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Book Cover Smackdown! The Reality Dysfunction vs. Heretics vs. The Kragen

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

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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.

13 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! The Reality Dysfunction vs. Heretics vs. The Kragen

  1. The Kragen —

    It’s not as dark as the other two and I find the balloon islands or whatever they are (haven’t read the book) more intriguing than explosions.

  2. None of those 3 covers grab me that much…

    Reality Dysfunction – Looks badly dated to me, sorta 80s. I prefer the UK paperback release cover.

    Heritics – Looks better when blown up, but it looks like cover art for a dvd of a scifi b movie.

    Kragen – Just looks a bit daft, not sure why but its probably the most off putting of the 3 covers for me.

    That said I don’t buy random books (adverse to known authors who i will buy anything they write) on their front covers, I buy them because of what is said on the back cover and take into consideration who is recomending the novel. When it comes to front covers I prefer them to be a bit plain/simplistic, if to much ‘action’ is packed in then it tends to make me think the book will have too much action packed into not enough plot.

  3. I’d go with The Kragen, too. The first two have too much of a military look for my taste. Besides, they don’t show me anything I haven’t seen before in SF. The baloon islands, on the other hand, may be something interesting.

  4. All three look a tad generic, but I’d probably pick the Reality Disfunction if I saw it in on the shelf.

    (But I agree, it’s not a patch on the UK version…)

  5. Normally I would say Peter F Hamilton’s The Reality Dysfunction since it gives me that “big spaceships shooting at each other” fix, but unfortunately it has the words “Peter F Hamilton” and “The Reality Dysfunction” on the front of it.  (Yes I have read the book, no I’m not a fan).  And I kind of agree with Andy that it does look kinda dated, with basic cookie-cutter ships we’ve all seen before.

    Heretics is clearly going for a War Of The Worlds vibe which kind of puts me off a little for some reason.

    The Kragen is the most interesting (mainly because it’s the most unusual) of the three.  I kind of want to find out what those balloons do.  Does it make me want to rush out and by the book?  Not really, but perhaps one to check out a review of or put on the list when I run out of other books to read.

  6. “Kragen” is the most attractive to me. In fact, when I got the e-mail from Subterranean this morning about the reprint, I ordered it.


    I have “Reality” on pre-order. I had ordered it way back when they first announced it, cover unseen. Mostly because I wanted a nice omnibus hardcover to replace my cracking US-edition paperbacks.

  7. Reality Dysfunction: “That’s no moon, that’s a space station!”

  8. Reality Dysfunction: It’s got ‘sposions!

  9. “The Reality Dysfunction” cover reminds me too much of the Star Wars Death Star (and the ship exploding a little like the Battlestar Galactica).  This cover does not appeal to me and I wouldn’t pull it off the shelf. 

    The “Heretics” cover is too dark and could be any future battleworn city.  There doesn’t seem to be anything unique to the story in it as a teaser to pull me in.  On another note, having the author’s name more than twice as big as the title strikes me as a little pretentious or egotistical.  This cover does not appeal to me and I wouldn’t pull it off the shelf.

    “The Kragen” cover is beautifully colored with intriguing story-specific artwork.  The text placement and color/font choices are perfect, and they do not distract from the artwork but rather enhance it.  This cover really appeals to me and I would most definitely pull this one off the shelf.

    I tend to enjoy cover art that is a teaser to the story.  A perfect example would be Dan Simmons’ “Hyperion” cover- how could anyone see that cover and not want to read that novel?  Color is also important, it’s what initially attracts the eye, and there are ways of getting the dark, serious tones of a novel across without making the majority of the cover black.

    Just my two pennies.

  10. Heretics looks too dark for me.


    The Kragen cover art looks more exotic than the Reality Dysfunction.  “I want to know more about those things”.

  11. They all suck, but the Hamilton cover sucks the least.

    • The Hamilton cover is at least readable; the type is distinct from the backgrounds, if not really distinct enough (I dare you to look at it as a refractive surface under fluorescent lights and see how well the bluish-white lettering contrasts with the blue background… not!). The illustration screams “drawn by someone who didn’t read the book” at me, along with “physics? we don’t need no stinkin’ physics!”
    • The Swann cover partly hides the author’s name against a green background (and there are still bookstore stock buyers out there who actually believe the “can’t sell green books!” meme, even after Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). The illustration doesn’t really scream anything; it has the worst of both “abstraction” and “implausible detail” to it.
    • Shoot the designer of the Vance cover now, before he/she destroys any more writing careers in the eyes of bookstore stock buyers. The author’s name is almost indistinguishable from the background; the illustration appears essentially meaningless (a still life with weird aquatic vegetation); and the light-center-toward-dark-borders gradient draws the eye away from the type elements, which are already extremely difficult to distinguish.
  12. Great comments, here. I think I agree with the group, with some tweaks:

    1) Far left cover definitely looks dated (as was said) and real generic (as was also said).

    2) Middle cover looks interesting, but nothing I haven’t seen before.

    3) The far right cover does look somewhat intriguing, but here’s my problem. When I see a book cover that looks like that, the first thing I ask myself is, “Is this going to be out-there sci-fi/fantasy, or is it going to give me a good deal of action?” I lean toward the “too much description, not enough explosions” assessment.

    So, The Kragen has the most interesting cover, but I’m not likely to pick that book up off the shelf. The other two I might pick up. Heretics, I’d at least read the synopsis.

  13. Definitely, Heretics.  Hamilton’s cover is too old school (though I really like Hamilton) and I’m kind of tired of the steam punk/Victorian era scifi that is popular right now, so no Kragen ballons.

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