Trust me, I’m not just writing this one to get a quick and easy article out. Well, I am, but that’s beside the point.
The Martian has a very simple but exciting premise. A scientist gets stuck on Mars and needs to use his brains and limited resources to find a way to survive long enough for rescue. You don’t need to sit down and explain a billion different plot lines like you would have to with something like The Wheel of Time.
Which makes a minimalistic cover like this work surprisingly well.
I feel like I don’t need to explain what you’re seeing here. We have our titular Martian. On Mars. Alone. Presumably trying not to be killed by the planet he’s standing on. Pretty straight-forward.
Okay, in all seriousness, there is more going on here than meets the eye. Firstly: his space suit. Anyone who knows anything about space travel (I.E. the people who would actually buy this book) knows what an astronaut’s suit looks like. This immediately tells them one thing: this story is about a human man, not a little green alien dude who lives on the surface of Mars doing little green alien things.
Second, the environment is cloudy. Presumably because he’s in a dust storm. This could be a reference to the storm where he became separated from the rest of the crew. That would make sense, given his posture; it appears that he’s flying back, like he’s been thrown or blown away.
But you could interpret it as a blinding obstacle. A symbolic representation of our protagonist blindly struggling to survive. He has no idea what he’s doing, just rolling with the punches and trying to figure out various ways to avoid being killed by a barren planet. He never knows if his next step will kill him or save his life. Much as he is on the cover, he is stumbling about blindly.
That, or I’m overthinking this. I’ll leave that up to you guys.
The cover of The Martian is a fantastic example of how to do less with more. It immediately tells you what you need to know, perfectly captures the premise, and still leaves some room for interpretation. Sure, it isn’t an incredible painting like you’d see on a Brandon Sanderson cover. But for this story, it works perfectly.
Okay. I think I’m finally out of things to talk about regarding The Martian. Maybe.