I just finished this book, and it was a gift of a read to a confirmed Science Fiction addict and space nerd like me. It’s not just that is was a great nail-biting story but it grabbed my attention as a self-publishing author and it should serve as an inspiration to all my self-pubbing friends.

NASA astronaut Mark Watney has been left stranded, presumed dead on the Martian surface, when the crew of the Aries 3 mission has to abandon its base during a sandstorm and launch themselves back towards Earth. Satellite imagery later reveals Watney’s activities around the base and news that he is still alive is soon a global sensation.

While Mars makes repeated attempts to kill its only inhabitant, NASA puts together an audacious rescue plan to bring him home.

The book became, for its author, that Holy Grail among novels: a debut mainstream best-seller. American Andy Weir was a computer scientist who began writing The Martian back in 2009. His aim was to make it as technically accurate and realistic as possible and so he studied astronomy, orbital mechanics and the history of manned spaceflight. The level of technical detail is quite staggering and it should be included as the emergency manual on all future missions to the Red Planet.

After being persuaded by literary agents that the book was unpublishable, Weir uploaded it to his website in 2011 and made it free to anyone who wanted it. Fans begged him for a Kindle compatible version and so in 2012 it was listed on Amazon for 99cents per copy. The book then sold thirty-five thousand copies in three months and rose to the top of the eBook, science fiction best seller list. Now the publishers were interested.

In January 2013 the audio book rights were purchased by Podium. Two months later Crown Publishing Group paid six figures for the print rights and in the same month Twentieth Century Fox bought the film option. In May 2014 it was reported that Ridley Scott was negotiating to film it with Matt Damon as Mark Watney.

I rarely write book reviews where the publication story gets more lines than the fictional one but to us indie authors the tale is an inspirational one. The story itself is phenomenal. Yes, it may be a little geeky in places and I would like to have seen some stronger secondary characters in it, but otherwise it is one of the best pieces of ‘pure’ science fiction that I’ve read for many years.