It's been a while since I read a sci-fi book and I'm glad I picked The Martian to get back in the swing of things. Set in a near future where space travel is possible but still bound by problems currently facing NASA, it's been described as a modern day Robinson Crusoe - a survival story for the current generation. Overall this is much simpler book than the last couple that I've read and it felt breezy and quick. The sentence structure is fairly clipped, as it's mostly written as diary entries.
Our protagonist Mark Watney is part of 6 person expedition to Mars who gets left behind after extraordinary circumstances in an emergency evacuation leave him presumed dead. Alone on Mars, our hero has to figure out how to survive until the supply shipments for the next Mars mission arrive in four years. Armed with all the expedition leftovers and a sharp sense of gallows humor, Mark carves out a little existence on Mars.
The amount of actual science Mark does to stay alive is impressive. From figuring out how to create water from pure hydrogen and pure oxygen to uplinking an abandoned Mars probe to communicate with NASA, everything is within the realm of possibility while exciting in a MacGyver sort of way. I was often incredulous about a problem Mark would face, only to be presented with an accurate way that it could be dealt with. I mentioned it earlier, but there's a really dark humor to Mark. It makes sense that he would have to find some coping mechanisms for his current situation and sarcasm seems to be a flowing channel. At times this became annoying, but for the most part it endeared him a little bit more as a real human.
While Mark is alone on Mars, we have a surrounding cast in the scientists at NASA and remaining crewmates en route back to Earth. None of them are particularly fleshed out, but they provide enough contrast to bounce against Mark. We appreciate their hustle and sympathize with their problems, but they are really secondary to Mark's story.
While I was looking up information about this book, I found out that it's slated to become a major motion picture. This strikes me as a good thing, actually. This is a very accessible book that was pleasant to read but it might really blossom as a movie where we can really comprehend the emptiness of Mars and drama of survival there.