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Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Ender’s Game’ vs. ‘Crossovers 2’ vs. ‘The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard’

Another batch of recently-revealed covers go head-to-head-to-head in this edition of the Book Cover Smackdown, where you play art critic and pick your favorite cover. Here are the contenders…

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

Books shown here:

NOTE: Bigger, better cover art images are available by clicking the images or title links.

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.

29 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Ender’s Game’ vs. ‘Crossovers 2’ vs. ‘The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard’

  1. None of those are really all that great, IMO. The Ender’s Game one is okay, but it’s too CGI-ish. Crossovers looks like a throwback to the 80s, which is great if that’s what they’re intending, but it’s still an eh cover. Horror Stories is also just eh. Looks too comic bookish. 

  2. John Small // April 22, 2010 at 8:38 am //

    Are you kidding? The cover for “Crossovers” is a classic pulp/comic/SF depiction – colorful, perhaps a bit garish but in that pleasant, vibrantly eye-catching “sense of wonder” style reminiscent of the Hildebrant Brothers’ original poster for “Star Wars,” James Bama’s Doc Savage artwork or some of the best DC Comics covers of the Golden Age. The other two are so dreary looking by comparison, which may be apropos for the books’ content but does little to convince me as a reader that they’re worth spending my hard-earned bread on. For my money “Crossovers” is the clear winner here, hands down.

  3. Too garish for me. As I said, it might work if that’s what they’re going for, but personally, I’m not a fan. 


  4. Gordon Long // April 22, 2010 at 9:31 am //

    The cover for Ender’s Game looks like it is box art for a lame video game…some sort of first person shooter where your character is running around in the future on some planet chasing bad guys while being chased by the police. At any rate, it wouldn’t predispose me to buy this book. Besides, I’d prefer a copy to hold in my hands and I can easily find a used one in good condition at one of my local bookstores. Remember, this book is now a classic. It deserves a much better cover. Two thumbs down.

    The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard has a graphic novel-style cover. Is this book a graphic novel? No, therefore the style of the cover is wrong. The cover is fine on its own merits, but I wouldn’t buy this one, either. I’m actually a bit surprised, because I’ve looked at other covers from Subterranean-published books, and they are usually highly appropriate.

    As for Crossovers, I think it is a beautiful style. I’m actually intrigued by these characters. Who are they? Why are they looking at me this way? What were they doing before I interrupted them? (They are looking at ME, after all.) Add to that a Kong ape swinging around in the background and it is one cool cover! Classic spaceships and a rocket pilot, plus a meteor or comet… Classic pulp excitement is promised on this cover…right down to the femme fatale! I definitely want to own this book; the cover draws me in, and the subject matter hooks me. This one I definitely will buy this summer after it comes out! I just wish I could get a poster of the cover… It is much cooler than most movie posters!

  5. Sean Levin // April 22, 2010 at 10:14 am //

    I’d pick CROSSOVERS, partly because I’m a big pulp fan, partly because I think it’s a cool illustration, and partly because it’s a book I’ve been excited about for a while now.

  6. None of them attract me or entice me to look further at the book.

  7. Jeremy Fitzoliver // April 22, 2010 at 11:20 am //

    So what’s “Enders Game” about, then? Could be anything if you went by the cover.

  8. I must comment on this because these covers are setting off alarms in my head. Make them stop!

    The Crossovers cover may be self-conscious cheese, but it’s still cheese. Honestly, I hate it. Nevertheless, I don’t hate it nearly as much as the Ender’s Game cover. The kid seems to personify all that is anoying and nothing that is charming about kids.

    There’s nothing wrong with Horror Stories so that cover wins by default.

    To the artists and editors involved: sorry, nothing personal, only my gut reaction. It’s probably just me.


  9. CROSSOVERS identifies what you are in for.  You immediately say, “Oh, I get it!” With those characters represented, you want to know how they have crossover. A winner all the way!

  10. The Ender’s Game cover looks like something from a teen-pop record: for this reason it fails hard. Seriously, what planning went into it during the production stages? “Let’s make something that will attract the money of modern day teenz! [sic]” Ugh.

    The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard cover is alright; it doesn’t do anything wrong, but it still doesn’t work with the source material. Solomon Kane looks completely at odds with the descriptions from the stories. I suppose Subterranean was forced though contract to reuse the cover from the Del Rey editon. Pity; I’d love to have seen Orbik’s take on Kane.

    The Crossovers cover is the best of this group. It perfectly matches the pulpy tone of what, I assume, the book will have. Plus it has a Doc Savage analogue and a King Kong analogue. What’s not to love?

  11. Luke Shea // April 22, 2010 at 3:30 pm //

    I actually really like the Ender’s Game one.  That’s the best cover I’ve seen for that book.


    @James B.

    “Seriously, what planning went into it during the production stages? “Let’s make something that will attract the money of modern day teenz! [sic]” Ugh.”


    Well, it is often marketed as a YA book.  And if the publishers are bringing out another edition, it does mean they plan on selling it.  You know, for money.  Posibly that of the YA crowd the book is marketed towards.  I’m not sure I see the problem, here.  Plus, it has something to do with the story, unlike previous editions I’ve seen.

  12. Hands down, ‘Ender’s Game’.  Why?  Well, from a purely artistic point of view, it’s sophisticated, extremely well-done, and it manages to look current.  Very ‘of the moment’.  I like the font design as well.  It makes me wonder what the book is all about.  And I’m not a teen, nor a big fan of YA stuff. 

    ‘Crossover’ comes off as cheesy and dated.  It doesn’t compel me to buy the book one iota.  Totally B-movie, and if the cover is that hokey, what must the story be?  Yes, I judge a book by its cover…that our job, eh?

    ‘HorrorStories’ sits somewhere in the middle.  It’s a competent illustration, but a little stereotypical…just not very iconic.  “Scary guy with bones and crows”.  It’s been done a gazillion times before.  Just okay.




  13. I would say Enders game, although I don’t think its a particularly great cover. The book is firmly set in the 80s in style and I would prefer an 80s style scifi cover for it.

    Crossroads, errr…. cheese… no thanks. Sorry but it actually turns me off, if I saw the book on a shelf I would pass it by rather than pick it up.

    Horror Stories, cool looking artwork but as Gordon said its too graphic novel (maybe RPG book) for me to take too seriously. That said i would pick it up and read the back cover if I was just browsing.


  14. Lucky Jackson // April 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm //

    The Crossoveras poster is the most interesting.  I could actually see it being made into a poster for pulp fiction fans.

  15. @ Luke Shea


    I am one of these “teenz” in the marketing demographic (I graduate this year), I can tell you that the cover for Ender’s Game makes me want to run screaming for the hills. Really, give me a smart cover that doesn’t look like a photo-shopped picture of the artist’s kid in a holoween costume. (It could be worse though.) The main problem is, all I see is a pretty-boy teen watching me with big eyes. The novel had so much more going on: make the cover a dramatic scene, not something that makes me shake my head and wander away.

    I don’t mean that some random people standing around can’t be dramatic: Crossovers 2 catches the idea and runs with it; it’s the only one I’d pick up in a book store if I only went by the cover. 


  16. The Ender’s Game cover.  It’s the best cover for that book yet.  About a zillion times better than the last YA cover ( 

    The history of the latest Ender’s cover and alternate sketches can be found  at

    The crossroads cover works to tell me I wouldn’t care for that book.  The Robert E Howard looks good, but I still prefer the Ender’s cover.

  17. Ender’s Game, no contest. gorgeous. Best cover I’ve ever seen for one of my favorite books of all time.

  18. That Greg Staples cover for “Horror Stories…” is dead on the money.  I’ve read an earlier edition of this book, and the cover is supported by some great interior illustrations that perfectly complement the character of the text.  That edition had a much smaller and cropped version of this cover, so I’m pleased to see it in full glory on this edition.

  19. Crossovers looks like the cover to a pulp anthology magazine from the 50s.  Given the characters that are obviously represented, I’d think this to be intentional cheese.  Plus, it genuinely makes me curious about CROSSOVERS 1, and who might be included inside.  Sherlock Holmes? Dracula? Cthulhu?  All these characters, whom I love reading about, esp. in pastiche, must be part of this Secret History.

    The Ender’s Game cover is the big loser to me, as I’ve read the book before, and this cover does not evoke the story to me.  As mentioned above, it looks like an album cover, or a cgi anime, or… something else. 

    Horror Stories is a decent cover, but this cover makes me think about the VAN HELSING movie, and that cannot be a good thing.  I assume it’s Solomon Kane on the cover, but he appears to be in more of a fantasy setting than horror, w/ that funky staff really making me flinch.  I’d buy this based on the cover, but I wonder if any non REH fans would.

  20. Crossovers Vol. 1

    I found the cover to CROSSOVERS Vol. 1.

  21. Oh excellent!  No Dracula or Cthulhu, but Fu Manchu and Red Sonja are excellent reads too.  The first has a dinosaur, the second has Kong; if there’s a #3, will Cloverfield be in the background?

  22. Ender’s Game is ok, even though I generally don’t like seeing the faces of characters on the front of the books, as it takes away a piece of my imagination during the read.

    Crossovers is pure garbage.  I wouldn’t even pick it up to read the synopsis on the back.

    Horror stories is ok, but I don’t consider horror to be part of science fiction so…fail.

  23. To all the people who are calling Crossovers’ (not “Crossroads”, as two people have called it) cover cheesy and dated, it’s meant to represent literary archetypes and characters from pulp and adventure fiction of years past. BTW, I don’t think it’s been mentioned yet, but this is a work of nonfiction.


    Much as I tend to avoid cliches, you really can’t judge a book by its cover. The quality of the cover is no indicator of the quality of the book’s contents. I’ve read plenty of books and comics that have great covers and terrible stories.

  24. @ Sean

    While I agree that old saying has some validity, your initial comment about the Crossroads cover being purposefully cheesy and dated in order to represent the style of pulp fiction being written actually works against your argument.  The cover is obviously meant to represent what is inside.  Thus, it’s almost everyone’s first approximation how much they will like the book.  Obviously, this isn’t a perfect test, and neither is reading they synopsis on the back (recommendations, award winners, etc.).  However, given the impossible number of books available you have to use some type of imperfect method to judge whether to read the book or not.

    Personally, I hate that pulp style for a number of reasons (one being it lowers the respect for science fiction outside of the genre), so I wouldn’t touch that book with a ten foot pole based on the cover.

  25. Man, why did they put Red freakin’ Sonja on the cover?  The fact that a 1973 character (no, she wasn’t invented by REH, any more than Alucard was invented by Bram Stoker) is in a volume that seems to be focusing on pulp fiction from before the ’50s is a bit weird, but whatever.

    What exactly is “comic bookish” about the cover to “Horror Stories of REH?”  I’m not really seeing it.

    Chad, there are stories in THSoREH that could be considered science fiction/horror, so it isn’t a total fail. As for pulp “lowering the respect” for SF: frankly, there are just as many straight SF stories that do that too.  Plenty of good pulp out there.

  26. @ Al

    I will take your word for it on Horror Stories.  It’s just a pet peave of mine to have to dig through all the horror/vampire/werewolf stories with tenuous connections to SF in the SF section of a book store to find SF.  One of the main reasons I quit going to bookstores and use Amazon now.

    “As for pulp “lowering the respect” for SF: frankly, there are just as many straight SF stories that do that too.”

    I agree there are plenty of bad straight/traditional SF stories.  However, if I’m someone who only reads mainstream fiction (Clancy, Dan Brown, etc.) and never read SF I will have never be exposed to those bad stories.  But, when I walk by the SF section and see the pulp covers like Crossovers I’m going to think SF is joke without ever reading any SF.  Thus, it is less likely I would ever expose myself to SF.  In my mind this is a potential SF reader removed from the pool.  Obviously, this is not a scientific study.

  27. Love the Crossovers cover. Fantastic colours and does what a cover should – entices me to look inside. Gonna have to get me a copy!

  28. @Chad


    I wasn’t aware that this was a competition between genres: pure SF vs pulp vs horror fiction or sword & sorcery.

    That you don’t like pulp because you think it detracts from “real” SF is a valid argument, but it has nothing to do with the topic, which is the cover itself, not the book, even less the genre to which it belongs.

    I had the curiosity of looking at the link, and CROSSOVERS is an encyclopedia of pulp literature, or rather a subset of pulp, fiction where characters from different origins meet each other.

    I perfectly understand this may not be the type of work that appeals to you, but the cover is perfectly suited for the book and accurately reflects its contents. It is well executed, and fairly imaginative in the selection of archetypal characters that it brings together.

    Anyone like yourself who has no interest in the subject could quickly dismiss the book, whiler others who may be interested in Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, swordsmen, cowboys and magicians, lost cities and giant airships, could pick it up. It is therefore an excellent cover.

    I think the SOLOMON KANE cover is also very good. At least, it looks like Kane. I would be very disappointed in the book did not include some Kane stories. 

    I thought the ENDER’S GAME cover was well executed, but it told me little about the book. I get that the protagonist is a teenager and it has to with VR, but that’s it. Hopefully the blurb on the backcover tells you more about the contents.

  29. @ Lupin

    The genre conversation was just an added bonus.  I would dislike the Crossover cover style whether it was for pulp or regular SF.  Hell, if you made the Ender’s Game cover with the same cartoonish style as Crossovers I would hate the cover, and I love Ender’s Game.  I don’t just dislike the cover because the book is pulp.  I dislike both the cover and the pulp books plenty on their own.

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