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Monday, October 10, 2011

Cover Conumdrum: Staffer's Musings and The Qwillery Talk Covers

Sally (The Qwillery) and I were on Twitter the other day - hard to believe I know - when we struck up a conversation on the relative crappiness of U.S. covers to their U.K. counterparts. Admitting there could be some selection bias afoot, we endeavored to discover whether or not the art direction across the pond is truly superior. Over the course a few posts we'll be discussing various groups of covers arbitrarily selected using some nonsense criteria. For this first installment we're looking at some of the more hyped 2011 Science Fiction and Fantasy releases that had covers worth discussing. You will not see A Dance with Dragons (AKA: Most Boring Covers on Earth) here.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS by ERIN MORGENSTERN
UK
US
Justin: This is tough one. The title embellishment on the U.S. cover is beautiful. It’s unfortunate that the tents in the palm look like Shiva the Destroyer was hired as a candy striper at a local hospital with rollers in her hair. In contrast, the UK imagery is much stronger with the red scarf really popping off the page. It much more clearly identifies the themes of the novel. If I were Doubleday I’d have dumped the hand all together and gone with the stark night snowfall.
Winner: UK
Sally: I like the UK cover a bit more. While the colors and styles are very similar, I don't really like the hand in the US cover. The tattoo reminds me too much of hair! The hand holding the circus is really not germain to the the story. "The Night Circus" on the US cover shimmers and changes color, which is kind of cool. Both covers convey the circus and the dominant colors of the book, but I think the UK covers captures the theme of the book much better.
Winner: UK

                        

THE WISE MAN'S FEAR by PATRICK ROTHFUSS
UK
US
Justin: The U.S. cover says: 1) This book is the next installment in the Highland television series. That’s Duncan MacLeod back there in his trench coat. 2) This will be made into a movie starring Tom Hanks where he finds ancient relics to uncover a conspiracy. The U.K. cover says: 1) This book has ninjas with glowing swords who are also gingers. 2) There is lightning coming out of the trees. Ya, lightning. Buy me.
Winner: Nobody.
Sally: I prefer the US cover. The style of the UK cover makes me think this is a YA novel - vines, cartoony character, glowing sword. While the US cover is somewhat formulaic, it still appeals to me much more than the UK cover. The US cover says moody and dangerous to me. Perhaps a real winner would have been the UK cover in the style of the US cover.

Winner: US, but barely.

                        

REAMDE by NEAL STEPHENSON
UK
US
Justin: My choices… Black with what looks like an Apple icon of a document. Or, a city skyline with choppy seas that gives meIndependence Day meets thePoseidon Adventure vibrations. I want to like the U.K. version, I really do, but it’s so generic. It also strikes me as a publisher trying to look like anything but a science fiction novel. Ultimately, the stark black with the document icon works for me with Reamde which looks a lot like Read Me.
Winner: U.S.
Sally: Neither of these covers tells me much about this book. There is more to see on the UK cover of course, but even those images really don't give you much to go on. It's hard to tell what that mess of images is beneath Readmeon the UK Cover. The US cover is simply stark and boring. Neither of these covers spark any interest in this book for me. I don't like either of them.


No Winner.

                        

THE POSTMORTAL/THE END SPECIALIST by DREW MAGARY
UK
US
Justin: I can’t decide if the skeleton puked on the cover or whether it’s a cleverly constructed ruse to distract me from the fact that stabbing something with a scythe is really freaking hard. Either way, I guess if the goal is to be eye catching I have to give Penguin a thumbs up. I suspect the point though is to make this look as little like a science fiction novel as possible. As for the U.K version, under a different title, I guess it’s cool. It’s also exceedingly boring.


Winner: U.S.
Sally: I'm having a really hard time with the color of the US cover. I know it's green but what color is that exactly? The Grim Reaper being stabbed in the back by his scythe is ok. The yellow face screams cartoon to me. While there are moments of levity in The Postmortal, I don't think this cover really does the book justice. The UK cover is better in my opinion. It reminds me of the plague that swept Europe in the Dark Ages. I think that makes sense in the context of this book.
Winner: UK

                        

READY PLAYER ONE by ERNEST CLINE
UK

US



Justin: Here’s the thing… I thought the U.S. cover was pretty weak until I looked closer and saw the little man inside the O reaching for the key. That’s pretty sweet. He looks like thePitfall guy from Intellivision (look it up people under 30). Throw in the cool C’s that look like Pacman and my nostalgia is adequately piqued. On the other hand, the U.K. cover has pixels. Lots of pixels. But it all feels like 80’s video game generic. I don’t get nostalgic, just sad about how crappy video games were back then.
Winner: U.S.
Sally: The UK cover looks pixelated, it also looks like a needlepoint to me. Pixelation makes sense in the context of the book, but it's just a really boring cover. I like the eye catching colors of the US cover. The "O" also has a couple of little embellishments (a little man and a key) that I like a lot. In addition the C looks like Pacman. I think the US cover clearly conveys more about the book.


Winner: U.S.


                        

THE MAGICIAN KING by LEV GROSSMAN
UK
US
Justin: Is it just me or does the U.S. cover look like some homemade crap you’d find in the Kindle book listings. That thing screams self-published or at best small press (read: my fax machine). In contrast the UK cover is full of color and energy. It plays a bit on the cover of the preceding volume’s U.S. cover (The Magician), but really ups the volume. Sure it looks like a tree that fashions itself a new Doc Brown from Back to the Future, but I’m not going to be overly critical.
Winner: UK and it’s not close.
Sally: The US cover is so frighteningly generic I don't know where to start in my criticism. It also strikes me as more of a science fiction cover. You're in a cave and on another planet. Or you're in the middle of a solar eclipse. It doesn't work for me at all. I prefer the UK cover. I like the clock on the tree and the keys. The UK cover says 'fantasy" to me in lovely autumnal colors.


Winner: UK



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