In some ways, this is an old-school space-opera. The Martian by indie author Andy Weir is one of the best science fiction stories to come out of the last 20 years. A real adventure story from the get-go, this story of an astronaut inadvertently left behind is gripping from page one.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
Mark Watney is hilarious. He is the sort of man who gets through life by finding something positive in every disaster, and mocking the hell out of everything that is negative. A horrendous storm destroys much of their base, and his team is forced to abort their mission. During the emergency evacuation of the Ares 3 landing site, he is severely injured in an accident that appears to have killed him. His body is unretrievable, and unaware that he is still alive, he is left behind. His companions begin the long journey back to Earth, grief stricken at his sudden death.
At first he has no communications, so it is a long while before NASA realizes he is alive, and that is only because a low-level scientist, Mindy Park, who has been assigned to monitor images returned by the Mars satellites decides to look at the Ares 3 landing site and realizes that human activity is still occurring. there, which can only mean he is still alive. Mark Watney is an astronaut, so of course he is extremely resourceful. He does what he has to in order to survive his injuries, and then figures out exactly what he must do to stay alive until the next mission.
A botanist and mechanical genius, eventually, Mark does the math and concludes that not only will he have to survive for more than a year, he will have to travel across Mars to the next mission’s planned site, with no GPS. He figures out a way to do that, by growing potatoes, and turns his habitat into a farm. He survives many near disasters in his attempts to supply his basic needs, and figures out a way to communicate with Earth, despite the fact that the communications array was destroyed in the storm that “killed” him.
The events that take place at NASA, the people there, and the way they pull together to figure out a way to rescue him before he runs out of food and water are gripping. The in-fighting is realistic and true to the way we humans are in real life, and the lengths some people go to in order to get him home are also both realistic and heroic.
If you only read one book this summer, I highly recommend The Martian. Originally self-published in 2012, the Martian is now set to be a movie and in May 2014 it was reported that Ridley Scott was in negotiations to direct an adaptation that would star Matt Damon as Mark Watney.