A stand-alone SF book set in Mars.

Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook, pdf
Page count: 437
Publisher: Crown

Mark Watney is one of a six person mission sent to Mars by NASA. He’s the mission’s engineer and botanist. However, a violent sand storm forces the crew have to leave only six days after the landing. Mark is impaled by an antenna and lost in the storm, so the crew believes that he’s dead and they have to leave. But he’s not. Instead, he’s faced with surviving on Mars. All alone.

Fortunately, NASA sent a lot of equipment and supplies for the crew and Mark is a an engineer. Still, he knows that the only way for him to get back to Earth is with the next Mars mission – which is planned to land in four years. Unfortunately, Mark’s food will ran out long before that so he has to put all of his wits to work.

Most of the book is Mark’s journal entries in Mars. They’re in first person and quite detailed about what he’s doing. The science is especially detailed. However, they’re also funny. Rather than being depressed by his situation and the inevitable set-backs, Mark is almost always cheerful and optimistic. Except when confronted with the fact that his entertainment for years to come will have to come from the stuff left behind by his fellow crew members, namely Commander Lewis’s collection of disco and 70s TV-shows.

About third of the way in, we get other characters; NASA personnel who realize that Mark is alive. Then they try everything they can to get him back and they also have to deal with the press. They also have to decide if they should tell the rest of the crew that Mark is alive. After all, the crew is on their way back and they can’t do anything to correct the situation.

The technology level in the book is close to current day so a trip to Mars takes over a year and has to be intricately planned. No replicators or faster-than-light spaceships here. However, Mark is quite an ingenious man and uses MacGyver-like tricks in order to survive.

The Martian is quite different from other science fiction I’ve read, but in a good way. I enjoyed this book a lot. I even found the scientific details fascinating.