Aug 7 2008 5:03am

SF/F Book Cover Review, Hugo Edition: Rollback

Part four of our review of the covers for the 2008 Hugo nominees, in which we STFU and let you guys take over the reviewing duties, since it’s a Tor Book, and we're just too close to the work. Part one of this week-long series is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

Rollback coverRollback by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor; Analog Oct. 2006-Jan./Feb. 2007)
Design by Jamie Stafford-Hill.

A slightly longer synopsis this time (from the Tor-Forge website). You know, since I can’t totally stfu: Dr. Sarah Halifax decoded the first-ever radio transmission received from aliens. Thirty-eight years later, a second message is received and Sarah, now 87, may hold the key to deciphering this one, too . . . if she lives long enough.
A wealthy industrialist offers to pay for Sarah to have a rollback—a hugely expensive experimental rejuvenation procedure. She accepts on condition that Don, her husband of sixty years, gets a rollback, too. The process works for Don, making him physically twenty-five again. But in a tragic twist, the rollback fails for Sarah, leaving her in her eighties.
While Don tries to deal with his newfound youth and the suddenly vast age gap between him and his wife, Sarah struggles to do again what she‘d done once before: figure out what a signal from the stars contains.

So, what are your thoughts on this cover?

Rollback cover, large

Richard Smith
1. Richard Smith
Looks really unpolished and simple. I'd probably like it better without the heat-vision toy shape, just the watch. Better still would be an image with some craftsmanship to it, playing on the clockwork theme but more engaging.
Rich Rennicks
2. RichR
With the caveat that I only have the small online image to go on, I have to say that the cover doesn't do it for me -- It doesn't convey action or excitement. The watch conveys the rejuvenation angle, but looks static and does not come across as intriguing enough to make me want to pick the book up.

Not having read the book, the cover may accurately represent a mysterious, high-concept-but-low-action SF tale, but that's not enough to get me to buy.

I think the mainly black cover concept is a good approach (used really well on Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution books) but the image(s) really need to be well chosen because their isolation really increases their impact and gives them a weight and importance that they wouldn't have in a busier composition.

eric orchard
3. orchard
I really like this cover. It has a starkness that makes me think of Mr. Sawyer's direct prose. It reflects the logic and themes of the book. Also, it recalls for me some of Rick Berry's early digital work in a good way. I think this is a really strong cover.
Pablo Defendini
4. pablodefendini
@RichR #2--duly noted, and apologies for the small image. I've posted a larger one off of our internal files.
Jeffrey Richard
5. neutronjockey
X-ray of a watch's internals.
Human thermograph.

Soft-light blending mode.

Some numbers that are neither binary nor alien...


I think there's a lot more that could have been done here.

It doesn't grab me**.

Something with a little more "sex in the box" like the 'o5 Mindscan cover...

**I am also not a publishing industry professional though does let me play one on the interwebs.
Nicole Cardiff
7. NicoleCardiff
I'm not wild about the style of the illustration - the photomontage covers rarely do it for me, though, so we'll assume I'm pretty biased there. I definitely would've liked to see the illustration have more compositional movement to it - as it is, my eye thuds against the stark vertical of the figure, rather than staying on the curve of the clock. It comes so close to nicely moving the eye from the author name to the book title, but then the figure distracts me and sends my eye to the bottom, making the book title a second read.

The typography, on the other hand, is pretty nifty. I particularly like the handling of the author's name. If I were doing it, I probably would've had the small font match the author name font, but it seems to work fine.

(I am not an art director, which may disqualify my opinion, but there ya go.)
Rich Rennicks
8. RichR
Thanks, Pablo. There's more detail visible now, and that adds some interest. Maybe without the heat image person it's be more intriguing. Or, maybe if an indeterminate clockwork device was the image, not something in the shape of a wristwatch...

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