The Martian

by Andy Weir

Rating: ★★★★

Missing the bus can be unfortunate. Getting stranded on an island is life-threatening. The protagonist of The Martian is stranded on an island out on the barest fringes of humanity's grasp, millions of miles of vacuum from anything he could call home. An island which is only not described as 'frozen' because it lacks the surface water we associate with that term. An island where there is no air worth breathing, where just walking around unprotected will literally kill you. Also, he was speared through the gut and everyone thinks he's dead.

It's a well-written book. The main character is easy to like, a scientifically-minded man with a penchant for wry observation and ironic self-aggrandisement. There is tension, peril brought on by both slow and certain mathematical reality and the cruel, immediate happenstance. More importantly, the science is solid. While you might call it science-fiction, it's a near-future story, and the science and technology they discuss is real, and Weir makes it dance and shine. If there is one thing this book does better than tell a story, it is spark interest in science. From biology to computer science, a wide range of fields get their moment in the limelight. In this story, you see how studying science gives you superpowers.

With that in mind, the audience for this book could easily be summarised as people already on-board with that message: scientists and geeks everywhere who revel both in the glorious results of scientific study and the irreverent humour. That is the simple answer, the closest appeal. But it should be broader than that.