The Martian is a wonderfully detailed debut novel by Andy Weir. It takes place in the near future when NASA has begun to send astronauts to explore Mars and live on the surface for several weeks at a time.
One such mission is cut short when a major dust storm forces the crew to abandon the surface habitat and leave Mars early. However tragedy strikes when one of the astronauts, Mark Watney, is hit by flying debris and killed before getting into the escape vehicle. Due to the severity of the storm the other astronauts are forced to leave Mark’s body behind and just barely get off the surface themselves. They then begin the long flight back to earth saddened and depressed at the death of a fellow crew member.
But Mark is not dead. The objects that smashed into him during the storm only injured him. More importantly they damaged the computer components in his space suit that send constant signals to the other astronauts monitoring his physical health. The damaged computer was sending out signals indicating he was dead.
With the departure of the spaceship, Mark finds himself alone on Mars. He cannot even communicate with the spaceship on its way back to earth since the storm destroyed all the satellite dishes and antenna.
Mark must now find a way to survive and some way to communicate to NASA that he is still alive and needs to be rescued. He has a habitat that was designed for a whole crew, but the food, water and oxygen were only schedules to last for weeks.
Even if Mark finds a way to let people know he survived it will take more than a year for any rescue party to arrive. The spaceship on its way back to Earth could not rescue him even if he could contact it. Spaceships are just not designed to turn around mid-flight. They are designed to blast off then cruise in one direction.
In many ways this is like a high-tech Tom Hanks in Castaway. With no outside help, Mark has to find a way to turn every item and piece of junk around him into a tool to help him stay alive for another day.
This is an enjoyable, clever and well written story.