I first heard about The Martian at the Engineering Commons podcast. Mark Watney, a Botanist / Mechanical Engineer is presumed dead from his mission crew on Mars while they evacuate base during a sandstorm. But as luck has it he survives and finds himself in the most hostile environment a human has ever endured.
Compared to what he has to face just to stay barely alive, any “survivor” reality show that you may have watched on TV is like a walk in the park. Science and Engineering save his life, even though sometimes he is lucky to stay alive in the series of hardships that face him.
Science and Engineering I get, but the sheer mental power and focus that is needed in order to stay alive in the most extreme environment for who knows how many days in an effort to just make contact back home and wait for who knows how long before a rescue mission reaches you, this is for me the dominating element of the novel.
Time to watch the movie now to get a better visual on some of the contraptions Watney devised during his reign on Mars.