The U.S. has begun a Mars program at some time in the not-too-distant future, and the protagonist's mission goes badly and he's left behind on Mars -- presumably dead. He has no way to contact his crew mates or mission control on Earth.
What's the first rule of fiction? Conflict. And The Martian has it in spades. Every time something goes right for Watney, two more things go badly wrong. The tension keeps ratcheting higher and higher. The level of suspense in the book is remarkable.
It's also incredibly funny. Watney's log throughout the ordeal is hilarious. And when he does work out a way to communicate with NASA, it gets no less hysterical. I literally laughed out loud a dozen times. Not many books make me crack up as this one did.
And to cap off the wonderfulness that is this novel, it was originally self-published. Weir posted it chapter by chapter on his website, then finally released a Kindle version for $0.99. It wasn't long before it was picked up by a publisher, became a bestseller, and sold its movie rights.
The most-entertaining book I read in 2014.
from the publisher: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?