The Martian. Not an actual alien native to the red planet, but a human resident on Mars. And not the retired, relaxing-with-martinis-and-heated-pools kind of resident, but the left-for-dead and stranded-on-Mars-for-a-year-and-a-half kind. Andy Weir’s book is boundlessly witty, constantly exciting, completely improbable, yet contemporarily realistic, and chocked full of comprehensive and convincing technical science-speak, even suitable for those readers whose only knowledge of physics is how to shoot someone with a rubber band. I neglected my loved ones so much over the week I spent reading it. It was GREAT!
The Martian is a fairly new book, so if you can’t get your hands on a copy right away, but you’re in the mood for some more hard science fiction, try:
Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson – It’s 2026 and one hundred people attempt the first colonization on Mars. This is the first book in the Mars trilogy.
Ringworld, by Larry Niven - Winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and Locus awards, this is a thrilling planetary survival adventure, taking place in the far, far future of 2850 A.D., and that which pays particular and spectacular attention to astronomy, the rules of physics, and how machines work. While it’s admittedly a little dated, it’s lighthearted fun.
And for a quick fix, here are some great movies in the hard science fiction genre:
Moon (2009) – Sam Rockwell gives an exquisite performance in this Lunar psychological thriller.
Apollo 13 (1995) – Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton, this movie is a classic with plenty of re-watch value.
Sunshine (2007) – Thrilling humankind-saving space mission set in the near-future.