Cover story

As a sort of coda to my mate Vegar’s recent ruminations on book covers I overheard two 20-something female customers remarking on the jacket designs for Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mysteries from Orbit. They thought they ‘looked silly’ and ‘like kid’s books’, a charge a couple of magazine reviewers have also raised, all though their reviews were generally as favourable as my own on the Alien.

I like the cover design for these books. They reflect a big attempt by major publishers to do something about the jacket design for titles, especially for genre work such as horror, SF&F or crime. Orbit, the UK publisher of Sookie have been revamping their entire stable with mostly rather good results in my not very humble opinion as a reader, reviewer and professional bookseller. Their make-over of one of my favourites, Comrade Ken MacLeod’s entire range has given both good-looking jackets and also a uniformity to the series – they’ve actually designed them not only individually but together because they know readers will often have a range of an author’s work and that they like to have them look good on their shelves.

I liked them so much I actually sent a message to Uncle Tim Holman, head of Orbit to tell him that I thought the new covers were quite refreshing. I thought the Sookie ones were great – fun, light-hearted and yet with a comedy-laced form of Gothic not unlike Charles Addams or Ed Gorey or Richard Moore. But these girls didn’t like them, so I guess that proves you can’t please everyone, can you? On a more positive note, I received my UK edition from Orbit of our local lad Charlie Stross’ Singularity Sky. It too has a pretty cool cover and a nifty looking smaller hardback format. I’m re-reading it right now to see how it comapres to the much earlier draft I read about 18 months back when it was still called Festival of Fools (it has a sly dig at the Edinburgh Festival in a way most non-Edinburgh dwellers won’t really get but made me smile) and as Charlie himself observes, he’s been working and pushing it for a fair few years to get to this stage. Looking forward to interviewing Charlie soon for the Alien and recommend the book to anyone – a chance to get in on the ground floor before his new book deals in the states elevate his name. And how can you resist a book which begins on a backward colony world of a 19th century-style Russian Empire society with a rain of telephones falling on their cities from orbit?