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After I finished Player of Games,
I did what I usually do after finishing a book that captivated my imagination: I went trawling for fan-art.
Much to my surprise (and chagrin), there really isn't much out there. Maybe it's something that only fantasy fans really get into.
Anyway, my internet voyages steered me into a site detailing the various covers of Player of Games. Personally, I think the cover I read from was absolutely gorgeous, completely aesthetically pleasing and perfectly capturing the mood of the book.
The same cannot be said for these covers:
The left: Sooo wrong. I just...can't even begin to express how wrong that cover is. I don't think they read the book. You have to have a really special imagination to assume that a 3-dimensional game in space looks like that. I really, really don't get the pink.
The right: um. Whaaa?
So then that got me into looking up various scifi authors, because they totally have the worst covers ever. Lois McMaster Bujold has long held the title in Being Ripped Off In The Cover Department. Apparently, several of her covers were originally slated for other books, then, at the last minute, used for her books instead. Gotta love.
Personally, I am extremely amused at the, ah, lengths that the artists go to disguise the fact that the protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan, is under 5 feet tall. He gets "random head plus space"-type covers a lot.
Here's some covers of Warrior's Apprentice. If you haven't read it, (a) you should, and (b) I promise nothing like the left pic ever happens in the book.
Some covers just leave me bemused. For example, consider the Matthew Swift covers. The first one, sure, I can go with that, even though I wish the background was a lighter colour so he didn't look like he was wearing an enormous muu-muu. And oh, my, that quiff of hair. Whyyy.
But what's up with the rest of the series? They change cover models every book...everything from hair colour to nose shape.
What I really want to know: who is the blonde dude in the suit with the golden wings on the second cover? Coz it ain't Matthew Swift.
I guess it comes down to this:
I think covers are hugely significant.
I routinely decide to read books based on their covers, especially if they are books outside my very narrow standard genres of mystery and uf (e.g. high fantasy or scifi).
F'rinstance, consider the covers of a few of my recent reads. Then evaluate how often I am swayed by cover-art:
While authors like Bujold always seem to draw the short straw, there are plenty of books that get the cover-art they deserve. While I'm less than fond of the previous artist, Paul Kidby's cover-art for Terry Pratchett's Discworld book tends to be fantastic:
And I'm totally in love with any coverart that ties deeply into a theme or structure of the story, so that when you finish, you end up coming back and thinking, "whoa."
Like this one:
I know there's some thought that covers will stop mattering now that we're digital-everything. I just don't think it's so. No matter the form, a gorgeous cover will always increase my impulse to read.
Last but not least: if you're entertained by the bad stuff, there's an entire site devoted to gawdawful covers.
Like this. Or these: