Holy shit, you guys. Holy fucking shit.
I'm writing this review on my blog, mainly because I don't think I can talk about this book without cursing. Obviously.
The book sells itself as "Apollo 13 meets Robinson Crusoe," and I couldn't agree more. From the former it gets its setting and bruising intensity; from the latter, the journal-style storytelling and detailed survival techniques.
Now, when I say "techniques," I'm not talking about lashing vines and bamboo together to make a raft, or tricking a monkey into throwing coconuts at you. I'm talking making water by creating hydrogen and combining it with oxygen. I'm talking calculations of solar cell outputs, and reprogramming satellite computers, and DIY sextants, adjusting of course for the very different star alignments of a whole 'nother fucking planet, and a whole bunch of other scientific and technical feats that I can't even explain because I couldn't possibly begin to comprehend them.
A quick skim of Goodreads reviews seems to pinpoint this as the main turnoff for readers. Too much science. And there was a lot of science. Real science, not the usual made-up, thousands of years in the future science. I'll admit, it was overwhelming, and made me feel like a mental midget at times. Andy Weir is so much smarter than any of us, and it shows.
I would urge you, though, to try and do what I did, which was to let my brain sort of slide over those parts. That's when you find the story of Mark Watney, botanist, wise-ass, survivalist extraordinaire. I really don't remember the last time a book had such an emotional chokehold on me. It was real, it was gritty, it was funny and absolutely terrifying.
Also? The movie starring Matt Damon comes out in November. So you have until then to read it. I suggest you start now.