The Martian is one of the most perfect science fiction novels I've ever read. Originally self-published by Andy Weir, this tale of a man stranded on Mars quickly amassed over 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon and was picked up by a major publisher. I recently had the absolute joy of reading an advance copy of the book, which will be in wide release in February of 2014. If we live in a just universe, The Martian will be a best seller and win both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It's that good.
Weir does several hard things very well in this novel. He's obviously done his homework and the Mars mission, NASA, all the science and the sequence of events leading to astronaut Mark Watney's predicament all ring true. More importantly Mark Watney is someone you believe in from page one. He is one of the most human, likable, funny and stubborn people you will ever meet in the pages of a book and you cannot help but root for this guy.
A book like this could easily get bogged down in technical details, overwhelming the reader with details and infodumps, but Weir keeps the tension high throughout the novel. It's tempting to compare Weir's book to the technothrillers of someone like Michael Crichton but I honestly have to say that Weir seems to be a better writer than Crichton.
Science is the star of this book and our hero is ultimately not alone as NASA and the rest of planet earth become aware of Mark Watney's predicament. This is ultimately the story not of a man or a martian, but of humanity and how we as humans survive through intelligence, humor, perseverance and faith in each other.
The Martian is the opposite, perhaps the antidote, to dystopian fiction. It is a reminder that thrilling stories and great adventures exist and we can and must go out and find them.
Go out and find The Martian. It's one of the wonders of the universe.