Ryland Grace just woke up strapped to a medical bed with two dead roommates. That’s not the least of his problem, though: he’s in space, and he doesn’t know why. Eventually, he’ll figure that out; his memory will return. But it won’t help….because he’s years away from Earth, and the fate of the entire planet rests in his hands. And he’s not even supposed to be be there today.
Andy Weir’s novels have yet to let me down, for their winsome mix of hard science writing and energetic humor. The plot-problem of Project Hail Mary is that the Sun’s energy is being leached away by space algae, apparently a common problem in the Local Group. It would figure that as soon as we discover other life in the cosmos, we discover it’s about to kill us. Grace and his colleagues were to investigate, and hopefully find a solution before Earth relived its Snowball years. When Grace arrives at the target location, he discovers that Elton John was wrong: it’s not so lonely out in space. Weir repeats the constant-stream-of-technical-challenges that worked so well in The Martian, and adds to it Grace’s need to figure out a way to communicate with…..well, someone else. Perhaps in response to criticisms that his last two protagonists have sounded like identical sarcastic pottymouths, Weir takes care to give Grace a distinct voice, and a secondary character who appears later is even more unique. Grace is arguably even more sympathetic than Mark Watney, in that rather than being an accomplished and cocky astronaut, Grace has to combat first his induced amnesia, and then his self-doubt when certain last-day-before-launch memories surface. Project Hail Mary was for me an absolute win of a book, SF that puts the science big and proud back into science fiction.
‘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.’
There are many more dialogue funnies, but they’d give away a lot of the fun of the book.
Get it, loser, we’re going shopping. We’re going to use cryptocurrency and smash the state! #agora is a quickie novel about a young man named Daniel, who is dragged out of bed by his roommate Tom, too excited about the prospects of bitcoin to let him sleep. Daniel’s attempts to learn more lead him onto the dark web, there to be seduced by .pdfs of subversive texts and a growing IRC community dedicated to countereconomics. It’s arguably an unexpected romance that really leads Daniel into the heart of Berlin’s anarchist community, though, as he meets a gal with a Harley Quinn-esque energy. All of the websites, files, and films that Daniel is reccommended as he embraces agorism are all active links, and to my amusement some were books (Alongside Night) I’d already encountered. Although the novel is mostly a running how-to for modern agorism/countereconomics, there’s also fair bit of humor – -especially when Daniel debates two economists, Bob Murphy and Walter Block, so his co-conspirator can attempt to seduce Jeffrey Tucker. The book’s characters range from those who believe we can build a better society through voluntaryism, to those who regard coercive power struggles as inevitable as death, and choose instead to live the vonu way.
“One thing you have to learn, young Daniel, is that it’s all in the details. They train you to obey the little things so you’ll obey the big things later.”
“But you can’t let other people define you. They will define you in such a way that you must serve them.”
“‘That’s not the point. Even if [Ron Paul] got 100% of the votes, it wouldn’t make a difference. You can’t do the right thing – that’s the point of the system. It doesn’t help to be principled or to know Austrian Economics or to wave the magic constitution. Until you show me bullet proof paper, I’m not counting on it for my safety.'”
“‘Thank you’, Block says, ‘I didn’t know we had such.. interesting readers.’ ‘Oh, Mises.org is the rave in Germany’, I say.”