I used to read a lot of science fiction. I own all of Robert Heinlein's books and have read them all more than once. I haven't liked any science fiction author as well, until I read The Martian by Andy Weir. I took it on a recent trip and almost finished the book on the plane.
Astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars when the mission he is on gets scrubbed for bad weather. He is hit by a piece of equipment and it punches a hole in his suit. And his person. The equipment also damages his bio monitor, so the rest of the crew thought he was dead and took off before their escape vehicle was blown over in the storm, trapping them all.
This takes place in the first chapter and the rest of the book is all about how this brilliant and funny astronaut survives all alone on a planet with no hope for rescue, until the next resupply ship is scheduled. Mars is a long way away from Earth, so this means years.
I love all the detail in this book. Granted the science sometimes left me behind. I will admit to skipping some paragraphs. This did not lessen my enjoyment in any way. In fact, Weir's science knowledge and descriptions remind me a good deal of Heinlein. He also was a scientist and used it for his books.
Weir worked as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and claims to be a lifelong space nerd. He brings in such things as the Apollo flights and 70's TV shows to make a very funny and entertaining book. Even though Mark is all alone, he keeps a log, so you know his thoughts and actions.
Mark is a botanist and the crew were sent up some real potatoes for the Thanksgiving meal they were supposed to have on Mars. He uses these and his "night soil" to grow a lot of potatoes. I love the ingenuity on all the things he did to survive. I hated that he took two steps forward and then things conspired to send him a step or two back. There were a lot of nail biting, breath holding moments.
The whole world is aware of his fate and they are all working together to try to save him.
On my trip home, I discovered that the movie was on the list of programming on my flight. Fabulous. I watched it and they included all of the major points in the book, without too much in the way of changing things around to fit the shorter format. Even though I knew how the book ended, I wasn't sure of what they would do with the movie. But the movie held true to the end. It even added an epilogue that I really liked that the book didn't have.
So my recommendation is to read the book first, almost always the best thing, and then watch the movie. And take your kids. Maybe they will pay more attention in science classes. It could save their lives!