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Book Cover Smackdown! ‘The Clockwork Rocket’ vs. ‘Robopocalypse’ vs. ‘Farewell Horizontal’

Hello again, art critics…it’s time for another Book Cover Smackdown!

Here are today’s contenders, one from sf’s past…

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.

19 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! ‘The Clockwork Rocket’ vs. ‘Robopocalypse’ vs. ‘Farewell Horizontal’

  1. I’ll go with Clockwork Rocket. More than anything I find the colours very appealing.

  2. Actually, I like all three. I’ll go with Farewell Horizontal as a favorite because I’ve always liked that cover. Visually playful, good colors, especially the background. The Clockwork Rocket would be second. Lots of gnarly spaceships absurdly close together. Always a plus for me.



  3. I like Farewell Horizontal the best. I’d pick it up based on the cover, which is clever and fun. Clockwork Rocket looks would be second, but it’s more of a generic spaceship cover. And Robocalypse would be last because it looks like that evil robot needs a hug and the robocalypse would be over.

  4. Clockwork Roquet has the best composition and also illustration.

    Farewell Horizontal has a nice illustration, but composition isn’t very original, we’ve seen hundres of covers like this.

    Robopocalypse is the weakest of this smackdown. Doesn’t seem very atractive.

  5. While I love the green of Clockwork Rocket, I am going with Robopocalypse due to its shiny white cover with the red eyes, which is a nice touch, and and the words a nove printed over the robot’s third eye. I think the cover design is very clean and crisp, versus Clockwork Rocket which I fund muddified.

  6. Clockwork Rocket. It is the only one that is not vague and shows more of the story.

  7. jay daze // May 15, 2011 at 3:56 pm //

    For me The Clockwork Rocket and Farwell Horizontal seem like your fairly standard covers, but Robopocalypse stands out with its iconic image of the robot face. A simple image but with lots of impact.  See how SFsignal positioned it between the two samey covers to break up the presentation? *g*

  8. Gonna have to go with Clockwork Rocket, which is by Cody Tilson

  9. Matte Lozenge // May 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm //

    My eye immediately went to Clockwork Rocket. It’s the murky aquarium-like coloring with spots of light and strong diagonals that does it. And it’s good to see text so closely integrated with image.

    Robopocalypse is derivative, but I would at least pick it up and read the dust jacket.

  10. Both “Robopocalypse” and “Farewell Horizontal” catch my eye.  The other one not so much.

  11. These covers are all decent.  It’s the titles of these books that kind of suck.

  12. @ Chad. lol yeah no kidding.

    I’m all about the Ropacalypse or Robotacalypse or Robalypse or whatever its called.  That cover stands out.  I think it’s very striking with a curious mix of threat and cuddle.  Exactly what I expect from the Rotacalypse!  And, is that a photographic element in a genre cover??  Careful, you might sneak in some mainstream readers with that.

    Clockwork Rocket is a great palette and some nice design work, but at the end of the day, you can randomly pick any sci-fi book shelf at B&N and find a dozen of that exact cover.

    Farewell Horizontal looks like a cover you would have seen 15 years ago.  It’s the Clockwork Rocket design of the previous decade.  Based on some of the comments above, I take it that it is in fact an older cover.  It’s nice, but feels oddly dated.

  13. @Frag: Actually, that Farewell Horizontal cover is from 22 years ago. That was what I was referenceing when I said “one from sf’s past”. 🙂

  14. It’s a nicely differing selection.

    The Robopocalypse cover is the one that’ll probably sell the book most effectively in a bookstore.  It’s a clean, bold image that scans immediately and makes instant visual sense to an average human being passing within fifteen or twenty feet of it.  There’s not much more to be gained once you have it in your hands and can see it close up, but that’s probably not important, as I expect anybody working at a publisher would be pretty happy that you’ve got as far as picking it up.  It is an idea that’s been done before, but then what isn’t?

    Clockwork Rocket is simply a rectangular smudge of color from 15 feet away.  Not a long distance grabber.  Having said that, if you do actually pick it up it’ll reward you by revealing lots of nice, tasty detail and composition.  A close-up seller, then.  The treatment of the text also helps with the feel.

    Farewell Horizontal falls between the other two in terms of range, but close-up or long distance, there’s nothing there really to save it from the fact that it’s straightforwardly dead as a dodo in terms of the composition.  There’s nothing particularly well thought out about the palette either.

    My fave?  I’d have to go with Clockwork Rocket, but then I don’t have anything very bad to say about Robopocalypse.  Farewell Horizontal?  Ah.  Well.    Clunky composition coupled with not a great deal of simple artistic skill doesn’t work for me.

  15. I had to look at the bigger images to really decide.


    In a nose, I am going to go wih Clockwork Rocket. I may be influenced slightly by the title. 🙂

  16. It’s a close race between Farewell Horizontal and Robopocalypse.  To me, the Clockwork Rocket cover is too bland.  The colors are pleasant, but it in no way stands out.  The robot on the middle cover, on the other hand, is truly creepy, which combines nicely with the scary title. But I have to give the edge to Farewell Horizontal because it both conveys the title and looks so science fictional without being generic.  I believe another commenter said it’s actuaally an old cover, but it’s new to me, so it still wins my vote.

  17. 1.I think of what a whole display of Robopocalypse might look like, and it’s impressive–even a little uncomfortable.  It captures that iPad, iPhone, iRobot design that is so attractive to consumers, so there is a sly cleverness at work.  Nice, clean text design, as the image calls for–and placement is right. I think that the only opportunity missed here, is to find that one subtle thing that shows that one more level–perhaps a very small splatter of red down off the chin, or even just a smudge.

    2.The Clockwork Rocket is quite nice to look at.  I think maybe more accesible than any other Egan cover in recent memory.  The text integration is unique and the placement is a somewhat a gutsy choice. It’s going to look good in your hand, better than the thumbnail.

    3.The Jeter cover for Farewell Horizontal works fine, but the color combination is farely offputting. Change that up with a darker color pallette, and it would be quite cool. 

    I’ve got all three cued up to read.  Three great, exciting books.


    it have a very unique image of a simple non emotional robot face and expression in the cover. i have read and seen book and movies covers of stories that are also about man vs machine and none of them have a cool cover like this one.

  19. I’d have to go with Clockwork Rocket.  I like the style and color.  The Robocalypse cover reminds me too much of I, Robot.

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