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Book Cover Smackdown (Forthcoming Space Opera Edition)! ANCESTRAL MACHINES vs. WILLFUL CHILD vs. HOMEFRONT

It’s time another Book Cover Smackdown! This time around, covers of forthcoming space opera titles go head-to-head. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Pass artistic judgment!

Tell us:

  • Which of these covers do you like the most?
  • What works and what doesn’t work with these covers?
  • Do any of them make you want to learn more about and/or read the book?

(Orbit | March 10, 2015 | Cover illustration artist: Steve Stone.)

It was named Bringer of Battles, three hundred worlds orbiting a single artificial star, three hundred battlefields where different species vie for mastery and triumph. It is a cage where war is a game — brutal, savage and sudden. In this arena, all must bend the knee to the Lords of Permutation and the ancient sentient weapons with which they have merged. Or suffer indescribable agonies.

Trapped in this draconian crucible of death, Brannan Pyke, captain and smuggler, must find a way to fight his way to freedom.

Because in the Bringer of Battles, the game of war is played to the death and beyond.

Willful Child by Steven Erikson
(Tor Books | November 4, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: unknown)

From the New York Times Bestselling author Steven Erikson comes a new science fiction novel of devil-may-care, near calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through the infinite vastness of interstellar space.

These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the…

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.’

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

Homefront by Scott James Magner
(Arche Press | November 11, 2014 | Cover illustration artist: unknown)

Set against the backdrop of a far-future Earth struggling to reinvent itself after a technological disaster, Homefront is an uncompromising adventure story about what it truly means to be human. Jantine is a Beta, a genetically modified super soldier charged with establishing a hidden colony on Earth. When her expedition arrives in the middle of a civil war, she must choose her allies wisely or be exterminated. Featuring complex characters and edge-of-your-seat action sequences, Homefront will have readers guessing until the last page.

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 (Forthcoming Space Opera Edition)! ANCESTRAL MACHINES vs. WILLFUL CHILD vs. HOMEFRONT

  1. Dang… I like `em all, and want to read each one!
    The cover of Ancestral Machines gives me more of a hard SF feel, maybe I’d find a good exploration story inside. I like it.

    The Willful Child cover is more action-oriented, telling me I might find military fiction within. I like it, but not as much as the cover to Ancestral Machines.

    Homefront is planet-based, and gives me kind of a mysterious feeling. Is that a ship crashing? A structure obscured by smoke or an alien atmosphere? I wouldn’t know what to expect from just that cover, but I’d definitely turn the book over to read to the blurb! I like the cover.

    But out of the three, I think I like the cover to Ancestral Machines the best.

  2. I like Steven Erikson’s cover. The artwork on the first two are both really good, but the letters pop out so much more on the second book (in a good way).

    I’m not sure what the third book is. Space station? Bombed-out city? The hazy yellow and brown pallet doesn’t do much for me.

  3. All 3 books sound like they’d be a great read from the blurbs, let’s say that up front. But would the cover of each get me to read the blurb in a shop?

    1. Ancestral Machines: Yes. Yes, it would. Even without the IMB quote, the cover tells me that I’m in for BIG sci-fi. Clean, bold, striking – the fact it has a similar aesthetic to IMB’s books doesn’t hurt either. 😉 I’m going to pick that up all day long.

    2. Willful Child: Maybe, on a good day, if I’m feeling generous. Don’t get me wrong, I normally like books which look like they’ve come straight from the early 80s (otherwise I would hate my shelves), but this is a touch too hackneyed and pallid. I get that they’ve tried to stick their tongue firmly in their cheek with the cover to mirror the content, but the point is that I don’t *know* the content yet… Perhaps just toning down the palette a *touch* would help, but as it stands I would already have to be in a good mood to bother picking it up, or clicking on the thumbnail.

    3. Homefront: No. In the background we have a burning and smoky, uh, something; in the foreground we have… Another background, some kind of cereal crop, I guess. And it’s all brown. Blurry and brown. I suppose the crop in the front might be a weak allusion to GMOs, but… That *is* weak. For the ebook thumbnail it’s just going to look like a brown blob. Where is the super-soldier? Where is the *clearly* decaying civilisation, unobscured by smoke? I get that things burn in war, but I haven’t picked it up yet to find that much out. And I’m not going to.

    As I said: they blurbs all tell me good things about the stories inside, but only “Ancestral Machines” actually gets me reaching for it from the cover alone.

  4. David Greybeard // June 28, 2014 at 9:18 am //

    Pretty much equivalent. All three are the standard SF cover art. None are particularly A+ level. So I declare it is a three way tie. But it is the Erickson book I’ll be reading.

  5. Which of these covers do you like the most?
    – Willful Child by Steven Erikson

    What works and what doesn’t work with these covers?
    – Spaceships work! The Michael Cobley and Steven Erikson covers are my favourite as they give the impression of the storylines taking place out in space. I love scifi and always find it disappointing when it ends up being an Earthbound story.

    I like the scifi building aspect of Homefront, and I would pick it up to see if I would like the story, but by the cover, to me its placed on Earth instead out in the black, which would most likely make it my last choice.

    Do any of them make you want to learn more about and/or read the book?
    – They all do, at the very least I would read the summary to see if I want to read it.

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