10 Books Like Project Hail Mary: First Contact, BFFs in Space, Snark and Ethical Tangles

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What’s not to love about Project Hail Mary? Rocky and Ryland’s big fat adventure was an epic space opera. It featured the classic hard science and snark that Andy Weir delivered in The Martian, along with a first contact story, ethical quandaries, life threatening mishaps and the claustrophobia of being lost in space.

If you loved the story and want to read more books like Project Hail Mary, we’ve got you covered. Each of the 10 books recommended here keys in on one or more of Project Hail Mary‘s settings, themes or plot threads. We’ve even got a surprise pick that isn’t sci-fi, but we think you’ll like it anyway.

So, if you liked Project Hail Mary, we’re sure you’ll find a book or two or ten to add to your TBR list.

Books like Project Hail Mary, with book covers

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10 Books Like Project Hail Mary

Read Weir’s epic space opera for book club and use our Project Hail Mary discussion guide to get the conversation started.

The Sparrow (The Sparrow Series #1), Mary Doria Russell

If you liked the ethical dilemmas presented by Project Hail Mary, then you should read The Sparrow.

When a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up what sounds like singing coming from another planet, the world dithers. But a group of Jesuits see it as a sign from God and they put together their own space mission to investigate. The first contact goes wrong and the lone Jesuit who returns is subjected to some pretty brutal consequences.

The book touches on faith, what it means to be “human”, and just how much damage can be done by well-meaning people. The story is richly imagined and absolutely heartbreaking.

The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1), Becky Chambers

If you want some cross-species friends in space who have to get each other out of a pickle, then pick up The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet.

When Rosemary Harper joins the ragtag crew on the Wayfarer, she was just looking for a job and a place to lay low. But what she got was a newly found family from a diverse set of species. The crew sets off on what they hope will be a lucrative, but dangerous contract to tunnel a new wormhole. But of course, things go sideways.

The book features surprising emotional depth from its strong female lead, and the cast of gender-fluid characters. If you like it, you can continue on with the other books in the Wayfarers series.

Psalm For the Wild-Built (Monk and Robot #1), Becky Chambers

Psalm For the Wild-Built is quite different from The Long Way, but it also has that friendly, cozy space vibe that Chambers is so good at. This book centers on a pan-species friendship and a quest.

The book is set on the small moon of Panga, 200 years after robots achieved sentience and walked off the job to live their lives in the wilderness. That was just as well, as Panga’s heavily industrialized society had brought its environment to the brink. With the robots gone, the humans performed an earnest (and successful) about-face, re-tooling civilization for a sustainable future.

Monk wanders the countryside providing tea and comfort for Panga’s citizens. And they’re good at it, but they’ve become restless and are unsure if they’re fulfilling their true purpose. They light off into the wilderness on a pilgrimage to see if they can find enlightenment. Along the way, they meet Moscap, a robot who has been sent out into the human lands to see how the they’re faring.

The book reads like a buddy road trip with a great deal of humor, caring and gentle philosophical musings. And the way in which the humans have chosen to care for the land is a very hopeful lesson for those of us living on earth.

If you like the idea of philosophical pilgrimages, we’ve got a whole list of pilgrimage books for you.

The Fifth Science, Exurb1a

Rather than a devilishly clever virus/bacteria/thing eating up the sun, image what would happen if the humans managed that themselves…but on a slow burn.

This series of stories starts with the rise of the Galactic Human Empire and it plows right on through to the Empire’s final days. Over the veeeery long time period presented in the stories, human culture zigs, zags, and ultimately sputters.

The book has some hard science, machine learning, and the “fifth science”. But it’s also full of musing on consciousness, and all the while the author’s tongue is firmly planted in his cheek. In addition to appealing to people who want books similar to Project Hail Mary, it’s good for fans of the Foundation series.

The Mote in God’s Eye (Mote #1), Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

The titular “Mote” is an isolated star, obscured by dust. While humans have long colonized space, their discovery of Mote and their attempts to make first contact prove to be difficult and surprising.

This book is like Project Hail Mary for its coverage of a first contact and all of the attendant difficulty of relating to a species so different from our own. As with Rocky, the “Moties” are very alien, very strange, but the authors have imbued them with enough human character traits for us to be able to relate. And there’s a lot in the book about the difficulties of finding co-existence and understanding.

Under Fortunate Stars, Ren Hutchings

Not unlike Ryland, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s ship, The Jonah, has broken down and is adrift in space. They think there’s little chance of rescue…that is until the Gallion ship shows up, claiming to be from 152 years into the future. Much to the surprise and discomfort of The Jonah crew and captain, they were apparently hailed as heroes from the war against the Felen.

This is a classic space opera with great worldbuilding, a screwy timeline, plenty of adventure and a crew of anti-heroes (kinda like Ryland).

Seveneves, Neal Stephenson

Any of Stephenson’s works can sub in as books like Project Hail Mary. He’s big into the whole “earth is ruined and we have to science out way out of this mess” thing.

We’ve chosen Seveneves as a Hail Mary readalike for its plotline which features a catastrophe that renders earth a ticking time bomb. That “oh crap” moment, much like the one in Hail Mary, forces humanity to figure out a way to get our best and brightest on the job, and get some humans and our DNA material up into space. Except the process is not only difficult, but it’s full of conflict.

The book covers the initial event and human efforts to get into space before it flashes far forward into the future to give you a glimpse of what happened.

All Systems Red (Murder Bot #1), Martha Wells

No, the earth isn’t ruined, there isn’t any first contact and not much hard science. But, Martha Well’s Murderbot character is one snarky, sentient robot.

The Murderbot is a security robot who hacked its own programming to gave itself free agency. It tries hard to cover that up because if found out, the powers who be will sent it to the scrap heap. When things go sideways on their assignment (you know– murder, corporate malfeasance, power games), they step in to figure out what’s going on.

This character is a hoot. Murderbot is misanthropic, snarky, brilliant and very clever about exacting sneaky revenge when necessary. It’s an easy read and if you like it, there are a bunch in the series.

The Last Policeman (Last Policeman #1), Ben H. Winters

This speculative police procedural by Winters isn’t set in space. But it does tackles themes like humanity on the brink and the nature of responsibility.

Asteroid 2011GV1 is hurtling toward earth, yielding the power of a thousand Hiroshima bombs. We’re doomed! People are freaking out, walking off the job, and governments are in chaos. But police detective Henry Palace feels compelled to continue to do his job. When he’s called to the site of a suicide, he suspects murder and sets out to investigate.

It’s a great mix of gumshoe noir with a pre-apocalyptic twist. It’s also part of a series, so if you like the first, keep reading.

Thursday Murder Club (Thursday Murder Club #1), Richard Osman

Bear with us because this book isn’t a space opera…it isn’t even science fiction. Rather it’s a murder mystery series with a bunch of crime solving septuagenarians living in in a retirement home. But we’re suggesting it as a book to read if you liked Project Hail Mary because of the unlikely friendship that has developed between the very different members of the murder club.

Along the way you get the tension of a problem to be solved (in this case a murder rather than a broken space ship), humorous interactions between the friends, and their humorous interactions with both the police and the criminals, some danger and a few ethical dilemmas.

It’s part of a series, so if you like the first one, keep on reading.

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More Sci-Fi and Spec Fic Books

You can start with our list of climate fiction books, which features a range of hopeful to total disaster. We also have book club guides for Sea of Tranquility (Hillary St. John Mandel), Babel (R.F. Kuang) and Cloud Cuckoo Land (Anthony Doerr).

We also have read alike lists for: The Midnight Library, Song of Achilles and The Hunger Games. And if you like romantasy, try this list of authors similar to Sarah J. Maas.

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