In The Martian, the third manned mission to Mars is forced to abort due to a violent sandstorm only days after landing. But Astronaut Mark Watney, skewered by an antenna during the escape and thought dead by his crew, is left stranded on the surface to fend for himself. Rescue is a faint possibility, but not before Mark runs out of food and oxygen. Sustained mostly by potatoes and a crewmate’s disco collection, Mark fights to survive not only the Mars but his own mistakes.
Weir writes a tight sci-fi thriller that’s hard to put down (it was a quick two day read for me). What sets The Martian apart is how simple human errors are the greatest driver of the plot. One ingenious solution to Mark’s problems can be undone by a single moment of carelessness or lack of foresight. Weir writs a witty but fallible character in Mark who is intelligent but not omniscient. You’re left hopeful but curious to see if he’s truly the equal of the Martian environment.
[This may be too much of a spoiler:
My only complaint is that the sense of Mark’s sheer isolation is diluted once the Weir introduces characters on Earth very early on, even if Mark can’t communicate with them. Part of Mark’s experience is the fear that no one on Earth knows that he is alive, but the reader can’t share in his doubts after 50 pages in.]
Read The Martian before the movie release later this year drives up demand.