Mark Watney is one of the six members of the Ares 3 mission--one of just eighteen human beings who have walked on Mars. They're supposed to be there thirty-one days, until things go horribly wrong. After just six Martian days on the surface, a sandstorm hits and causes a series of disastrous equipment failures. Mark is struck by flying debris, lost in the sandstorm, and his telemetry flatlines; he's dead.
With their lift vehicle tilting and in danger of being toppled and wrecked, Commander Lewis makes the incredibly difficult decision to save the rest of the crew and not attempt to recover his body.
But Mark is alive; it's the transmitter that failed. And thus begins his battle of wits against Mars to remain alive and find a way to get to the landing site of the next Mars mission in time to be rescued.
It's months before NASA knows he's alive. It's longer before they can established contact. And Mark has to solve a lot of problems on his own in order to stay alive more than a year and a half before NASA can even hope to get supplies to him to keep him alive to be rescued by Ares 4. He is, among other things, the first Martian farmer.
Mark is likable, resilient, and funny. Every time he quite legitimately thinks he's failed and is going to die, he picks himself up and starts working on the new problem. Mars is a tough opponent, and there is no point at which the harsh environment can't find a way to make Mark's situation go completely pear-shaped.
The story-telling style is the clean, crisp prose of the best 20th century hard sf, with a viewpoint set firmly in the 21st century. The view of humanity is positive without being pollyanna-ish. Not for anyone who thinks either dystopia or pointlessness is the height of literary art, but for everyone else, this is a fantastic read.
Unofficial Book Trailer:
Unofficial Book Trailer for "The Martian" from Designer Dan on Vimeo.
I bought this book.