There is something incredibly compelling about this modern-day take on Robinson Crusoe. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Mark Watney should have died on Mars. He was in a freak accident and his fellow crew-members assumed him dead and left the planet’s orbit. Mark was the lowest-ranked member of the crew and would only ever have been in command of the mission if he were the only remaining person. Well, guess what? He is. We read his log-book with an ever-increasing sense of wonder at his ingenuity and resourcefulness. (He grows potatoes from one freeze-dried specimen and waters them with his own waste water; don’t even think about this if you’re about to peel some spuds.) Unmanned space missions before his ill-fated trip have deposited a lot of material and equipment on the planetbv – and it’s from this essential pile of junk that Mark manages to survive. Despite the baffling acronyms (I now know that an MDV is a Mars Descent Vehicle) and a massive amount of techno-babble, this is a nailbiting ride of a book. Of course, it helps if you are at least familiar with the bridge of SS Enterprise. But even if you’re not, it will have you gripped. Disaster after disaster strikes him and you realise the truth of “Noone can hear you scream in space”. For every kilogram of hydrogen that you take to Mars, you can make 13 kilograms of fuel. Who knew?