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Book Cover Smackdown! Salamander vs. The Quiet War

Two book covers made me stop in my tracks today. I can’t decide which one I like more. So you decide.

  • In this corner, we have the cover for Nick Kyme’s Salamander, Book 1 in The Tome of Fire Trilogy, cover illustration by Cheoljoo Lee.
  • And in this corner, we have the cover for Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War, cover illustration by Sparth.

Which one do you like best?

[Note: For the uninitiated, like me, there’s more than artwork that goes into making the cover. There is also a cover designer that lays out text and frames the image and a whole bunch of other stuff. When picking your favorite, take everything into account, not just the artwork.]

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

21 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! Salamander vs. The Quiet War

  1. On first impression – The Quiet War is a book I’ll pick up, read the back cover, and be more likely to assume I’d read.  Salamander looks more to me (in shallow physical terms) like a movie I’d watch, not a book I’d read.

    Not that it isn’t impressive as art – it is. I like it.  But side by side comparisons, I can see myself reaching for The Quiet War.

  2. I really like the visual angle that each artist chose.  Very interesting.  Overall I prefer The Quiet War.  I am equally fond of spaceships and robots, but the point of view of Quiet War is really well done and I really enjoy Sparth’s ‘concept design’ style of art….almost as if it isn’t quite finished.  Very cool.

  3. Dennis S. // April 7, 2009 at 12:30 pm //

    Tough one, and then again.


    I quite like the artwork for the Warhammer 40.000: Salamander novel and I appreciate that the design of the cover makes it easy to identify as a Warhammer novel, and identify that the book is part of a trilogy. I also quite like that the dude on the cover is in the foreground of the text. Also the cover is very ‘honest’ about what (I think) the book is about: military sf including dudes in suits fighting each other. Nothing wrong with that and I have read, and liked, some of the Warhammer 40.000 novels.

    Somehow the name The Tome of Fire Trilogy doesn’t really appeal to me, though, but I guess that’s not really fair to talk about in this epic cover smackdown.

    Maybe I am not really being fair here, but somehow the cover also screams generic military sf to me and I would probably not take more than a quick look at the cover and then move on to something else.


    Something else like the cover for The Quiet War. I suppose one could argue that it is also a somewhat generic  sf cover, but it somehow really speaks to me. I like the artwork a quite a lot; the general feeling and setting, the symmetry, the colors and the epicness of the scene. I would definitely grab the book and read the backside of the cover. (Also this cover is way cooler than the other covers I have seen for The Quiet War).


    So for me, the clear winner of this battle is the cover for The Quiet War.



  4. Dang! i wish they were both Tor covers. 😉

  5. That’s a unique compliment. You will forgive me that I am sort of glad one at least is not.

  6. The Quiet War is more my speed, however there’s nothing quiet about the lettering.  It’s too bold.  As far as that goes, I think Salamander meshes everything nicely, but the giant robot thing makes it look more like a video game.

    Both are nice pieces of art.

  7. SF Fangirl // April 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm //

    The Quiet War.  It’s prettier, and looks like a book I read.  The fancy design around the title of Salamander makes it look like some fantasy series I wouldn’t read even before I see that it’s a Warhammer book which I definately won’t read.  Excellent design marketing to the right people.

  8. I’m all for “Quiet War.” I like the cooler color palatte, and I like the way the spaceship leads you to the title instead of overshadowing it.

  9. Anonymous // April 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm //

    I love The Quiet War cover. But to be fair, I love spaceships and have been waiting for the US release of the quiet war for some time.

    The Salamander cover is okay but Warhammer 40,000 is a immediate turn-off.

  10. Matte Lozenge // April 7, 2009 at 7:33 pm //

    Pretty much agree with what others said. I like Salamander better as a piece of art and as an overall graphic design package. But The Quiet War looks more like a book I’d actually want to read.

    Both artworks are very phallic – Salamander is all about The Object (armored suit, weapon raised from hip) vs. The Quiet War which is about a whole environment (spaceship flying down the center of a slot, other ships, planet and atmosphere).  The Quiet War has a sense of wide open spaces beyond, of a journey, and the possibility of surprise and adventure, which is why it seems more like a story I might be interested in.

    How much does a book cover affect your experience of reading the story? Sometime I ignore the cover, sometimes it really seems to set a tone for the reading experience.

  11. You guys got me to read the 40k books, which I never thought I’d enjoy, and now I’m really enjoying them. So, the promise of a fun read speaks to me from the warhammer book.

    However, the other does create a sense of wonder.

  12. I’m digging The Quiet War.

  13. They say: don´t judge a book by its cover. But what a cover you have! There is no such art(ists) in Peru, and even the mainstream covers are ugly and dull. You have a great gift with the covers art and the people who make it.

  14. Salamander interests the WH40K enthusiast in me, but I keep looking at The Quiet War.   It reminds me of some of the art I saw for Homeworld early on. Since I can only vote for one, I vote for The Quiet War. Sorry WH40K – I still love you 🙂

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  16. Weyland Yutani // April 8, 2009 at 5:49 am //

    Both are very cool covers that really allow the art to shine.   Sometimes, it is frustrating to see the beautiful art on a cover get covered or marginalised by the text.   Both of these covers allow the art to do the heavy lifting. 

    I’m a fan of Sparth’s work and, while I don’t think this piece represents his best work, it’s still a gorgeous cover.  I love the painting style.

    …but who can ignore a big bot?  Nice.

  17. The Image on the Right! good feeling and open enough to draw the reader in without givign away to much storyline;)



  18. This was supposed to be the original cover for Salamander according to the authors blog:


  19. Salamander. It radiates a mighty, scary and futuristic dynamism, and I guess that’s a great visual synopsis, a “one still trailer” for the book’s contents. The other image looks good as well, but seems a bit too generic to me: instead of making me interested in the book, it makes me make come up with brief and generic sf ideas of my own. Also, Salamander’s type treatment seems to fit its cover illustration better.

  20. I really think both covers are great examples of technical skill, but I feel that the Salamander cover is more inviting to read. My vote goes for it. I feel it has more action, a more “whats going on” kind of look to it. It drives me in. There is nothing particulary wrong with Sparths cover… It’s just that the spaceships are seen everywhere nowadays that it’s hard to impress a sci-fan with each year. I feel a bit more action would’ve helped this one a bit (but maybe could have defeated the purpose of the “Quiet War” title… hmmm maybe contrasts in the art could have worked).

  21. Ken Kim // May 21, 2009 at 11:31 am //

    Salamander! seems to be fun.

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