Just read it.
I know I have to make this review longer than three words, and that’s totally fine, but let’s just cut to the chase here: read the damn book.
The book follows astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and engineer, left behind by his crew after they see him impaled during a Martian storm during their attempt to leave the planet. Instead of being pissed at his crew for leaving him behind, Watney tries to figure out how to stay breathing and sane until NASA works out that he’s alive.
Most of the book is made up of Watney’s log enteries as he scavenges the planet for anything to keep him alive, like a spaceman Robinson Crusoe. He farms potatoes, makes his own fertilizer (exactly how you’re thinking) and uses the hell out of some duct tape. Some of the time, his ingenious plans work. Other times they do not (although as Watney says “I guess you could call it a ‘failure’, but I prefer the term ‘learning experience.'”)
This book made me actually laugh out loud. As soon as I finished it, I handed it off to my father and listened to him crack up at the same lines I did. A lot of the book is very technical, basically engineering porn. I know that would make a lot of people shy away. And I know a lot of people tend to avoid the SciFi genre as a whole. But that shouldn’t scare people away from this book because its main draw is its protagonist. Watney is resourceful, human, and hysterical and you tear through the pages to see if the guy you’re rooting for manages to escape. If he were real, I would have bought him a beer if/when he came back to our little blue planet. I wanted to be his buddy.
I’d really recommend everyone gives this book a shot, and before the movie comes out. Although I’m cautiously optimistic that the movie will actually be good too. They seem to have captured Watney’s attitude.