Mark Watney is stuck on Mars.
A powerful sandstorm during NASA's third manned mission to Mars forced the the Ares 3 crew to leave the planet ahead of schedule. Mark is injured during the storm–fatally, his cremates believe–and left behind while the others barely escape the storm in time. But thanks to a "ridiculous sequence of events that led to me almost dying, and an even more ridiculous sequence that led to me surviving," Mark is alive. Now he must find a way to get in touch with NASA in hopes of a rescue while also figuring out how to survive with limited supplies on an inhospitable planet.
The Martian is, in a word, awesome. It's a smart, suspenseful, surprisingly funny survival story, and easily one of my favorite books of the year. It's science fiction–emphasis on the science–that'll appeal both to fans of the genre and folks like me who usually don't read much science fiction at all.
Much of the book is told in the form of a logbook Mark keeps, a record of the steps he takes to try to grow some food (a subject that's been in the news recently), for example, or hacking a Martian rover. Have you read Packing for Mars by Mary Roach? Think of The Martian as the next chapter or the sequel in fiction form, with a similarly wisecracking narrator.
Andy Weir, via the supremely likable and so-easy-to-root-for-I-was-cheering-for-him-from-the-very-first-paragraph Mark, ratchets up the tension and maintains it even during some pretty science-heavy stretches. Because in order for Mark to survive (forget man vs. the elements, this is man vs. even more hazardous Martian elements), he not only needs to utilize his knowledge of science and engineering, he also needs to keep his sense of humor and remain optimistic since he is literally the only person on the entire planet. The combination made for a gripping read since the stakes were so high, the odds were against Mark, and I was absolutely, completely invested in his survival.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Published 2014 by Random House