This Week’s Worst Covers:
1) Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire, released March 6, 2012.
I’ve been amazed at how bad this cover is since I started writing this series of posts, but I didn’t choose it for earlier posts because although it looks terrible, it’s also pretty standard fare. The chesty heroine…the sword and gun…the intent self-confident sultry expression. These types of images of women on covers are a dime a dozen — except this one is executed even worse than usual.
The drawing style seems amateurish, with the lack of cohesion between the cityscape and the suburban house, the impossible lighting on the woman, and the weirdness of her outfit. Is it farmgirl sexy? Schoolgirl sexy? Babydoll sexy? I really don’t know, but the overall effect is not one of sexiness.
Probably the worst part of all is the bubblegum pink theme carried through from her inexplicable outfit to the title. Who is supposed to want to read this? Men will be turned off by the terrible pinkness, yet the cover’s attempt at having the woman mimic a pinup pose makes it unlikely a woman would feel it’s intended for her either. So it’s a colossal bit of failed artwork and marketing. The publisher really didn’t give the book a chance, which is too bad because the reviews are actually pretty good!
2) Betrayer: A Foreigner Novel by C. J. Cherryh, reprint released March 6, 2012.
This cover is another gift from the same publisher. Although the lettering is acceptable, the illustration is jarringly sloppy in both concept and style.
Let’s get the offensive bit out of the way first. Perhaps the novel is actually about dark-skinned ape-looking warriors and their super white blonde-haried compadre. Maybe that questionable content was in play by the author before the artist got his hands on the project. But did the cover artist need to emphasize it to the extreme? It would have been less cringe-worthy if the artist gave individuality to the black warriors and maybe didn’t dress them in solid black. And perhaps it would have been a better decision not to give the white guy Thomas Jefferson hair and a white suit that makes him look like a southern plantation owner in space boots.
Race issues aside, the illustration of the white guy looks rushed and out-of-place. He has a strange hairline shadow, the position of his body looks unnatural, and his face looks smudged in comparison to the sharper depictions on the others’ faces. Again, all this is unfortunate since the book has gotten very positive reviews.
This Week’s Best Covers:
1) Wide Open by Deborah Coates, release date March 13, 2012.
This cover is eye-catching in a good way. Unlike this week’s worst covers, this one doesn’t put too much stock in the representation of the characters. The only human depiction is an image – mostly a silhouette – of a woman and a long inky shadow trailing underneath her. There are a couple silhouetted birds, but the real focus is on the watercolor sky and the tree. Those are the only components with color, and the color is subtle yet stunning. The moodiness of the sky gives the buyer the impression that this is a dark book, and the movement implied in the woman’s hair, the blurred treetop, and the falling leaves suggests that there there is instability and unrest. As a reader, I find those visual cues enticing.
The title is pretty neat too. I’ve never seen that font before, and I like the way the loops reinforce the “wide open” theme. It’s beautifully done and one of the few covers I’ve seen that I wouldn’t be opposed to hanging up as artwork in my home.
2) Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars: Volume 2, new edition released March 6, 2012.
There are times when a simple logo or insignia is all you need to make a cover look awesome. This cover knows that.
The giant font and the geometric designs unifying the sword with the top and bottom of the cover are bold and clean. The red color is rich and glowing. And the distress marks on the title and the background give the cover a sense of gravity and heft. It looks solid and unapologetic, which really, when you think about how long the John Carter books have been popular and how canonical they are, is a pretty accurate representation of what the reader should expect to find inside.
It’s a particularly clever cover for a new edition because with the John Carter movie reaching a wide audience and generating new interest for the book, this cover, unlike something like Discount Armageddon, looks respectable and classy enough to be purchased by all kinds of readers, not just genre junkies.