Alert the media: I am giving a five-star review to a piece of hard science fiction. This is so rare as to be newsworthy. I have disliked hard sci-fi for *decades.*
What makes this book different? It's character-driven, and the narrator (Mark Watney) is charming, funny ... and flawed.
When Mark is accidentally left for dead by the rest of his Mars mission crewmates, he has to figure out how to stay alive. He comes up with many brilliant solutions to problems -- and causes many more problems with some of his solutions. We learn this through the diary that he keeps throughout the entire process; Mark is nothing if not resourceful, given the few options that he seems to have available to make it all happen.
Author Andy Weir (a self-admitted space nerd) has put together a clever and entertaining story using actual orbital science and planetary data that will make any hard sci-fi fan swoon with ecstasy. At the same time, those of us who just don't dig the genre overall have a delightful character to keep us wondering "What the hell else can *possibly* go wrong."