Mark Watney is the most enjoyable main character and narrator in recent memory. Andy Weir did a masterful job creating the character, and making me really care about what was happening (when what was happening was seriously just a bunch of engineering problems.)
The story is quite simple: An astronaut is accidentally left on Mars after an accident, and he has to figure out how to survive. The story is less plot point driven action, and more problem solving. As you might imagine, one disaster after another befalls our heroic, and smart ass, engineer and botanist. Most of the problems are unrelated to each other: a life support accident here, a lost communication array there.
And yet I couldn’t put the book down because Watney was so thoroughly enjoyable as a main character. (The asides at NASA and the JPL, along with his crew mates on the original mission are fine narrative fillers, but offer little in terms of story movement. Still, Weir gives them just enough, and not too much.)
I’m on a sci-fi kick these days, and this was the best hard science fiction I’ve read since my Issac Asimov days. The story read like it was written by a team of JPL scientists (and I mean that in a good way). There’s no deus ex machina descending from the heavens or Martians coming to save the day. This is simply the story of Mark Watney versus Mars.
And it’s a great story.