As far as entertainment, The Martian is a thrill ride. It's the sort of novel you feel like you've seen in a movie somewhere; it's a little Gravity/Apollo 13 meets Cast Away with sprinkles of Deep Impact, The Right Stuff, and other similar films. I'd say this means The Martian has a very promising future. Has someone bought the film rights yet? … Checking … Yep, Matt Damon is set to star. Figures.
The Martian was so entertaining I was tempted to give the novel a full five stars, but once you trim the thrills, The Martian is a bit thin. Still, it's good for what it is. The tension is high, but not over the top. At times it's predictable as action stories tend to be, but at other times the author surprises the reader. It's funny, but occasionally heartfelt. It's full of science babble, but not at the risk of losing the reader. It's a good mix. I liked that Watney doesn't take himself too seriously, but at the same time, I have to wonder how believable he is as a character. Stranded on Mars for hundreds of days, Watney lacks a moroseness and an introspective outlook I would expect. Now, I can accept Watney is unique. I can learn from a character who is different from me *BUT* I still can't quite believe him at all times. If Watney is so comical and witty, would he waste his time on this log? If he expects to die on Mars, wouldn't he find his time better spent writing a hilarious farce and burying it in the Martian sand for future astronauts to find; a farce that would detail how his people, the Martians, propagated their seeds throughout the universe before their planet died and how, after many millennia, each people would discover the Martian language: English. I don't know. I just can't see someone as clever as Watney wasting his time formulating pirate-ninjas and complaining about disco. It seems beneath him.
Really, I'm not complaining about Watney. He was a good character, certainly worth rooting for. And it was a good novel: entertaining and very well written. My only complaint is the dialogue meant to explain technical details to the reader. Sometimes it didn't give the reader the benefit of the doubt. I understand Watney doing it, because his intended audience is an unknown reader; but within dialogue at NASA and aboard Hermes, it stood out. These people know what they're doing. If the commander of a spacecraft orders something, she doesn't then need it explained back to her in simple terms. A minor irritation in an otherwise great novel. How great? Well, let's just say I'm not that thrilled about Matt Damon in the lead role, but I still put my money on the belief this is going to make one hell of a film.