Covering Ugliness. Part 1.2: More Fantasy Books

Today come leftovers of the bad fantasy covers we showed last time. After big bosoms and big teeth comes the time for bad illustrations and a clichéd vision of the future – under the link.

3: Fairy Tale Gone Awry

Some of this was already included in the previous part, but fantasy seems to invite really bad illustrators who can’t handle dark humor and apocalyptic dystopias.

So instead they draw goats with red eyes. This could have gone into the slutty category or the furry category but the sheer naiveté of the illustration earned it a place here. In case you’ve not noticed, as we didn’t at first, there is a spooky reflection in the water. It almost didn’t make it into the frame but, whew, it did. Extra ugly points for the skill-less coloring and inapt drawing of hands.

More hand clumsiness in this one, together with flowy hair and a face of a hungover Russian prostitute. She’s supposed to be some sort of witch but she looks dangerously close to the girl in the village who wants to be the prettiest but instead she has to be the cheapest.

Robert Jordan, of whose writing we heard some good things, seems unlucky when it comes to illustrators with the weak composition and lack of decision as to colors, but where it really gets interesting are the flaws in design. The Polish typography is vomit-inducing, with the terrible drop shadow in the first case and even worse rainbow gradients which look almost like a parody, except we don’t know of what. As if that wasn’t enough, the Polish cover of The Fires of Heaven uses the same illustration as the original – so far, so good, many books do that – but since the format is different, someone decided to just scale it unproportionally. We got news to you, people: it shows. Unless it’s a story of a really stocky boy in a really stocky world.

If you thought those illustrations amateurish, you’re easily pleased as here comes a real jewel: two scarily bad covers for Milena Wojtowicz’s novels. Not only does the typography make us want to scream and run, not only are they full of unexplainable decisions (faded images, weird frames) but worst of all drawing looks like the kind of art produced for teenage girls that turns them into brain-dead, Pattison-worshipping zombies. (Or actually not even that, because these days teen chick art gets more sophisticated, as proven by Twilight covers. Yeah, we liked those: they’re way better than books, which is rare in fantasy.)

From the land of sugar-candy ugliness for girls into cheap metal band ugliness for boys on this cover by Brandon Sanderson. The best thing to say about this cover is that some inner mechanism makes you turn your eyes quickly and you don’t have to look at it long. Though we just made you. Sorry.

4: Fumbled Future

For final category we’ve collected a few science-fiction-and-around books. They’ve been apparently rooted out from shelves by magic fantasy owing to the current fashion for witches and vampires but where they appear, they follow the same bad scenarios we remember from reading Dune years back. A few notable examples include:

Images fading into one another so that people end up having space cities where their necks should be – but hey, it’s space cities. Also, these people are past caring because they’re evidently frozen. (Side question: why is this Gregory Benford ripping off Asimov?)

Star Wars wannabies with military overtones – this time a torso is replaced with a gigantic motherboard. Or something. Hard to say because those floaty things distract us. Also, there are 3D letters, a rain of meteors and the star thing with a gradient. Oh, and the big head with a focused face: it’s so big that it bumped the of off the title and pushed David Weber out of the useless frame.

In this novel by Orson Scott Card, a communist mad scientist slash cyborg person with a human embryo in a green jar. And as you can see we’re not making this up. Finished off with typography stolen from a Mexican restaurant menu.

And for dessert an example of wtf-ness. It’s Stalin. Fighting UFO. And he’s really big. No, we don’t really get it.

That’s it for now. Since we’re pretty overwhelmed with the amount of ugliness, in the near future we plan on showing you examples of good local cover design. Because they do exist and sometimes they’re pretty awesome.

  1. Gosh, what eye sores! I wonder how these authors manage to sell these books because even though people say never judge a book by its cover, that’s exactly what they do.

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