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Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Equations of Life’ vs. ‘Theories of Flight’ vs. ‘Degrees of Freedom’

Hope you’re ready! It’s time for another Book Cover Smackdown!

Here are the contenders…

Your Mission (should you choose to accept it): In a world where the cover art for Science Fiction novels is often inundated by ray guns, spaceships and space marines, Orbit Books has gone in a very different direction with the upcoming release of Simon Morden’s Petrovich Trilogy. What do you think? Do you like like the outside-the-box design? Or do you prefer more traditional cover art?

And here’s what Anna Gregson from Orbit Books says about the designs:

To give you a bit of background on the cover concept – we have taken advantage of some classic optical illusions, choosing images that speak to the role of Samuel Petrovitch as a physicist and mathematician. In the Equations of Life cover, the white and black centre seems to start breaking into other colours. The Theories of Flight cover plays with dimensionality and also plays off a model of space-time as Einstein theorized it. The Degrees of Freedom cover starts to break the maze-like design into cells and levels which, I think, really portrays the feeling of entrapment.

Books shown here:

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

31 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Equations of Life’ vs. ‘Theories of Flight’ vs. ‘Degrees of Freedom’

  1. They’re distinctive, I’ll give them that. Nice change of pace, but it’s nothing I’ll be tempted to buy the book over. 

  2. I just had a seizure

  3. I dig these.  They stick out for sure.  I wonder how many people will pick them up mistaking them for puzzle books, though.

  4. I like the idea of these covers…but the reality (for me) is that they’re physiologically unpleasant to behold. The covers almost physically repel me.

    And even assuming that the contents were something I enjoyed, I’d enjoy it less with those patterns being what I saw before and after each reading session. Aggressively distracting.

  5. Phil Ackerman // November 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm //

    Which one is best? I don’t know, they are so different from each other 🙂

  6. I think they are eye-catching, but they fail to communicate anything to me about the contents of the book. 

  7. They are really, loud, to me.  If I saw them in a bookstore, I would likely avoid buying them just because of the covers, honestly (and sorry to say).  And in case you are wondering, covers are a huge part of my criteria for whether I buy a book or not.  When I “impulse” buy a new author/book, the cover makes all the difference.


  8. An interesting concept, and definitely original, but these covers make my head hurt–literally.  I would avoid buying these simply because I can’t stand to even *look* at the book.  A pity, since these actually sound quite interesting…

  9. Neth beat me to noting the seizure causing patterns here. I feel queasy now. 

  10. I loathe that type of cover. It hurts to look at it. Give me spaceships and starfields any day. I wouldn’t even pick these up to look at them. In fact I would would probably cover them up with something else while browsing.

  11. jeff vandermeer // November 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm //

    OMG! MY EYES! MY EYES! …which means they’ll be bestsellers, of course.

    I’m sure in person the hypno-toad quality will be lessened.



  12. Die, die, kill them all…


  13. Ouch

  14. Have to side with the masses here, cool concept, but like most concept art it just leaves me cold (and reaching for the pain killers)…. Shame really because these are different and interesting, just I prefer to relax when I read rather than stroke out, ok I know that these are the covers and you read between them but they have that fascination that would keep me looking at them.

    Maybe a better idea would be to have these designs as dust jackets for hard backs, that way they would be cool enough to pick up and check out – safe in the knowledge that if I wanted to actually read them I could just remove the dust jacket and put it somewhere where I wouldn’t have to see it.

  15. This post made my stomach sink–because I realized that there’s every chance that my book on Greg Egan might have a cover that looks like that (can’t put his photo on the cover after all…)


    Fingers crossing already that it won’t come to that.

  16. Theories of Flight is the winner for me.

  17. jeff vandermeer // November 1, 2010 at 9:21 pm //

    This might double post, but those covers are a lot like the cover of my new book:

  18. VanderMeer for the win. 🙂

  19. Yep.  The only way I’d ever buy one of those was as an ebook, so I could delete the bloody cover.


    Or if I was wanting to find out who Number 1 was or if I was a free man….




  20. I dig these.  They stick out for sure.  I wonder how many people will pick them up mistaking them for puzzle books, though. Moreover, Theories of Flight is the winner for me 😉

  21. Retro look! We’re gonna party like it’s nineteen sixty-four!

  22. Interestingly enough, Amazon does not have the art up for any of these. And they only list the first two as “deadtree” editions as well as eBook editions. Third book is listed only as an eBook right now.

  23. Cool! I don’t know Simon well, but it’s good to see his name here and his books highlighted. We both had stories in a science fiction anthology that was published a couple years back.

    In regards to the book covers, though, I have to agree with the common sentiment: “Like the creative thought behind them, but don’t like the execution.” My day job is in marketing, so this does capture your attention. The problem is, it also leaves you with a sour taste, which isn’t good.

    Creativity = 9.5/10

    Eye-Pleasing-ness = 2/10

  24. Sick just for looking … :S

  25. Lol @Vandermeer! I love these covers though, if they really are as described in the OP I think they fit very well, and I enjoy looking at them for short periods of time. (If you stare at them, they can make your head hurt)

  26. I like the idea, not a big fan of the actual product.  It wouldn’t make me pick up the book unless I was already a fan of the author, so I’m not sure it is the best strategy with a newer or lesser known author.

  27. I like these, I like covers that break from the norm with a more modernist approach, like the Samuel Delany reissues, or this one. Covers like this make me pick up the book to see what it’s about, whereas many traditional covers seem to spell it out for you or at least aim to look like all the other covers. 

  28. Funny thing…I was listening to the SF Signal Podcast episode about book covers (yes, I am behind…so many books, so little time, so many podcasts to listen to) and I recalled this posting about this set. So I had to dig through all the back postings until I found it. Luckily, all three are on Amazon now, as real books, available for preorder. So I ordered all three as the covers still interest me.


    I just wonder what the reissue of “Stand on Zanzibar” (John Brunner) that Subterranean as well as their edition of “Deathbird Stories” (Harlan Ellison) will look like. Both of them had covers definitely of their times. Will those styles be carried forward (to become retro)? Or will we look to the future again?

  29. Anne N Emous // November 3, 2013 at 9:53 am //

    Personally, I love it. I skip over all the generic covers in the Sci-fi section as I don’t really like modern stuff, but when I saw these, I stopped, read the blurb, and immediately bought them.

    I know that by ignoring the overused covers I’m probably missing some great stuff, but I think if the cover art is lazy, the writing probably is, too.

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