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Monday, 17 May 2010

Cover Art(illery)

Bang! Pow! Zum Tum Tum! Striking sci-fi and horror book covers that make the maximum (positive) impact. Movie tie-in posters and reproduced photography/artwork do not count and names of photographers and illustrators included where possible.

1. R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Čapek
Penguin Edition 2004 (cover photo credit- Bob Esdale)
Czech playwright Capek did not coin the word 'robot' in his best known play 'R.U.R'': that credit goes to his brother Joseph. A disturbing image; four AA batteries embedded in the back of the cranium, creepily reminiscent of cyberpunk 'jack-in' portals and implanted microchips.

2. Dune by Frank Herbert (SF Masterworks hardcover edition 2007) 
There's a gi-normous worm on the cover, poised to swallow everything that can't get out if its way- what more do you want? Other covers depict the Arrakeen desert, spacecraft and multiple sand worms ridden by the Fremen of Arrakis, but less worms are definitely more.

3. The Spook House Ambrose Bierce. Cover illustration by Coralie Bickford-Smith (2008 Penguin reprint)
The jagged imagery reminds me of Saul Bass' opening movie credits, especially the one for 'Psycho'. You can almost hear the animated knives slashing through the cover.

4. I Am Legend Richard Matheson (SF Masterworks reissue 1999). Cover Illustration by Jim Thiesen
"Hello Hollywood? Take a look at this book cover. Yes I know this has been made thrice into a movie but this cover is scarier than all three films edited together. This is what a post apocalyptic nightmare of the undead is supposed to look like! Not a major star wondering around the ruins of New York looking for his dinner."

4. Eon Greg Bear (Victor Gollancz reissue 2009) Design by Sanda Zahirovic

Utterly striking book cover but provokes divisive reactions. I've veered from regarding it as "contemporary and minimalist" to "Who's been playing in the publishing office's recycled paper basket during lunchtime?" and back again. 

5. A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess (Penguin editions clockwise from top left: David Pelham (1972); top right: photography by Lionel F Williams (Eye) and SOA / Photonica (Cogs) (1996).Bottom left and right: photography by Véronique Rolland (2000 & 2008).

I know I'm cheating here but I love all four covers, even the Tate Modernesque photos of glasses of milk. I don't own any of them, in fact my copy is the 1986 Norton edition with flames and the lower screaming half of a man's face. It doesn't sound exciting but I've seen worse literal covers for this book with mechanical oranges and cogwheels.

6. Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination Edogawa Rampo. cover illustration by Bolger Edward (Tuttle 1956)

Bow down to the Grandfather of the Japanese mystery tale! Let this cover hijack your attention before you open this book of bizarre psychological horror tales. The chair on the cover refers to Rampo's most famous short story 'The Human Chair', which will scare you off buying comfy sofas and armchairs. For life.


Lynda Young said...

I haven't seen that book cover version of Greg Bear's Eon. The one I own is more typical scifi-ish: A view of Earth from space covered up by a giant meteor.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen these evocative covers before. Thanks for sharing.

Good Show Sir said...

Aw man. Every one of those covers is just excellent.

In fact ten years ago I bought that very I am Legend book simply because the cover looked amazing. Being young and naive I didn't know what I was in for and now it's one my personal favourites. I also agree, the movie sucked!

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