It’s time another Book Cover Smackdown! The theme this time around is science fiction short horror fiction books hitting shelves in April 2014.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it): play armchair art critic!

Tell us: which of these covers grabs your attention? What appeals to you? What works and what doesn’t work? Do any of them make you want to read the book?


 
Peacemaker by Marianne De Pierres
(Angry Robot | April 29, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: Joey Hi-Fi)
 

When an imaginary animal from her troubled teenage years reappears, Virgin takes it to mean one of two things: a breakdown (hers!) or a warning. When the dead bodies start piling up around her and Nate, she decides on the latter. Something terrible is about to happen in the park and Virgin and her new partner are standing in its path…

Virgin Jackson is the senior ranger in Birrimun Park – the world’s last natural landscape, overshadowed though it is by a sprawling coastal megacity. She maintains public safety and order in the park, but her bosses have brought out a hotshot cowboy to help her catch some drug runners who are affecting tourism. She senses the company is holding something back from her, and she’s not keen on working with an outsider like Nate Sixkiller.


 
The Revolutions by Felix Gilman
(Tor Books | April 1, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: unknown)
 

Following his spectacularly reviewed Half-Made World duology, Felix Gilman pens a sweeping stand-alone tale of Victorian science fiction, arcane exploration, and planetary romance.

In 1893, young journalist Arthur Shaw is at work in the British Museum Reading Room when the Great Storm hits London, wreaking unprecedented damage. In its aftermath, Arthur’s newspaper closes, owing him money, and all his debts come due at once. His fiancé Josephine takes a job as a stenographer for some of the fashionable spiritualist and occult societies of fin de siècle London society. At one of her meetings, Arthur is given a job lead for what seems to be accounting work, but at a salary many times what any clerk could expect. The work is long and peculiar, as the workers spend all day performing unnerving calculations that make them hallucinate or even go mad, but the money is compelling.

Things are beginning to look up when the perils of dabbling in the esoteric suddenly come to a head: A war breaks out between competing magical societies. Josephine joins one of them for a hazardous occult exploration—an experiment which threatens to leave her stranded at the outer limits of consciousness, among the celestial spheres.

Arthur won’t give up his great love so easily, and hunts for a way to save her, as Josephine fights for survival…somewhere in the vicinity of Mars.


 
Afterparty by Daryl Gregory
(Tor Books | April 22, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: unknown)
 

It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.

Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.

A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watts’s Starfish: a last chance to save civilization, or die trying.

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