November 19, 2009

Turning Pages: Don't Judge the Book by its Cover

Science Fiction and Fantasy, my peeps, can produce some staggeringly bad, bad, BAD covers.

Not that they're not the apex of graphic design. Not that they're not a genius of artistic achievement. No, nothing like that - and props to all of your graphics people out there. It's just sometimes? I think that whomever gives you the "this is what the book is about" write-ups should do just a tad more work. That might make a difference.

With their carefully arranged dead in bright primary colors, the Generation Dead books look... amusing. Comedic. Yet Kiss of Life, the one I just read was not. Folks in Phoebe's town are used to the dead -- they don't call them zombies, though. That's not PC, even though that's what the "differently biotic" call themselves. Adam, a boy who had a major crush on Phoebe, who even took a bullet for her when an angry classmate had tried to shoot her for being the first to date across the lifeline, is now dead -- and he's not recovering well. It takes him months to learn to speak and move again, and in the meantime, Phoebe -- whom shooter Pete calls Morticia Scarypants -- is giving her whole life to him, trying to help him cope, thinking they're a couple, and that she owes him this. After all, he gave up life for her. Never mind that she really still loves Tommy, who, in an effort to be a guiding light to other differently biotic kids, is traveling across the United States to Washington to help change the world.

Kiss of Life, by Daniel Waters is a book that deals with the political and emotional ramifications of a minority group -- and the ghostly pale diva in the coffin with the football player mooning over her -- supposedly Phoebe and Adam, which is bizarre, since Phoebe is alive, and Adam is the one who is dead -- doesn't really do much to advertise the book. But, maybe that's just me.

Watersmeet, by Ellen Jensen Abbott looks like that Costner thing. Waterworld. The girl on the cover has wet hair... and one iridescent green eye.

Despite the cover, Abisina does not spend most of her time in the water. She's an outcast in her village because she has green eyes. Most days she's getting pounded on and beaten. Everyone in the village is poor, they're being hunted by centaurs, and are in constant danger. They're also hyper-religious and it's a hard, cold religion that brings no one comfort. Only the presence of her mother, the village healer, preserves Abisina from being driven away. They live on the outskirts of town, with the other strange ones who are dark and not blonde.

It's only an accident of birth, maybe, but Abisina believes that something is wrong with her. That she is wrong. And when the charismatic new leader comes to Vranille, the first thing he does is turn the villagers against the outcast.

Abisina convinces her mother to run, to leave the village, but it's too late. The healer dies at the hands of a mob, as do many of the outcast. All that is left is her mother's necklace, a strange metal amulet that Abisina finds on the heap of her ashes. The necklace is a key to finding her father -- of braving centaur attacks and coming to an uneasy friendship with another who has lost his home. This is a story of a person finding their strength and going on a quest, and coming out whole on the other side.

Too bad the cover just shows another alluring looking girl.

I can't actually argue that the cover of Pastworld is inaccurate. It's not. It's definitely as dark and confusing as the contents of the book. There's a Victorian looking street, gas lamps, and ... a dirigible overhead?

The world has become so enamored of the idea of the past, that the future has recreated it. London has lost its use as a modern metropolitan center, and has been recreated as Victorian -- a living, breathing theme park call Pastword where for a sum, people of the present can dress in costume and gawk at the people of the past. London in Victorian times was a place of obscenely rich as well as obscenely poor people, and all the technology of 2048, and all the power of the Buckland Corporation has been bent toward recreating an exact replica.

Down to the last knife-wielding, mad-eyed inhabitant.

Oh, yes. You didn't think they'd forget to include the most infamous London inhabitant of them all, did you? The problem with a theme park is that the people who "work" there are supposed to be "actors." The Buckland Corporation isn't paying any actors. Some of the people in London think it's Victorian times. Some of them haven't been told what it is that they're in Pastworld to do.

And some of them, they just do what they're born to do...

This is a classic Technology Gone Oh-So-Wrong novel. I look forward to seeing what the cover will be in paperback; maybe it will get even darker and creepier.

Here's hoping, anyway.

May all your books match your covers; barring that, may you continue to ignore the covers, and read all the words.

Pick up Buy Generation Dead: The Kiss of Life, the epic Watersmeet, or Pastworld at an independent bookstore near you!

1 comment:

Sarah Stevenson said...

I love your themed roundup posts! These are fun. (And remind me that I have a roundup to post, myself...)

Watersmeet sounds like an interesting one. Pastworld sounds just like the movie Westworld, though, kinda...which I'm embarrassed to say I only saw recently, but enjoyed in that cheesy 70s way...