In a sea of humdrum books, this one stands out.

Martian

The story starts with Mark Watney, an astronaut who is part of the third ever Mars mission.The mission has just been aborted, with the astronauts forced to leave the red planet. Yet when we meet Watney he is still on Mars.

Clocked by a flying comms dish that punctured his space suit and sent him flying far from the rest of the crew, Watney’s odds of survival were slim to none. Reluctantly, they leave him for dead and rocket away.

In one of fate’s sick jokes, Watney is not dead. Or not yet. He’s been abandoned on an inhospitable ball with a perforated suit, no breathable air, no water source and freezing temperatures. As he so eloquently summarises, he’s fucked.

Luckily for the story, Watney’s not the type to give up. Immediately he begins to weigh his options in his head, coming up with solutions to help him survive for at least the next little while. At first his inner monologue seems a bit dry as he explains the science behind some of his improvisations. But soon the reader is sucked in, caught by curiosity at what Watney’s going to come up with next and awe that anyone could be so ingenious.

Meanwhile, Watney’s screwball sense of humour keeps inserting dry asides that are completely incongruous in the situation and have the reader in stitches. I really pity this guy’s children.

Does he make it? Given the book’s being made into a film to be released later this year, I’ll let you bet on it. But the suspense doesn’t come from whether he survives, rather how he does. What’s not to love about Macgyver on Mars?

The Martian is a story of innovation, of perseverance and of beating the odds. It’s brilliance condensed. I’m going to give it a 5/5.