Wednesday 17 June 2015


I read Adam Roberts's first few novels with great enjoyment, and then somehow drifted away (the combination of the misfiring The Snow and the feeling he was wasting his essence on endless silly stocking-stuffer parody books like The Soddit, The McAtrix Derided, The Sellamillion, Star Warped, The Va Dinci Cod, The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo, etc).

However, a while ago I bought a collection of his SF criticism, Sibilant Fricative, on a whim, and it reminded me just how clever and funny a writer he is. Investigating several of the many, many, many books he has published since The Snow showed me that my loss of interest achieved nothing but the exclusion from my life of some extraordinarily good science fiction, and that I had been an idiot.

So I got his newest, Bête, a splendid story about consciousness, animal rights, prejudice and poor social skills, among other things--the central conceit being the invention of AI chips which, when fed to animals, migrate into their brains and gift them human-style consciousness and the ability to speak.

The cover of Bête is also splendid: the work of Blacksheep (or Black Sheep, I've never been quite sure which), it combines woodcut-style animal silhouettes into a delirious swirl of detail, with little added details like megaphones which play up the themes of the novel. (Click for biggering)

And further hunting around reveals Roberts's forthcoming novel to be entitled The Thing Itself, a brew of John Carpenter and Immanuel Kant that I'm exactly enough of an intellectual show-off to be be able to truthfully state is exactly my cup of tea, and which I want to read right now. The 6-month wait is my punishment for my former foolishness. And it has this great cover, also presumably a Blacksheep design.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Circles & Colours (& Numbers)

One ongoing theory is that you fight the drift to ebooks by making your physical books as lovely as possible. Harvill Secker's imminent edition of Joshua Cohen's Book of Numbers, which looks very interesting, takes this idea very seriously indeed. It features the first circular dustjacket I can recall encountering, as well as using different single-colour overprinted illustrations that show up under different colours of light.

Quoting from Harvill's design blog: "The theme of surveillance was the spark of this cover. We had admired the RGB wallpaper work of Carnovsky for a while (a Milan based artist/designer duo comprised of Francesco Rugi and Silvia Quintanilla.) Their RGB work experiments with the interaction between printed light and colours. Images in these colours are overlaid, lines and shapes entwine but when seen under a filter/coloured light one of the three layers is revealed.

"The duo were given a large list of subjects from the novel, highlighting the ones that felt particularly important to be included. We then gave Carnosky an unusual circular grid. The idea was that this circle would fold down to wrap around the book as a jacket but when opened out would for an extraordinary poster of the novel."

The embossed boards underneath are very nice, too.

More Carnovsky wallpapers are at their site (see above). Here are a few samples. Click to embiggen and break out the coloured cellophane.