A good book is one where even knowing the ending in advance doesn't spoil the story. I haven't watched the movie yet, because I wanted to read the book first, but obviously, you can't help but hear a few spoilers along the way anytime a big movie like this comes out.
At first, I really got into the story. Even though it's told through journal entries, it starts off mid-action, which was awesome. But after that... the first 20% of the book was a little tough for me to get into. That's because you never really find out much about the main character or his life up til now. It's almost like he didn't have a life before the story started. Of course he does mention what he was trained in and specialized in, but that's about it. No idea if he has a family back home on Earth or who will miss him if he dies. Except Mom. And eventually you find out there's Dad, too.
So at first this is a heavily plot-driven book. It's only after watching him try, try again for a while that I started to build up sympathy and really start to get into the character's head. From around 20% onward, then, I couldn't wait to read what would happen next.
There are a few times where the catastrophic events he's dealing with seem a little anticlimactic, but that's due to two things: 1) We only find out about it afterward, in the journal entries and 2) He's a slightly unreliable narrator in the fact that he's talking to himself, and in order to stay sane and deal with the problems at hand, he has to talk himself up. So instead of despairing, he'll say, "I'll think about this more later." Like, no big deal, a solution will come to me.
I loved his sense of humor and his snarky thought processes. Like how he's first at everything (almost) on Mars. Until the end, when Vogel mentions that even Mark can't say that he's been to Mars twice!
Sometimes the sheer number of numbers gets tiring, but overall the hard science fiction nature of this doesn't detract from the story unfolding in the way that hard scifi often does. I enjoyed it from start to finish and would recommend it mainly to experienced science fiction readers.