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Alone, left behind, injured, and 34 million miles from home. That’s going to ruin anyone’s day.

The Martian is now a big-screen blockbuster; Hollywood spending millions of dollars to rescue Matt Damon, again. Reading the book before you watch the film is always the best way to do it, because the book is always better, but I’m not a massive Sci-Fi fan so I was a little unsure about reading ‘The Martian’ but I was given it to read, so read it I did.

I was expecting “Guy lost on Mars day 1, science science science, guy still lost on Mars day 2, more science, American ‘you gotta believe inn yourself’, guy gets rescued”, so what I got was a complete shock.

I LOVED ‘The Martian’. It’s brilliant, as in properly brilliant.

Mark Watney is stuck on Mars, he’s an engineer and a botanist and all-round clever guy so he sets about looking after himself. All NASA astronauts are supposed to be really clever, and Mark Watney is, but he doesn’t come across as ‘holier-than-thou’ clever in the book. Excuse the pun, but he’s a real down-to-earth kind of guy. He’s also really funny, as in, I laughed out loud in my coffee shop and drew interesting looks from the waitress kind of funny.

Mark sets himself the task of surviving on Mars until he can be rescued, he calculates what he needs to survive that long and then goes about making that happen. He could just have given up as soon as he realised the situation he was in, but that wouldn’t have made for a very good book. Along his journey to survival, Mars tries its very best to bump Mark off, but he gets up and dusts the Martian sand from his space suit and keeps right on going. There are lessons there that we could all learn.

The writing is hilarious, the characters are all brilliant, and the tension is balanced so well that you are really rooting for the guy to survive. The only minor negative point I can make is that NASA really loves its acronyms, and so does this book. It scoots quickly over so many acronyms and briefly skims through the sciencey-bits without much in the way of an explanation that occasionally it feels like the book is moving too quickly and a little confusingly. If you’re halfway through the book and you can’t remember the difference between your MAV and your HAB, or which EDV goes with which MOV then it can get a bit confusing. Maybe its because I wouldn’t have minded a little more science and engineering, but I’m a bit geeky and that’s not to everyone’s taste.

‘The Martian’ is great. Go out and get it and read it straight away, or save it for when you’ve got a 68 million mile round trip to do.

* * * * O – 4 out of 5. Definitely worth reading. I just hope the film is as good.

The Martian by Andy Weir is out now, originally self-published but now available in paperback from Crown Publishing.

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