I’ve always found the expression “Never judge a book by its cover” to be pretty stupid. Yes, I get that it’s about people rather than actual books (although honestly, that’s a bit silly too. I think its a fair bet to assume that a person like me, with blue hair and a rather large collection of sarcastic t-shirts, probably has a different personality than the lovely middle-aged woman with a crucifix hanging from her rearview mirror) but books are such a stupid example of things to not judge by appearances. The entire point of cover art is to inform a consumer as to the mood and a bit of the plot, and hopefully to entice the interested consumer to buy it.
Seeing as how the street outside is so flooded that the buses can’t get through, I think I’ll stick inside today and talk about books that I took off the shelf because of their covers, and why.
The Kingdom Beyond the Waves, by Stephen Hunt
As an amateur typography nut, the font on the cover drew me first. The misaligned letters, the anachronistic look…it totally matched the maritime theme of the cover. The full teal cover with the sparse decoration also made it stand out.
As a steampunk fan, I always like the idea of an old-fashioned submarine. But I’m getting pretty tired of the regular Victoriana mystery-plot that every goddamn steampunk novel seems to have. This book, with the little diver, the sub (versus the over-used dirigible theme), and the tagline “Embark on the adventure of a lifetime…” definitely gave off more of a Boy’s Adventure vibe rather than a steam-powered parasol one.
I’ve already read this one (unlike the other two in this post…I’ve been lazy) and it is brilliant. While there is some steampunk, it certainly isn’t the kind you’re used to. And ohmygod, the worldbuilding is wonderful. I don’t know how Mr. Hunt manages to keep all of the lands and peoples apart, but I am eternally grateful for it.
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Just look at this cover.
It is amazing.
I love the art deco period, and the clean black/white/grey color scheme combined with that aesthetic is a definite win for me. Plus–who wouldn’t want to pick this book up? You have the two men on either side of the Empire State Building–one in a gas mask with a gun, one in a helmet that looks like Rocketman gone 80′s rogue–looking down in silence. Are they protecters? Conquerors? I don’t know, but it’s got my attention.
Then, down below, there’s the lone man walking between the figures. It isn’t a stretch to say that this must be the detective character–between the hate and his stance it’s pretty obvious. And the concentric circles around him look rather like a target.
I haven’t read this alternate-history superhero novel yet, but I’m excited to get to it.
Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard
This book attracted me for much the same reasons that The Kingdom Beyond the Waves did. I like the lithograph style of art, as opposed to digital art (not that digital art can’t be beautiful, but there’s something special about the line art style, especially when it’s coupled with a historical fantasy book. It also follows the simple color scheme formula of the aforementioned novels.
This looks a bit like something out of an old medical text, if old medical texts had a baby with absurdist theater. The grinning skull with the top hat and glasses isn’t an image easily skipped over.
The thick red X reminds me of the plagues of the Old Testament, when the Jewish families in Egypt drew red X’s over their doors in lamb’s blood to have the plague skip their homes. I’m not sure if this is what the cover was trying to invoke, but it is a striking allusion.
This cover doesn’t follow the formula of a regular book cover. The title is under the main image, as opposed to on top or centered, and the author’s name is in the upper left-hand corner. Certainly not a usual cover, but certainly an intriguing one.