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It’s another Book Cover Smackdown! The theme this time around is books appearing next month.

Your mission should you decide to accept it: play art critic!

Tell us what you like and what you dislike about these covers…what are the pros and cons of each? Which one is best? Do any of them spark your interest?

Hot Head by Simon Ings (Gollancz | February 13, 2014)

An ambitious SF novel that is at once post-cyberpunk and post-modern. Complex, multi-layered, it combines hard science, tarot and images of late 20th-century Europe to make something utterly original. And introduces a memorable new heroine to the genre…Malise has a problem. She’s come downwell to Earth, but years of space combat have ruined her: her muscles have wasted away, her past is a confused torture of events and her brain is wired to addictive military hardware that’s illegal on Earth. But with an AI mining probe returning to Earth, having bred and grown until it is hundreds of miles across, Malise is in the firing line again. The probe is indestructible and it is insatiable for more metals. No one knows how to stop it. Malise doesn’t know she has a blueprint for humanity’s survival wired into her head.

The Runestone Incident by Neve Maslakovic (47North| February 11, 2014)

We found ten men, red from blood and dead…

At the center of an expanding mystery: a fabled Viking runestone left behind in the Minnesota woodland of ages past.

In this much anticipated second installment of Neve Maslakovic’s time travel series, St. Sunniva University’s Julia Olsen and Nate Kirkland find themselves hot on the trail of a fourteenth-century artifact, a missing runic specialist, and an all-too-familiar kidnapper who has used the time travel lab’s STEWie (SpaceTimE Warper) for a joyride deep into America’s past.

Armed with nothing more than a hunch and a keen understanding of History’s rules, can Julia, Nate, and their teammates track down the kidnapper and the missing researcher before the inevitable—and perilous—clash with History?

A skillful blend of mystery, science, and history, The Runestone Incident is a smart and satisfying follow-up to The Far Time Incident.

The Martian by Andy Weir (Crown | February 11, 2014)

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

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.

8 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! HOT HEAD vs. THE RUNESTONE INCIDENT vs. THE MARTIAN

  1. All are visually pleasing. The Martian gets my top pick. It captures the story in a stunning way. Hot Head is definitely post-modern, post-cyberpunk, but the flaming lips create an odd balance. The Runestone Incident hardly reads speculative. It looks like an espionage novel inspired by a James Bond or Mad Men intro.

  2. David Greybeard // January 4, 2014 at 8:46 am //

    For me there’s no real competition to THE MARTIAN. It’s brilliant.

  3. I had in my hands the ARC of The Martian, and it is actually shiny. The cover has a sheen to it that, I imagine, will be replicated on the dust jacket for the release. Shininess aside, it’s simply a better cover than the other two.

  4. If I were to choose a book going on covers alone, I’d consider The Martian. I like that type of cover art. The cover for Hot Head makes me think “uggggh…this is either a zombie or a supernatural type of book”. I’m personally not into that type of art style. The Runestone Incident makes me think of James Bond type of espionage novel.

    It’s really interesting how you can’t judge a book by its cover, and at times how deceiving they are. If I were at a store, I wouldn’t think twice about Hot Head, but I’d probably pick up The Martian. The Runestone Incident I’d probably glance at, but probably wouldn’t pick up either. However, after reading the description, Hot Head actually sounds interesting. I also immediately thought back to the last Book Cover Smackdown; that I had the same feelings about the cover of Wolves as I do about Hot Head.

  5. Rune Stone actually reads kind of like a espionage novel and is also a part of a series visually in line with the previous book in the set. That said, it hardly fits to include it here without mentioning that. The book is also designed primarily for online sales, hence the bold, large title. The book cover plays on several themes in the book and is visually engaging as a total design. The earth is trite and admittedly lame. The other elements are dynamic and visually fun and draw you in.

    Hot head, while a nice piece of art, hardly speaks to the contents of the book. The title is virtually unreadable and the overall style speaks to some sort of unhappy attempt at a Great Gataby cover with an after thought title placement that confuses you about what the title of the book really is.

    Martians, while attractive, is what every cover for a book on a Martian landing looks like–an astronaut, alone on the read planet. The title type is attractive and readable but too close together in proximity and size to create any sort of logical hiarchy. It looks like it says: The Matian Andy Weir. But still it stands as an attractive cover.

  6. Not really a fan of any of them. I’ve liked the similar covers for other Simon Ing books, but this one? Not so much.

  7. THE MARTIAN is gorgeous. The ghostly white astronaut conveys a sense of isolation against a hostile red-gold inferno.

    THE RUNESTONE INCIDENT looks to these ancient eyes as a riff on the classic cover to A WRINKLE IN TIME. Which isn’t a *bad* thing, necessarily, but makes the book read much younger than I think is intended.

    HOT HEAD is just ugly. It looks like one of those publisher efforts to make classics — like, I dunno, Kafka or HEART OF DARKNESS — seem “edgy” and “cool”.

  8. Sorry, but bleah. I don’t find any of them appealing. None would make me pick up the book in a book store.

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