads and daily staff meetings. Sometimes, the stuff we all hate ends up being the only way to do things.

“Oh! Wow. Why did it break off?” He wiggles his carapace. “Not know. Many things break. My people make ship very hurry. No time to make sure all things work good.” Deadline-induced quality issues: a problem all over the galaxy.

“Coffee.” The arms dutifully hand me a cup of coffee. It’s kind of cool that the arms will hand me a cup when there’s gravity, but a pouch when there isn’t. I’ll remember this when writing up the Hail Mary’s Yelp review.

Do you believe in God?

I know it’s a personal question. I do.

And I think He was pretty awesome to make relativity a thing, don’t you?

The faster you go, the less time you experience.

It’s like He’s inviting us to explore the universe, you know?”

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