...no one is likely to imagine it as vividly as Andy Weir has in his debut novel, an interplanetary adventure story about an astronaut facing the ultimate worst-case scenario ... The solutions Watney finds may be fictional, but they’re grounded in scientific fact (Weir is a software engineer and astrophysics buff). And this 21st-century Robinson Crusoe is appealingly pragmatic and funny ... In Weir's hands, even the driest scientific topics take on a taut urgency because the stakes are so high.
This is techno sci-fi at a level even Arthur Clarke never achieved. It's also a celebration of human ingenuity ... But human ingenuity, as Mr. Weir demonstrates, can do things you wouldn't believe possible. Like take off from Mars on a booster patched up with canvas. Just do the math. The Martian must be the purest example of real-science sci-fi for many years. Just one character most of the time, no dialogue. It's utterly compelling.
In The Martian, I found myself skimming through many an explanation of how the hero got something up and running, including his description of how he was able to take a bath ... Comic relief in the face of this relentless exposition of the mechanical and the scientific is provided by the astronaut’s watching crappy 1970s television sitcoms for diversion. The hero’s self-deprecating sense of humour is also an ingredient in preventing the seriousness of the situation from getting out of hand ... The Martian is true in that sense to the genre, in its manufacture and resolution of suspense carried on to the final pages.
Weir laces the technical details with enough keen wit to satisfy hard science fiction fan and general reader alike. Deftly avoiding the problem of the Robinson Crusoe tale that bogs down in repetitious behavior, Weir uses Watney’s proactive nature and determination to survive to keep the story escalating to a riveting conclusion.
Weir displays a virtuosic ability to write about highly technical situations without leaving readers far behind. The result is a story that is as plausible as it is compelling. The author imbues Mark with a sharp sense of humor, which cuts the tension, sometimes a little too much—some readers may be laughing when they should be on the edges of their seats. As for Mark’s verbal style, the modern dialogue at times undermines the futuristic setting ... Sharp, funny and thrilling, with just the right amount of geekery.