The Martian by Andy Weir
Mark Watney’s crew escaped, but he didn’t. Now he’s the only person on all of Mars. No radio contact. No one knows he’s alive. Only he can save himself.
The Martian is a rollercoaster ride of a science fiction novel, and the word “science” is heavily emphasized. The only way Mark can survive is to “science the shit” out of his situation. And then everything that can go wrong, just like Murphy says, does. It seems like Mars wants Mark to die there, but Mark has other intentions.
Told through mission logs where Mark recaps the day’s adventures, and interluding “Earth-based” chapters spread out through the novel, it’s got a fast-paced, humorous and yet grounded sense of style.
Mark is brilliant, hilarious, and an absolute joy to read about. He thinks his way into and out of the box and so far beyond the box that the box is no longer a box, and it’s astounding and mesmerizing and way over my head, but still captivating.
Science is not my strongest asset. Math, I hated but could figure out and pass advanced classes with a B; Science… well, I got a B in Chemistry but avoided Physics for a reason. I can do it, but it hurts my brain and even then, I don’t really understand everything behind it. That being said, The Martian has a lot of science. Like, A LOT, a lot. Watney explains everything he’s doing and how it works and walks you through it (often skipping the math, thank goodness). I tried to understand, and I get the basic principles of it, but if I were stranded on Mars, I can tell you without a doubt that I wouldn’t survive. Then again, I wouldn’t be an astronaut, as cool as space seems. AND YET, I didn’t find that to be a problem when reading The Martian. Weir knows that not everyone reading it has a degree in Chemistry of Astrophysics or Engineering or Botany or whatever (hence why he explains it in a very realistic way), but it doesn’t hinder the reading experience if you don’t understand it exactly. If anything, it makes the story that much stronger, and his survival that much more difficult. It works in favor of the ignorant reader because the reader isn’t overanalyzing it to make sure the science works. It just does.
Watney deals with a lot, and every time he gets something working, something else blows up in his face (sometimes quite literally). It’s action-packed and it’s one problem and challenge after another, but it keeps the reader engaged and wondering how Watney will figure out his way around this new problem.
The side characters are done well, and the argument of humanity is touching and beautiful, but Mark is the star of the show. He is The Martian, and his story will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Also, Matt Damon plays him in the movie version coming out in November. Score.