Book Cover Award Thing 2016: Round 4 maybe? Relevance!

Final round and then I’ll total the scores. Only 2 points in play for this round but those points will be tie breakers!

Relevance! Ah, we all love those brilliant Foss covers of days gone by with magnificent spaceships on covers of books that didn’t feature space travel.


Very basic relevance already got some marks in the functionality round – does the cover tell you what genre you are getting. By that standard this classic cover is fine:

But observant readers may struggle to remember the giant industrial robot harvesting alien fungiform spores on an exotic world  and may remember instead a murder-mystery with domestic robots set on a planet that looked more like a campus set in parkland, with a focus on interpersonal relationships.

So top marks for functionality but as much as I adore that robot on the cover (and I really do) it would get zero in the relevance category. It does a job of telling you what genre you are getting (the ‘robot’ in the title, never mind the big asimov at the the top and the extra ‘robot’ banner at the bottom are also clues) but it is not actually related to the book. It is a damn cool robot picture but not an illustration of the book or even evokes what the book is like.

So I’m looking for covers that do a bit more than hint at the genre. Do they match the book? A problem is I’ve only read some of these books, so I’ll have to go off Amazon blurbs – hence the real question is does the cover match the blurb! The more it does the higher the score.

  • A zero – basic genre math only or less.
  • A one – a nominal match but maybe lacks the subtly or is inadvertently misleading
  • A two – a good enough match.
  • A three – I’m not doing threes. I’d have had to have read all the books and also it would give this criterion too much weight. That Foss Robots of Dawn cover is great and shouldn’t lose too many points just because that cool robot appears nowhere in the book.

More after the fold: [R] – I’ve read it, [U] – currently unread

Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie : Artist/Designer – John Harris(Artist)
  [R] 1 point. Yes, the book has spaceships in it and the covers is a bit more relevant than with the previous books but if you buy Ancillary Mercy for spacefighter action you will be disappointed with the nuttiness of your nuggets.

Arcadia – Iain Pears : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(Artist)
[U] 2 points – a portal fantasy as part of a wider story involving somebody writing a fantasy. Mixed genres and structurally complex stories are going to be tricky to cover. This looks like a clever solution.

Arcadia – Iain Pears : Artist/Designer – Thomas Cole(Artist)
[U] 1 point – do the slats suggest multiple threads or an obscured view? Not sure. A different attempt to solve the same problem. Wavering between 1 point or 2.

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard – Lawrence M. Schoen : Artist/Designer – Victo Ngai(Artist)
[R] 2 points – OK nothing on the cover suggests anthropomorphic elephants but the image is both evocative and relevant to the plot.

Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(tbc)
[U] 2 points – although I wavered.  Two interlocking stories, one of a journey to a planet and one of a planet’s history. There are sentient spiders apparently but like the Barsk cover, sometimes it is best not to illustrate something that your imagination will do a better job of SFX on.

Ctrl Alt Revolt! – Nick Cole : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(tbc)
[R] 0 points. Not a story of revolutionary politics among mechanical people. Read this instead.

Envy of Angels – Matt Wallace : Artist/Designer – Peter Lutgen(Artist)
[U] 2 points. An urban fantasy with food? Well that’s what the cover says and that’s what the blurb says.

Europe at Midnight – Dave Hutchinson : Artist/Designer – Clint Langley(Artist)
[U] 2 points I guess. Near future spy thriller? Yeah, I guess that is what it is saying visually.

Half a War – Joe Abercrombie : Artist/Designer – Mike Bryan(Artist)
[R] 2 points. It’s a fantasy story about an actual war. Does what it says on the tin.

Hell’s Foundations Quiver – David Weber : Artist/Designer – Stephen Youll(Artist)
[U] 2 points? Maybe. I don’t know. Is this an illustration of a scene from the book. I assume so. The blurb has so much backstory that I’m not sure what this particular entry in the series involves. I’m guessing it does deliver explosions.

League of Dragons – Naomi Novak : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(tbc)
[U] o points. OK by book 9 you’d know the setting of the Temeraire books but the cover really doesn’t hint at the alt-history element or the seafraing, Napoleonic elements. A burning tricolor or a map of Europe or something. Older editions took a different tack with this series e.g.

Raising Caine – Charles E. Gannon : Artist/Designer – Bob Eggleton(Artist)
[U] 2 points. The blurb says “bizarre and dangerous Slaasriithi lifeforms” so 2 points.

Seveneves: A Novel – Neal Stephenson : Artist/Designer – Jonathan Knowles(Artist)
[R] 1 point – I also thought about giving it 2 points and also 0 points. O points on the ground that this is intended to be an epic story of survival and the cover looks more like a journey into one person’s psyche. 2 points because it is about what people witness and that eye, with a what is maybe a reflection of the sun rising over earth is a clever way of evoking the book. Split the difference.

Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm – John C. Wright : Artist/Designer – Jeremiah Humphries(Artist)
[U] 1 point – I haven’t read it and I’m guessing that building is relevant to the story but it doesn’t feature in the blurb. Blurb suggests some kind of mad adventure and the cover does the same.

Son of the Black Sword – Larry Correia : Artist/Designer – Larry Elmore(Artist)
[U] 0 points. Beyond ‘it’s epic fantasy’ what is this telling us? That’s OK but on this criterion it can’t get many marks.

Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(tbc)
[U] o points.

Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(tbc)
[U] o points.

Souldancer – Brian Niemeier : Artist/Designer – Marcelo Orsi Blanco(Artist)
[U] 1 point. Seems to capture the feel of the book based on the blurb.

The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor : Artist/Designer – Joey Hi-Fi, aka Dale Halvorsen(Artist)
[U] 2 points – suggestive of lots of things, cities, people with spectacular powers but maybe not a conventional superhero story.

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher : Artist/Designer – Chris McGrath(Artist)
[R] 2 points. Does what it says on the tin.

The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin : Artist/Designer – Lauren Panepinto(Art director)
[R] 0 points. That seems unfair. A nigh on impossible task to cover this book. Having said that, there is an image from the story of a person trapped inside a crystal that is important plot wise but is also suggestive of various themes – control, claustrophobic societies, rocks etc.

The Grace of Kings – Ken Liu : Artist/Designer – Sam Weber(Artist)
[U] 1 point. The cover suggests a story set long after a conflict but I get the impression this book is more about an ongoing conflict.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers : Artist/Designer – Christoffer Meyer(tbc)
[R] 0 points. I love the cover but the book is about people ON a spaceship in space, rather than somebody on a planet.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers : Artist/Designer – Christopher Doll(Artist)
[R] 2 points. I like the other cover more but this tells you more what the book is like. It isn’t a sitcom but the Red Dwarf-like visuals here give you a sense of a story that will focus on a spaceship crew.

The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett : Artist/Designer – Paul Kidby(Artist)
[U] 2 points. A young witch marshals her unconventional forces.

The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett : Artist/Designer – Jim Tierney(Artist)
[U] 1 point – intriguing.

The Traitor, Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson : Artist/Designer – Sam Weber(Artist)
[U] 2 points – masks, deciet, strength, fragility. Lots going on there and suggests a lot about the book without revealing.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley : Artist/Designer – David Mann(tbc)
[R] 2 points. A Victorian novel with watches, bombs and an octopus. Look – it’s all there on the cover.

Updraft – Fran Wilde : Artist/Designer – Stephan Martiniere(Artist)
[U] 2 points. Another world with towers and flying people.

Updraft – Fran Wilde : Artist/Designer – Tommy Arnold(Artist)
[U] 2 points. Likewise.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik : Artist/Designer – Scott McKowen(Artist)
[R] 2 points. A folklorish story focused on a young woman with magical powers. It’s all there on the cover.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik : Artist/Designer –
[R] 2 points. Forest, tower, and an ominous shadow. Evocative of central Europe and the big, dark, ancient forest at the heart of the European id.

War Factory – Neal Asher : Artist/Designer – Larry Rostant(Artist)
[U] 1 point. OK, this maybe really does illustrate something actually going on but let’s face it – this is a BIG SPACE EXPLOSION cover and that is fine.

Way Down Dark – J.P. Smythe : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(tbc)
[U] 1 point. I wouldn’t have guessed from the cover that this was a story set on a generation ship. Maybe though, it does suggest somebody trying to survive in a crowded urban world – which also sort of fits.

Karen Memory – Elizabeth Bear : Artist/Designer – Cynthia Sheppard(Artist)
[U] 2 points. Does what it says on the tin.

Rolling in the Deep – Mira Grant : Artist/Designer – Julie Dillon(Artist)
[U] 2 points. Does what it says on the tin.

The Deep Woods – Tim Pratt : Artist/Designer – Galen Dara(Artist)
[U] o points. Aside from scary forest, not sure what this is saying.

Voices in the Night: Stories – Steven Millhauser : Artist/Designer – Janet Hansen (Designers)
[U] 0 points – tricky with a set of stories (why I’d originally just stuck with novels. The criterion doesn’t really work in this case.


One response to “Book Cover Award Thing 2016: Round 4 maybe? Relevance!”

  1. Envy of Angels – the non-nutty nuggets are very relevant
    Europe at Midnight – I really don’t rate these covers so possibly I’m biased, but I don’t get much coherent meaning out of them (and no scenes involving actual trains, as far as I can remember)
    Hell’s Foundations Quiver – says a strange combo of future-tech and pre-C19th tech to me, so if that’s what the series is about (I vaguely recall that it is) then I guess it’s done its job.
    Sorcerer to the Crown – I have to admit that neither art piece says anything about the contents. The title and “English Magic Lies in their Hands” line are doing all the work in that regard.
    The Fifth Season – I suppose it manages to say “not modern” but it doesn’t say fantasy or anything more specific, so zero is probably fair. I think the Salon blurb is probably the only thing pointing to fantasy. Mind you, I’m not sure how to do something better.
    The Grace of Kings – I dnf-ed this but I can confirm it’s at the start of a conflict. (Not that it was bad, but it didn’t grab me and I decided to wait and hear if the full series was worth it before going back)
    Way Down Dark – haven’t read it, but the cover says nothing to me. The tiny figure at the bottom hints at someone overwhelmed by their surroundings, but in what way?


%d bloggers like this: