My brother-in-law recommended this to my love, who then insisted that I listen to it as well. It was also (at least in print) also a Library Reads pick for February.
The Martian by Andy Weir. Narrated by R.C. Bray. Brilliance Audio, 2014. Print Crown, 2014.
Mark Watney’s fellow Ares 3 astronauts didn’t abandon him on Mars on purpose. There was a dust storm; they saw the huge antenna spear into his space suit and saw his communication go flat. Naturally, they thought he was dead, and they had to take off to get safely off planet before it was too late for them, as well. He survived, though. Now the question is how to survive until the next scheduled Ares Mission, five years away, on food that was meant to last a crew of six for a month with no way to communicate with NASA. Luckily, he was both the crew’s botanist and its engineer, so if anyone could do it, it’s Mark. He might just die of disco and bad 70s sitcom re-runs first, though, as that seems to be all his teammates left on their personal data drives.
This goes deep into the technical details of survival and (theoretical) space travel, and listening to my love describe the details of trying to make potatoes grow on Mars, I wasn’t sure it would work for me. Mark, though, is an interesting person, and there was enough character interest and humor to keep me going, even though I’m not usually a technical details kind of reader, at least in my fiction). Weir does a great job with the pacing, doling out successes and failures at a rate that kept me eagerly listening, anxious to find out what would happen next. There’s no real sex (see: main character stranded alone on Mars), though he does think about it from time to time. The language is quite foul, which is not inappropriate in an adult novel, but made my love and I sigh regretfully, as the boy would likely love it otherwise. R.C. Bray does a great job with the narration, being possessed of a tough guy voice that still conveys the humor perfectly and also does quite well with the accents of the highly multiethnic team back at NASA and onboard the Ares 3.
Mars fiction is popular right now, and while I admit that I haven’t read any of the other new Mars books, I really enjoyed The Martian. The setting is just close enough to the present to make the survival story appealing to people who don’t normally do science fiction, as well as established fans.