(I haven’t written a “formal” book review in awhile. But why not? It’s kind of fun. Here’s a review of The Martian by Andy Weir.)

the-martian-coverMark Watney just got stranded on Mars.

Believing he was dead, his fellow astronauts left Mars in the ship that is Watney’s only means of escape off of the planet. Alone in a hostile environment, he has enough food and water to live for a few weeks, but with the next Mars mission four years away, what chance does he have of surviving until then?

Watching Watney try to eek out years of life on a hostile planet from the meager supplies on hand is one of the central joys of The Martian, the debut novel of Andy Weir. Told with an incredible attention to detail (the book was praised by astronaut Chris Hadfield for its scientific accuracy) the storytelling still manages to be funny, emotional, and highly readable.

Though the book focuses on Watney, we eventually meet employees of NASA who start to piece together the situation via satellite images of Mars. At times these engineers and flight commanders start to feel a little interchangeable with each other, especially compared with how well Watney himself leaps off the page.

Nevertheless, The Martian is one of the best science-fiction reads in a long time. It shies away from grandiose science fiction where the fate of the world hangs in the balance and serves up a compelling adventure about one man’s struggle for life.