I picked up The Martian on the strength of Annalee Newitz's review of it on io9, and realized after reading the excerpt that the author, Andy Weir, was a webcartoonist at one point (Casey & Andy, back to haunt him!), and also happened to be an old friend of Sandra's.
Look, I'm not in the habit of reading books just because they were written by an ex-webtooning friend-of-a-friend , even if the "of-a-friend" friend is my best friend ever. I'm in the habit of reading books that I think I'll like, and based on the excerpt I was pretty sure I'd like this one.
The Martian is, bar none, the best hard science fiction I've ever read. I don't know what Andy Weir's background is, or who helped him with some of this research, but every bit of science in this book with which I had passing familiarity passed with flying colors. The pieces I wasn't sure about? Well, Andy sold me on them. The potentially boring bits (exploring the chemistry of hydrazine, for instance, which isn't at all boring if you have a sense of the energies involved, but I digress) were covered entertainingly, and on the few occasions where I decided to skim I only skimmed for a couple of paragraphs because I could tell a bad thing was going to happen and oh crap I'm so tense and...
Folks, this is hard science fiction, and it's a thriller, and it's brilliant.
What's it about? Man gets stranded on Mars, lost and left for dead in an emergency mission-abort event. Based on the mission specs, he can probably survive for six months. The next landing isn't for years, and it's 3,000 kilometers away besides.
I plowed through it yesterday, and while the book has some flaws and shortcomings (the first POV-shift from the 1st-person journal format was jarring, and could have been telegraphed better, but I DON'T CARE) none of them are show-stoppers.
It released this week. I'd love to see Andy's career take off, and I have no doubt that this is the right launch vehicle for it (pun unavoidable.) Buying the book this week is the best way for you to support a new author, and if you like hard science fiction (note: Schlock Mercenary isn't really hard science fiction, though I'm tickled that some of you call it that) The Martian by Andy Weir delivers the goods.