Much like its 2015 film adaptation, the strength of this book truly lies in its protagonist. The situation that Astronaut Mark Watney finds himself in when he is left stranded on Mars is serious enough to create swathes of dramatic tension and Weir does this admirably. But the story is also lifted by the constant humour that Mark adds to his situation. This then makes him an incredibly likable main character to follow and causes readers to continuously root for him, in addition to lightening up the book as a whole.
This is a story that could have gone incredibly dark, but it is instead often peppered with laughs, as opposed to the doom and gloom that could have arisen. Much of the story is also focused on problem solving, as opposed to primarily focusing on Mark’s struggles. The latter angle would have allowed Weir to create high emotion and dramatic tension, but would have become tiring by the end of the book, so I am glad he did not go for that perspective.
Structurally, the book is a patchwork of styles. Wier skilfully combines Mark’s Logs (written in the first person), with a more traditional third person narrative and Mark Watney’s conversations with NASA. The changes between styles can seem jarring at first, but they come to suit each part of the story perfectly. The first person logs work brilliantly to showcase the main character’s personality and strengthen his relationship with the reader. Meanwhile, the third person sections are more descriptive, allowing Weir to really ramp up and the tension and play up to the emotional side of the story.
In spite of this, the book is grounded in the Science of the situation, as would be expected, giving the book a sense of realism throughout.
Overall, this book is an addictive and thrilling read, with a great narrative structure and an incredibly likable protagonist.