Hard sci-fi is hit or miss for me. I tend to enjoy stories set in the near future where the universe still at least resembles the one I currently inhabit - find it much easier to relate to the characters. Perhaps that's a failure of imagination on my part but hey, there's only so many hours in the day and so many other things I want to read also, so I try to stick to something I know I'll enjoy when it comes to a genre that's otherwise spotty for me.
The one I'm reading now is going to be a hit for me. The Martian by Andy Weir is about a NASA mission to Mars that goes horribly wrong, stranding our hero on the surface with limited food, water, and air, and no hope of a rescue. The next manned mission to Mars won't reach the red planet for another four years and our hero's resources are going to run out long before that.
I'm not that deep into the story but the "realism" and science impresses and sucks you into the plot immediately. After surviving a disastrous storm, our wise-cracking hero then moves on to solve both long-term and short-term problems as they arise, using his considerable resourcefulness and knowledge of engineering and botany. It's basically Robinson Crusoe on Mars (which they did about fifty years ago - very weird movie).
Great book so far and can't wait to see what Ridley Scott does with the movie.
This book is another example of the strange, new world of publishing. Weir initially put this story on his website for free. The readers lined up and word of mouth went to work, and next thing he knew, he was working out the details of a publishing deal. Very cool and makes me think anything is possible in today's publishing environment.