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It’s time another Book Cover Smackdown! if there’s any theme this time around, it’s unconventional genre covers for books due in May 2014.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it): play armchair art critic!

Tell us: which of these covers grabs your attention? What appeals to you? What works and what doesn’t work? Do any of them make you want to read the book?

(FSG Originals | May 6, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: Eric Nyquist; Designer: Charlotte Strick)

In the second volume of the Southern Reach Trilogy, questions are answered, stakes are raised, and mysteries are deepened . . .

In Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer introduced Area X—a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. This was the first volume of a projected trilogy; well in advance of publication, translation rights had already sold around the world and a major movie deal had been struck.

Just months later, Authority, the second volume, is here. For thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X has taken the form of a series of expeditions monitored by a secret agency called the Southern Reach. After the disastrous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez, aka “Control,” is the team’s newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves—and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he’s promised to serve. And the consequences will spread much further than that.

The Southern Reach trilogy will conclude in fall 2014 with Acceptance.

(Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing | May 30, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: unknown)

In Edwin McCallum’s world, nations are no more. The world’s assets are divided among three companies. When one of those assets is murdered, it’s McCallum’s job to figure out what it means to the bottom-line. The bottomline’s on fi lm-maker Sylvia Cho’s mind, too. Who’s footing the bill for this documentary? And who’s the subject, this so-called ‘Milkman’? Systems engineer Emory Leveski knows and it looks like it might cost him his life.

With no governments, there is no crime. Any act is measured against competing interests, hidden loyalties and the ever-upward pressure of the corporate ladder. It’s a tough place for those who still believe in right and wrong. And for these three, it just got a lot tougher.

The Way to Babylon by Paul Kearney
(Solaris | May 27, 2014) | Cover illustration artist: Pye Parr)

Broken, bereaved and happy to let his fans go without the next book in his bestselling series, fantasy author Michael Riven expects to go home to his isolated cabin and avoid people. But instead strangers seek him out and lead him on a journey away from this world and into Minginish, the imaginary place where his own novels were set, but which is more real than he can conceive – and in danger from legendary beats and unimagined terrors.

Michael Riven has fallen off a mountain. The bestselling fantasy author is broken in both body and mind, as the fall also claimed his wife and climbing partner Jenny. Readers are desperate to know what will happen next in the fantasy world Minginish, but neither writing, nor living, are of interest to the author as he lies in traction and his heart bleeds.

But there are others seeking the scribe out. Men – and someone who is not all human – have begun a quest to find a way to rescue their blighted homeland, and their road will take them between worlds. Michael Riven will return to his home in Scotland; he will accompany a stranger out into the hills and find himself led not over the local landscape but into a place altogether more familiar and terrifying: Minginish itself, a real place more surprising and unpredictable even than the world of his novels.

Beasts of myth and legend stalk a land where the seasons have gone awry. Michael must take up the companions of his stories – Bicker, Ratagan and Murtach – and find a way to mend the sundered world. If he can, he may even find that Jenny’s existence did not end that day on the mountain.

The Way to Babylon was Paul Kearney’s debut novel, and this is its first publication in North America.

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.

5 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! AUTHORITY vs. THE MILKMAN vs. THE WAY TO BABYLON

  1. Good picks this week. The Way to Babylon is cool, but I’ve seen similar covers lately. Authority has a lot of interest for me, but I am biased after loving the first book. The Milkman is intriguing, but I am not a fan of wallpaper being used, like is often done in YA books.

    Tough to choose… I’ll go with Authority.

  2. I think Authority is the best of the 3. The Milkman is nice, but having the figure cut off at the bottom sort of ruins the design. The book at the bottom doesn’t have an attractive design. The colours are dreary and the lettering without inspiration. The colour scheme for authority is attractive.

  3. Hmm. Authority because it thematically links well to the prior book.

  4. Authority, easily. Best (and most creative) lettering. Best drawing. Best design (least obviously the result of someone clicking and dragging with a mouse). Best overall immediate effect: I feel free to decline to read the other two, whereas Authority makes me feel like I just *have* to have that book on my shelf (not to mention in my grubby paws and grubbier mind).

  5. The cover for Authority is cool but at the same time its not one I’d find myself picking up.. Definitely love the Milkman one, very simple and it catches my attention the most out of the three (despite its lack of colour).
    I seem to be in the minority here but I’d still go with The Milkman.

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