Wednesday 31 October 2012

What on Earth is Going On in the Middle East?

I'm puzzled--dozens and dozens of Middle-Eastern persons have been finding their way to this blog by doing a Google Image Search for this book cover.

From this post of full of class and diistinction

I can think of no rational explanation for why this would be happening.

Boyd's Atwoods

Having been rude about Margaret Atwood recently, I should point out that the current Vintage UK editions of her books are absolutely gorgeous: they use paper-cutut artwork and illustrations by Florence Boyd.

Apologies for the gap between posts, by the way: I had a nice big one on the tedium and lack of originality in modern fantasy novel covers, which boiled them all down to 3 categories (bloke with sword, chick with dogs, flying blob in the sky), and then Blogger ate it, and it was all too boring for me to redo. So, basically, modern fantasy covers suck.

Thursday 25 October 2012


Having recently read a pretty bad novella by Margaret Atwood, I found myself wondering whether my fond memories of her earlier work would stand up to re-reading. And then I saw that she's co-writing a zombie novel with a video game designer, and posting it on one of the silly semi-high-tech things she gets periodically  excited about: not that stupid long-distance remote-controlled biro, but a site called Wattpad, where people serially publish their books online.

Never having heard of it, I investigated Wattpad. What it seems to be is yet another nest of fan-fiction and related nonsense. What I found most interesting, browsing the "hot" titles, was how many of them have blatantly nicked their covers from films and TV shows. Here are a few examples.

Maya_2011's 'Dragon's Prize' pinches a promo phot of Aidan Mitchell from TV series Being Human

Tulipgardens' 'Hunting You, Hunting Me' pinches the movie poster for Norwegian horror film Thale

Steviekc's 'Aryan Nation' steals one of the famous images from the excellent Nazis-win-WW2 mockumentary It Happened Here

Almost everything else on the 'hot' list has as cover images pictures taken from Deviantart--I assume stolen, but can't prove it. If the covers are this shameless--not even derivative, but outright thefts--just how original and interesting are the books themselves going to be?

I think the remote-controlled biro was a better idea.

And speaking of tiresome zombie fiction, I see that these two books, first published in the UK...

..have been released in the US. But heaven forfend that a US-published book should have anywhere foreign on it...

Monday 22 October 2012

On Your Bike

A play I just read, Penelope Skinner's The Village Bike, is about a sexually frustrated pregnant woman who buys a bicycle and then gets involved in an affair with the bike's previous owner. It has a really clever, witty and rude cover by artist Jurgen Ziewe.

Thursday 11 October 2012

In Japan, Everything is Round

Now that I know that Murakami hasn't won the Nobel, I can relax and post these beautiful cover redesigns of his backlist, done by Noma Bar (uninformative website here) for Vintage UK. Click for a great big version.

The black, white, red and circular design constants are very nicely played: trying to use and play with the Japanese rising sun motif in 15 different but meaningful ways must have been a challenge, but these covers meet it admirably.

They're also very reminiscent of these other Vintage UK covers, for the Classics editions of Yukio Mishima's  'Sea of Fertility' tetralogy, also in red, black (well, grey), white and featuring circular suns and moons. These designs were all the work of Anna Crone, drawing on old Japanese woodblock prints.

I might normally be inclined to rail against the Japan=rising sun imagery idea as a cliche, except that for the Murakamis it has been done so well, and for the Mishimas, well, Mishima was such a nationalistic nutbag who identified himself with old, imperial Japan so strongly that it is entirely appropriate to use that symbol on his books.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Space Powers

I've drooled before of the Library of America's boxed sets. They put together really nice-looking collections, and it would be nice to see them rerelease some of their back catalogue in this form (as they have done with their noir/crime collections, for example).

The latest LoA releases are their two volumes of important American science-fiction from the 1950s: this is the really good stuff that transcended its (usual) pulp magazine origins and helped build the genre in its modern form.

The two books and the box are all decorated with art by Richard Powers, whose strange, surrealism-influenced images ended of on the covers of more than 1000 SF books. Despite never being much of an SF fan, his evocatively strange paintings are central to its mid-century development. (see more of his work here, if the link is up.)

And here are the original paintings used:

The books included are:

Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth: The Space Merchants
Theodore Sturgeon: More Than Human
Leigh Brackett: The Long Tomorrow
Richard Matheson: The Shrinking Man
Robert Heinlein: Double Star
Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (pleasingly, published with all of the typographical jiggery-pokery that is often left out of modern reprints)
James Blish: A Case of Conscience
Algis Budrys: Who?
Fritz Leiber: The Big Time

A couple of these were originally published with Powers covers:

Compare these with the rather more straightforward, literal-representation-of-scenes-from-the-book covers the others received.

Cover by Bob Engle

Cover by Ed Emshwiller

Monday 8 October 2012

Back to the Good Stuff

Sorry about the gap between posts: obviously being featured on The Guardian's website (oddly, under a photo of Robocop) has made me too self-satisfied to post. But after that last post''s cavalcade of shit, how about some good stuff?

These covers are the work of Bulgarian designer Raycho Stanev for the local translations of a number of well-known books, each using strong, bold illustrations and vivid blocks of colour. I've included the English titles/authors below each image. Click for much bigger versions.

Cockroach by Rawi Hage

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Behind Doors: Cuban stories

My Street by Diana Ivanova and Babak Salari

Solo by Rana Dasgupta
Raycho has also designed this poster for 'Recover', a documentary movie about book covers, directed by Evgeni Bogdanov.

Monday 1 October 2012

Humiliating Henry James

I honestly thought I was done with Tutis: they haven't produced any new books in a while, at least not under that name, and I thought I'd pretty much plumbed the depths of their incompetence and derangement. But I was wrong, because I came across this cover...

The presence of the badly Photoshopped-in kitten made me think it must be a joke, but fortunately it's a real Tutis cover: better hurry, though, as Amazon only has one copy in stock!

Of course, once I'd fallen back into the sewers, I couldn't help fishing around to see what else I could find. Marvel at Tutis's intense campaign to humiliate Henry James.

I think there's a lesson here for all of us.

I've been trying to caption this for 10 minutes, but nothing I've come up with can match the sheer glory of this cover.


Henry James meets Red Dawn, coming soon from those tedious shitheads who brought you Pride & Prejudice & Zombies & Jane Eyre & Erotica & Vampires & Haemorrhoids

If you look at the original painting this is stolen from, you can see that someone has ineptly clone-tooled a bunch of goblins and trolls out of the picture. Lucky! Otherwise this would have been completely inappropriate.

When literalism attacks

I'm amazed this isn't just a big close-up of an eye, to be honest.

And to round things off, some other sublime Tutis work.

Rohmer based his Yellow Peril stereotypes on some incredibly wild misinformation

To be fair, Frankenstein does contain ice. And bipeds.

First, throw away your fish.

'Now, Timmy, people are going to tell you that lopped off arms will fling coins into piggybanks while travelling at speed down lonely country roads. I'm sorry to tell you that this just isn't true.'

Well, I admit to being pretty fucking mystified myself.