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Book Cover Smackdown! The Great Bazaar vs. Hand of Isis vs. Finch

Your Mission (should you choose to accept it): Tell us which cover you like best and why. Go!

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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.

27 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! The Great Bazaar vs. Hand of Isis vs. Finch

  1. Finch has the best cover I’ve seen in a long, long time. I don’t know how you could convey “weird, fungus-soaked noir” any more clearly.

  2. Hand of Isis.

    No contest.

  3. Isis, for two reasons: it has a cat and a snake. I love covers with cats and covers with snakes. Putting the two together on one cover is awesome.

  4. Klapaucius // July 21, 2009 at 1:17 pm //

    Finch, because that strange tree-medallion calls to me…

  5. The Great Bazaar. 


    Dark and creepy and makes me shiver in that delicious way a good scary story always does.

  6. Finch, because it doesn’t have “and other stories” or a well-endowed woman in a form-fitting dress on the cover. 

  7. Finch gets my vote because it conveys Vandermeer’s “New Weird” aesthetic perfectly.



  8. I like Finch too – because I always like covers that push the envelope a bit. Hand of Isis was a very traditional kind of historical fantasy and so we packaged it very traditionally…and you cant go wrong with John Jude Palencar. The first book in the series is here:

  9. Hand of Issis because it better depicts what the story could be about.


  10. Finch. But they are all nice.

  11. euphrosyne // July 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm //

    Finch. I haven’t come across a cover in a long time that, on its merits alone, insured that I would read the book. I would have done so even if I weren’t already familiar with VanderMeer’s work.

    Come to think of it, the last cover which immediately compelled me to read the book, no questions asked, was City of Saints and Madmen. Sadly the US cover is not as persusasive. Here’s the UK hardcover for those who haven’t seen it (continued similarly around the back, and much more beautiful in person):

  12. I would kill a baby squid to get a cover as wonderful as “Finch”.

  13. euphrosyne // July 21, 2009 at 6:31 pm //

    J.M., your rather spartan cover for Last Dragon was one of the more standout covers in recent memory. Totally different than the lushness of Finch, but a definite win for a first work IMHO!

  14. I had to kill some ants and a couple horny toads for that cover.


    It’s amazing what happens behind the scenes in publishing, especially in marketing departments.

  15. The Great Bazaar. Mysterious and haunting. You know whatever is under that hood is going to be seriously badass.

  16. Lol I can’t believe I spelt Isis wrong! I must have been in a hurry. The symbol above the figure in the frame is an old Hermetic occult symbol I ran into some 30 years ago.

  17. Gudni Pall // July 22, 2009 at 5:20 am //

    Hands down, the The Great Bazaar. The dark, mysterious and foreboding feeling I get from it does it for me.

  18. Totally the Great Bazaar.  That cover is hot!

  19. Actually the symbol above the door is from the temple of Ramses II near the Valley of the Kings, the alchemists adopted a lot of the Egyptian iconography and repurposed it later on…J.J.P. used a few of my tourist snapshots for reference for the piece, which was so awesome. 

  20. Laural Faith Armster // July 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm //

    I like the The Great Bazaar the best.

    The picture on the front is simple but elegant. I don’t feel like I’m being beaten over the head with too much information at the outset: this is a quiet invitation to step into the story. The figure that is pictured is mysterious and intriguing; if I didn’t already know who he is, I’d want to find out, and as it is, I want to know more about him!

    Isis… eh. Could have been done better. 1). There’s a practically naked woman wearing a snake. Um, no thanks. There are plenty of books like this on the romance rack. 2) The composition feels cramped, narrow, and dusty to me. Yawn.

    Finch … interesting ideas, has an element of mystery, but feels too busy. The greens and yellows are so close together that they almost hurt the eye, and it is difficult to try and catalogue the story elements I am seeing. I might pick it up if it was on the shelf at a vacation house and I had nothing else to read.

  21. Finch is the best of the three, only because the other too are extremely unorginal and tell me ‘core genre’ (whether the books are trite or not). I would skip “Isis” and “Bazaar” completely on the bookstore shelf.  Finch is intriguing, because I don’t know what to make of it right away.  I’d have to pick it up, read the blurbs, read the beginning and then make a judgment.  (This is, assuming I didn’t already know what the book was about.)

  22. Hannu Blommila // July 22, 2009 at 2:57 pm //

    Finch, hands down. John Coulthart’s art is always extremely evocative and this is no exception.

  23. FINCH all the way.  It’s both elegant and gritty.

  24. The Great Bazaar and Other Stories

  25. Chris Sycamore // July 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm //

    Finch walks away with this one I think.  Interestingly, authors have always had a love/hate relationship with their covers, and considering the impact a cover can have on a book’s sales that makes sense. 

    Jeff Vandermeer was recently on “The Sofanauts” podcast where he discussed this cover, and how important it was for the cover convey a certain message critical to his core readership: namely that since his readers are not just sff readers, but readers of literary fiction, the cover had to straddle these genres much as the book (I assume) does (although I am paraphrasing and I assume Vandermeer would hate my summation considering the use of the terms “genres” and “literary fiction” [which I don’t necessarily cotton to myself – for more in this vein tune in to the latest iteraton of the Genre Convo of Doom or as Mr. Vandermeer is calling it “War of All Against All”: ]). 

    Defintely it is safe to say, looking at this cover, mission accomplished!  However, one question lingers for me: how did Mr. Vandermeer get control of his covers?  Well, let me revise that.  He’s big enough now to make such requests, but it seems he’s had it from the very begginning of his career.  If so, what gives?  Most authors would love to have this kind of control, but don’t.  How does he do it!?

  26. Jeff VanderMeer // July 23, 2009 at 10:35 pm //

    I’ll insert myself into this just peripherally to answer Chris’s question. I’ve had cover control or a lot of cover input in part because I ran my own publishing company and I inherited a good visual sense from my mother, who is an artist. So I know how to frame a pitch for a particular artist or designer to my publishers, and am able to work with a designer or artist in an effective way. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had even Bantam, Tor, and Pan MacMillan be willing to listen to me, and often take not just my suggestions but actual art I commissioned or recommended.

    Art directors and design departments usually wince when an author suggests something because a lot of authors don’t know the lingo and they don’t also have a strong sense of what can work on a cover and what can’t.

    That said, my pitch to John Coulthart, the designer, was a gun that contained an image, with a rich green background. But I conceived of the gun as being horizontal. It was John’s genius to run it vertically, turning it into a more interesting image/space, and to layer in the textures, etc. So I had an initial vision, but a lesser designer would’ve done it literally, rather than transforming it, and it would have been okay but not great.

    I love Coulthart’s designs, and freely admit that he saved the cover of Booklife from being mundane all on his own. He is a true genius in my opinion. He also did the fake disease guide.

  27. The Great Bazaar cover was actually a piece of art I commissioned for my website right after I signed my first book deal. After years commissioning art and site design as a production supervisor in medical publishing, it was really wonderful to be able to apply those skills to my own work. I found Lauren Cannon after hours upon hours of scouring the internet for an artist whose style was right for the project.

    My work has since been translated into several languages and there have been many great images of the Warded Man (the Painted Man to you folks abroad!), but to this day, Lauren’s painting is the yardstick by which I measure the others, and I’m thrilled that a someone finally had the sense to make it into a cover.

    She also designed the ward symbols in the border, which have been used in the internal design of every edition to date.

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