Initial reaction: One of the best reads I've come across this year. Humorous, harrowing, and a fun journey on the whole. Full review to come.
Forgive me, I'm still on a book high from finishing this book. If you can get the audiobook narration featuring R.C. Bray, please do - he does an excellent job getting into the characters and external narrations, and his attitude in portraying Mark's character is SPOT ON.
Confession time: I had no idea how I wanted to write this review apart from doing several happy dances and cartwheels (I'm sure Mark, the novel's protagonist, would be happy about that), so I sat on my hands to let my reaction simmer. This is easily my choice for favorite book of 2014. I knew I would be in for a read since this genre and type of book is right up my alley - but I seriously didn't expect this fun and still harrowing account of a guy who gets stranded in space on Mars, and has to make do with what he's provided on wits and material alone until he can find a way to get home.
Part of the book's charm comes with its protagonist, Mark Watney. He comes very close to being a book crush for me because of how intelligent and resourceful he is in the face of very daunting odds. The novel starts with him taking a mission to Mars with his team members, but after a series of events - Mark is believed to be dead and the mission's aborted. Mark comes to, but he realizes he's alone, with limited supplies as the only dude on Mars. Sure, he's in for being the first to do a lot of things on Mars, but he's pretty sure that he might end up being dead at any point in time, so what would it matter? (To him, he would much rather stay alive. I guess I could mention the Bee Gees in that same note, given that the majority of entertainment he's left with is 1970s era TV and disco courtesy of Lewis! :) ).
Mark's personality is infectious because he has a very keen sense of humor. I laughed so many times during this book. Usually if a narrative can make me laugh, especially to endear me towards a character - you've got me. His expansions on the science involved in his survival is actually very well noted - fun to learn about and definitely kept me intrigued throughout the read. I think Weir did an excellent job streamlining the science and creating the environmental details within "The Martian" - I was highly impressed by that.
Couple this with a very diverse and intriguing cast of characters trying to help Watney return home to Earth, and you get a very enthralling journey from beginning to end. It's not often that I pick up a book that has characters that I genuinely like and root for, scenarios that keep me on my toes, background information on topic I may know a little to moderate level about (space exploration, chemistry, etc) but feel like I learn a lot more from the read itself, humor that has me laughing so much I get stares from people in public places (I should really stop doing that...), and makes me regret each time I have to put down the book.
This read just did so much for me, and I'm really happy I had the chance to pick it up. Not often I give a full 5 stars to books, but for the performance and the engagement of the read, this deserves it. It really does.
Overall score: 5/5 stars