Mark Watney is screwed every which way from Sunday. On a manned mission to Mars, there's an incident, and the rest of his crew, thinking he's dead, leaves without him. But surprise! He's not dead. And now he's stranded on Mars, with not nearly enough provisions, and no immediate source of communication with his ship, or with NASA back on earth.
That should be enough to whet your appetite.
Guys, this is such an odd thing for me--I rated this book a 3 on Goodreads and stand by that. It's not terribly well-written. There are long parts of scientific detail that I ended up skimming over. Mark's character is often not really believable. The NASA folks are "types" and acting as types do in a "man-lost-in-space" kind of movie.
I was never even remotely tempted to put the book down. When the science dulled my (not very scientific) brain, I skimmed. I had a strong suspicion I knew how the book would end--and I was right--but I wanted to see it play out. Even though I guessed the ending, it didn't bother me. Less than three-dimensional characters? It's OK. I wasn't expecting more than that from this book.
At heart, this is just a good, fun, kind of silly space romp. And don't we all need something like that now and then? If I, as an avowed non-science reader, could still enjoy it, just think how much science types would love it. I know a few of those types, and I think they'll get a copy of this for Christmas. Great literature it ain't, but entertaining? Yes.