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Book Cover Smackdown! PROXIMA (Baxter) vs. STAR BRIDGE (Gunn/Williamson) vs. COMING HOME (McDevitt) vs. TARKIN (Luceno)

It’s time another Book Cover Smackdown! This episode’s covers hit bookshelves in November 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?

Proxima by Stephen Baxter
(Roc | November 4, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: unknown)

Lauded as “the natural heir to the hard-sci-fi crown of Arthur C. Clarke” (The Daily Telegraph, UK), Stephen Baxter delivers an unforgettable novel of an extraordinary world—and its untamed landscape….

Mankind’s future in this galaxy could be all but infinite….

There are hundreds of billions of red dwarf stars, lasting trillions of years—and their planets can be habitable for humans. Such is the world of Proxima Centauri. And its promise could mean the never-ending existence of humanity.

Star Bridge by James Gunn & Jack Williamson
(Tor Books | November 11, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: Gregory Manchess.)

The galaxy’s inhabited planets are held together by the repressive Eron Company, the apparent holder of the secret to faster–than–light travel through the Tubes, the network linking the scattered worlds together. Mysterious parties have hired the adventurer Horn to assassinate the company’s general manager, Garth Kohlnar. Horn completes his mission, and in the ensuing manhunt encounters Wendre Kohlnar, the daughter and now possibly the heir of the dead man.

Escaping through a transdimensional Tube, Horn finds himself on the planet Eron, a world consumed by the Eron Company. There he encounters a corrupt aristocracy, a brewing power struggle over the succession, a covert revolution, and the mystery of who actually knows the secret of the Tubes.

James Gunn and Jack Williamson’s Star Bridge marks the return of a classic, high-concept space opera by two SF Grand Masters

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt
(Ace | November 4, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: John Harris)

Thousands of years ago, artifacts of the early space age were lost to rising oceans and widespread turmoil. Garnett Baylee devoted his life to finding them, only to give up hope. Then, in the wake of his death, one was found in his home, raising tantalizing questions. Had he succeeded after all? Why had he kept it a secret? And where is the rest of the Apollo cache?

Antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his pilot, Chase Kolpath, have gone to Earth to learn the truth. But the trail seems to have gone cold, so they head back home to be present when the Capella, the interstellar transport that vanished eleven years earlier in a time/space warp, is expected to reappear. With a window of only a few hours, rescuing it is of the utmost importance. Twenty-six hundred passengers—including Alex’s uncle, Gabriel Benedict, the man who raised him—are on board.

Alex now finds his attention divided between finding the artifacts and anticipating the rescue of the Capella. But time won’t allow him to do both. As the deadline for the Capella’s reappearance draws near, Alex fears that the puzzle of the artifacts will be lost yet again. But Alex Benedict never forgets and never gives up—and another day will soon come around…

Tarkin (Star Wars) by James Luceno
(LucasBooks | November 4, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: unknown)

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

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.

12 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! PROXIMA (Baxter) vs. STAR BRIDGE (Gunn/Williamson) vs. COMING HOME (McDevitt) vs. TARKIN (Luceno)

  1. leozaupa // May 17, 2014 at 7:37 am //

    The cover artist for Star Bridge is Gregory manchess, he made a post on muddycolors about the making of of this cover:

  2. David Greybeard // May 17, 2014 at 8:13 am //

    COMING HOME trumps if only for the words “An Alex Benedict Novel”. McDevitt’s Alex Benedict books are one of our finest SF series currently on-going.

    But honestly it’s nearly a 4 way tie. The Gunn-Wiliamson cover art wins by a nose but I’m a huge Peter Cushing fan, I think he’s my favorite actor, so even the Star Wars novel has appeal, which they generally don’t for me.

  3. COMING HOME’s artist is John Harris who has done most of the Benedict covers. Great series, great covers. That’d be my pick.

    STAR BRIDGE is by Greg Manchess. I lean toward it as a second. It’s maybe a little too lacking in detail, but it’s grown on me.


  4. Jim Jacobs // May 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm //

    The Baxter name plus the beautiful monochromatic “space blue” graphic nearly locks up the top spot for “Proxima”. Beautiful and engaging, it evokes the dreams and excitement at the heart of good science fiction. Still, for me the winner is McDevitt and his artist Harris. The cover of “Coming Home” combines near future imaging with far future imagining in a way that intriques and excites. The phrase ‘an Alex Benedict novel’ captures attention as the creative graphic draws one into McDevitt’s richly human stories of future archeology and multilayered discovery. The cover of “Coming Home” wins.

  5. Urstoff // May 17, 2014 at 12:38 pm //

    I love John Harris, and all of the covers for the Alex Benedict series (well, excluding “A talent for War”, which I don’t think Harris did) have been fantastic. Harris seems to have had a pretty big influence on sci-fi art given how many people have started to shift towards his style of using angular brush strokes to imply a high level of detail that’s not actually in the painting, giving them just a slight hint of impressionism. You can even see that in Manchess’s cover here.

    That said, I think the Harris work here is too much like his cover of Firebird, and I think Manchess’s cover is actually better. It’s interesting to see the Harris style applied to a person (who are rarely more than black dots in Harris’s work), adding a sense of isolation.

    I also like the Baxter cover, mainly because really detailed drawings of spaceships are always awesome. It’s a generic scene, but this ship looks unique among sci-fi ships (less space opera and more near-future hard sf).

    The Tarkin cover is just bad, even by SW novel standards. Absolutely no thought went into that. A shame, too, since the legacy of the force covers actually tried to do something slightly different (well, different for an SW novel) but still consistent. Since then they’ve been back to the old character action shots or character collages, this one being one of the lazier ones.

  6. Pierre-Paul Durastanti // May 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm //

    Manchess has my vote for the STAR BRIDGE cover. It does look like classical art. Harris comes second, in my opinion.

    I think you can credit Baxter’s cover to J.J. Abrams. You know why.

  7. Coming Home would be the winner for me except for the way the text butchers the image. Such sacrilege. So, in spite of being a huge fan of both Harris and Manchess, my vote goes to PROXIMA. If I were voting with my money, on image alone, not author, I’d buy both Proxima and STAR BRIDGE. The authors of Star Bridge ain’t too bad either… 😉

  8. Bryan Price // May 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm //

    I’m not sure who the winner is, but the Proxima cover has issues. If those two halves of a rocket are the same length, the one on the left should have it’s nose sticking a bit LONGER than the one on the right. Instead, the left is much shorter, and even looks curved. Use your two index fingers to verify this, keep them parallel and keep them even at the same angles as that ship. Yeah, it’s a matter of perspective, but it certainly isn’t correct.

  9. I prefer the original Ballantine cover for Star Bridge…

    Actually, I like them all except the SW tie-in. Looking forward to getting the US edition of Proxima!

  10. Matte Lozenge // May 18, 2014 at 2:48 pm //

    Proxima gets the nod for “most cinematic”; it could be a movie poster for a near-space blockbuster. But if I wanted a movie experience I’d fire up my TV.

    Star Bridge has the best painting of the bunch and it’s the one I most want to read. But its typography and graphic design is lacking.

    Coming Home is the best overall package, good artwork, striking graphic design. It’s a formula and, like the books, extremely repetitive, but seems a lot of people like that.

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