The Martian is one hell of an experience. It feels much more like a documentary of things that actually happened than a fictional story. It is a plausible story that could conceivably take place within the next thirty years. More importantly, it’s a really amazing story.
There are two main forms to the story: Mark Watney’s journal, and scenes from Earth characters’ perspectives. Weir balances both forms of narrative superbly, giving the reader a complete picture while Watney tries to get in touch with NASA and NASA desperately tries to learn more about Watney.
The plot is well structured, and a great example of an organic plot. Mark Watney is stranded on Mars by a freak accident, and has to survive. Every plan he makes, part he scavenges, and decision he makes has to take into account all the necessary variables that surviving alone on Mars entails. None of the challenges he faces are arbitrary. Mark Watney sets out a plan and follows it, but reworks it or scraps it as necessary to adjust to reality. This in particular made the book and character feel like a great anti-venom to the toxic political climate of the current time. The plot is paced extremely well to boot.
While Watney is the man trapped on Mars, the chapters on Earth show the reaction, planning, and work of a wide array of personnel at NASA and JPL. This part is essential, both in terms of plot and in terms of showing how space missions are a group endeavor of thousands of people, rather than solely the work of six astronauts. The chronicles on Earth reads as authentically as the personalities and decisions taken during NASA’s actual space programs such as Gemini or Apollo.