That happy part of a successful space mission where you pack up all your stuff and salute Mars as it recedes in your rear vision mirror sadly doesn't eventuate for spaceman Mark Watney in THE MARTIAN. An incident during the latter stages of his crew's mission sparks a hasty exodus for everyone else and a long cold solo stay on Mars for the mission's botanist and engineer who is left behind, presumed dead. Not being quite ready to embrace the title of "First Man to Die on Mars", Watney commences his travel diary and brutally assesses his chances of survival. They are pretty crap as it turns out but that won't keep a determined survivalist down.
Back at N.A.S.A satellite images soon pick up signs of Watney's endeavors back up on Mars and the decision is made to go all out. A rescue mission is planned. All Watney has to do is stay alive on a barren planet, with little food and zero company, until the cavalry arrives.
The wizardry contained within THE MARTIAN is in the problem solving. Mark Watney can pretty well conjure up any solution in a pinch in order to survive and can see his way through all the natural horrors and survival obstacles that the red planet throws at him. This book is a "hell yeah" homage to science and screams along at a cracking pace. If you have any fingernails left by the time you finish this book, you are one cool customer, and should probably consider throwing in a resume to N.A.S.A. Or perhaps write a book about all the handy stuff you know, just as bitingly as author Andy Weir has conceived.
You'd hesitate to slap a "science fiction" label on this novel. With THE MARTIAN being written so cleverly in everyman (minus all that annoying brainiac condescension that could have been directed at the reader); it really comes across as just that darn believable. Whenever Weir comes up with something, it rings convincingly true. Perhaps tearing chunks off your spacesuit, employing your handy roll of duct tape and any radioactive materials that you've got lying around really can fix all those pesky problems of extreme cold and no oxygen in space.
THE MARTIAN is one of those books that thriller, fantasy and science fiction enthusiasts will inhale. Any other modern reader will most likely love THE MARTIAN too as it is a tense, intelligent read that projects you right off the couch and into space. As you gnaw your own hand off you are right there with Mark Watney, screaming for him to get a wriggle on and becoming tense to the point of concentration tears. It is so ridiculously clever and enjoyable that it is impossible not to caught up in the ultimate race-against-time read that is THE MARTIAN.
So you don't normally read this kind of novel? Read it anyway.