A novel by software engineer Andy Weir, a hard science fiction version of Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Self-published online as a serial novel, and then in Kindle format in 2012, a hardcover edition was published by Crown in 2014.

The plot centers on the travails of astronaut Mark Watney, left for dead on Mars by his fellow astronauts evacuating during a dust storm. Damage from the storm leaves him unable to communicate with Earth. Watney's challenge: survive until the next manned Mars mission arrives... in two years. Much of the plot is science driven, as Watney has to MacGyver ways to produce water, air, and food, and to find a way to let NASA know he's alive. 

Most of the novel consists of diary entries detailing the scientific and engineering obstacles Watney encounters. So while the story is suspenseful and exciting (the type of solo adventure novel that could even appeal to children),  following the turns of plot does require a college-level familiarity with chemistry and physics. (When originally published on his blog, astronauts, spaceflight engineers, chemists, physicists, and geologists emailed Weir to correct or enhance his plot points.)

One major conceit that you'll need to get past: the sole stranded astronaut happens to be the mechanical engineer/ botanist of the mission (how convenient!). While Weir has written Watney's character as a smartass, providing genuine laugh lines to break up the novel's tension, the novel's main weakness is slighting the psychological toll of solitary confinement 40 million miles from the rest of humanity.

Long before the book was published in hardcover, film rights were optioned by 20th Century Fox, with Simon Kinberg (X-Men: First Class, Elysium) attached as producer and Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Cloverfield) attached as writer/director.

Additional sources:
Ira Flatow and Andy Weir. Interview, Science Friday. February 14, 2014.http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/02/14/2014/andy-weir-the-martian.html(accessed April 16, 2014)
Georgia Rowe, "Andy Weir's self-published 'The Martian' travels through space to best-sellerdom," San Jose Mercury News. March 10, 2014. http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_25313443/andy-weirs-self-published-martian-travels-through-space (accessed April 16, 2014)
Jeff Schneider, "Drew Goddard in Negotiations to Write and Direct ‘The Martian’ for Fox (Exclusive)." The Wrap. May 15, 2013. http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/drew-goddard-negotiations-write-direct-martian-fox-exclusive-91896 (accessed April 16, 2014)
Andy Weir, "How science made me a writer." Salon. February 11, 2014. http://www.salon.com/2014/02/11/how_science_made_me_a_writer/ (accessed April 16, 2014)

The Martian
By Andy Weir
Broadway books, 2011

The Martian is an excellent work of near-future hard science fiction. It is set in our own world, but advanced by a few years, to the point that manned flight to Mars has been underway for some years. The story starts mid-way through the USA's third trip to the red planet, and nothing too very exciting is expected. Unfortunately, only six days into the mission a massive sand storm threatens to collapse the team's habitat and flip over their lander, so they are forced to abort the mission.

On the way out, the team botanist/mechanical engineer, Mark Watney, is speared by a broken antenna, and whipped away be the storm. His suit monitor shows that his biological signs have ceased, and he is left for dead. A fact that he finds somewhat troubling when he awakes with a hole in his side, a hole in his suit (clogged by frozen blood), and no one else on the planet. Oh, and limited food. And air. And water. And the radio is broken. But NASA picks the best and the brightest, and trains them for every conceivable emergency. Mark has totally got this.

This book is by far the hardest work of hard SF that I have ever read -- the science isn't too far advanced from today's and it is almost 100% accurate. The only scientific inaccuracy of any note is the sand storm that chased off the astronauts; Mars' atmosphere would not actually be able to muster a storm so severe. Aside from that, this is straight up canon NASA fanfic. And despite this, the book is highly readable and engaging, although it will surely be most interesting to space nuts.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in this book, and there are very few, is that we pretty much know what is going to happen next. When there is one person on the planet, and there are still 200 pages to go, you pretty much know that a system failure is coming up soon. And that the hero will survive. And then another potentially deadly problem, and another clever solution. And then another. And then another. Seriously, what else is going to happen? Even so, the variety of problems and solutions, the humor with which the story is told, keep it from ever being too predictable.

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