Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Lightborn Vs Version 43

with 5 comments

Today I received two books from Orbit and, whilst I am looking forward to reading both, it was their covers that particularly struck me. Here is Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan:

And here is Version 43 by Philip Palmer:

The cover for Lightborn was designed by Nathan Burton and art directed by Duncan Spilling (more here, including larger image). The cover for Version 43 was photographed by Eric Westpheling and art directed by Lauren Panepinto (more here, including larger image). Both covers take radical yet radically different approaches to complimenting the work behind them

Lightborn has a stark, monochrome cover depicting light being split by a prism where, instead of producing a rainbow, it simply fans out in a grey wave. As well as harmonising with the title, it signals a novel with serious intent and presumably a dark future. It reminds me a bit of Gollancz’s paper space opera series but I’m worried it is too non-descript (the typeface is also very small for a novel). However, when I mentioned this cover on Twitter several people said that they thought it would stand out by virtue of the fact it is so different to other SF covers.

In contrast, I really do think Version 43 stands out. The cover is split between text and image and both are highly distinctive. The top half is a blue bold background with a really strong and unusual typeface (as well as a small element of graphic design). The bottom half is a photo an Action Man figure with several more in silhouette. Again, this harmonises with the title, a disposable figure in a conformist society. The protagonist of the novel is a cyborg cop, “more programme than man”, and the harsh light, stern expression and menacing shadows set a hard-boiled tone. It isn’t quite as instantly brilliant as the similar cover for his previous novel but it is pretty damn good. From comments elsewhere, it is also seems to be divisive though.

Written by Martin

29 September 2010 at 10:59

Posted in books, design, sf

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. I’m not convinced by the Lightborn cover. I’ll have to see it in the flesh to really judge – hopefully it’ll turn out the image isn’t a great file, or the computer I’m viewing it on isn’t rendering it terribly well. For now all I can say is it looks a bit cheap and small pub to me, but I’ll reserve judgment.

    Version 43 is a cracking cover, though, and much better than the one for Red Claw, I think. I think what makes it better for me is that with Red Claw the image is a bit too surrounded by the text, so it gets a bit drowned out, while with Version 43 there’s a clear delineation between the two elements.

    The typeface, and the weathering/damage effects, say to me that the cover is aping the look of pulp books, which (if the book lives up to that impression) is a nice way of selling it, as there are still plenty of people out there who are suckers for pulp fiction.

    In conclusion, more posts about book covers, please! :)

    Nick H.

    29 September 2010 at 14:17

  2. I’m afraid I don’t think Lightborn looks better in the flesh and yes, it does look a little cheap. They seem to be experimenting with Sullivan’s covers but I don’t think they’ve cracked it yet. The only comparable genre covers I can think of are those for Steph Swainston and there the title and author are much more prominent. I’ll be intrigued to see how Lightborn will go down but I’m not sure it will draw in new readers.

    You are right that the compostion of Version 43 is probably better than that of Red Claw. However, I think that photo just rules: toy soldiers and cockroaches standing in for crudely drawn space warriors and Bug Eyed Monsters is such a playful bit of work and works perfectly as a spoof and love letter to the genre. I’m really keen to see what Lauren Panepinto does for his next one.

    And yes, there will definitely be more discussion of book covers here. To keep you going, here is some debate about whether Mark Newton is getting shafted over his covers.


    29 September 2010 at 14:49

  3. To my knowledge, Sullivan has not been published in typically “genre” covers (at least, not under her own name) for many years now.

    I think both covers do an excellent job of positioning the books — one towards the ‘literary’ end of the spectrum, the other more action-adventure.

    David H

    29 September 2010 at 15:20

  4. Based on the image provided, the Lightborn cover looks like it’s for a book called “V”. I think something that looked more like a real prism instead of an abstract white triangle would have been a better choice.

    Matt Hilliard

    30 September 2010 at 01:50

  5. Both covers are quite striking in their own manner. But the paper -opera series was quite a hit and miss


    3 October 2010 at 09:00

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