Apr 12 2010 10:42am

Ender’s Game ebook cover by Sam Weber

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, ebook cover by Sam Weber

The ebook edition of Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card’s classic science fiction novel, releases today with a new cover by Sam Weber.

There is a strange magic about that allows it to give us more work while making us feel like it’s Christmas. We were barely settled into the Wheel of Time ebook cover project when publisher, Fritz Foy, asked, “What's next?” The answer was easy. Perhaps not coincidentally, the question came just as Sam Weber handed in the cover art for The Shadow Rising, which everyone loved. That, coupled with the fact that I had wanted to create a cover for Ender’s Game that addressed the emotional conflict of the novel for ages, sent us off and running on a dream project.

First step: asking the editor, Beth Meacham, how she felt about repackaging the book:

When Irene told me that she’d been cleared to create a new art package for Ender’s Game for the eBook release, I confess that I groaned. Covers for this book have always been a problem. It’s not a children’s book, but when you ask for a painting of a ten year old boy, it’s hard not to get something that looks like a children’s book. This can lead to problems, like the email I recently got from a school librarian who was sure that there was some mistake; this children’s book had “bad words” in it.

I had no doubt Sam could portray a boy who wouldn’t put off older readers. I have often felt a number of his paintings show a cool exterior while suppressing some kind of underlying trouble or anxiety; if anything describes Ender, that’s it. When I contacted Sam, I wasn’t surprised to hear that Ender’s Game is one of his favorite novels.

A few weeks later he paralyzed me with an amazing set of sketches. The more I looked at them the more I wanted to see all of them come to fruition. It seemed a crime to have to pick one. After a decade of wanting to see “my” Ender, I was suddenly staring at a dozen. I was afraid of picking a direction I would later regret.

In the end I was intrigued by Sam’s use of scale in the chosen sketch. I loved seeing Ender large with an entire planet underfoot—whether it’s Earth or the alien planet, the fate of both worlds depend on this small boy. The weightlessness, of course, refers to the Battle School exercises so memorable in the book.  The flat-color triangles, representing the holographic game pieces, set against the realistic rendering of Ender and the planet, enhance the lie of the game.

I knew Sam would do a great job with the final painting...still, I don’t think I was fully prepared for just how well he was able to portray the depth of character Orson Scott Card gives us in Ender Wiggin.

At that point I was very excited to show Beth. Her response:

The sketches that I saw were very good. The artist is wonderful, and it looked very promising, though again the sketches were of children. Irene and Sam heard me when I said that if we were going to put a child on the cover, that child had to have old and wary eyes, had to look like a real child who had been under great stress. The finished art has that quality in spades. My reaction to seeing the finished art was “Oh! That’s Ender!”

The composition is spectacular, too—it actually illustrates something that is such a powerful part of the novel: Ender has been separated from Earth and humanity even as he is being forged as a weapon to protect them.

I asked Tor books and designer, Jamie Stafford-Hill,  to do the type layout. He came up with a solution that gave further depth to the cover. Orson Scott Card’s name seems to float in front while the title shimmers in and out between the author’s name and Ender, adding to the sense of weightlessness. Perfect.

At this point the publisher seemed happy, I was ecstatic, the editor loved it, and Orson Scott Card called it, “the best cover art ever to appear on Ender's Game.” A dream project with a happy ending. At least, so far. Now for the important part: to see how well new readers and fans respond to it.

I asked Sam Weber to share his thoughts on the project:

There’s a great interview with Orson Scott Card at the end of the Ender’s Game audio book. I remember listening to it only moments after those haunting final words call an end to one of my favorite books of all time. In the interview, Card talks about his theatre background and how writing plays affected Ender’s Game. For a book that is so incredibly evocative, there is surprisingly little in the way of specific physical description. Like theatre, it is the language and dialog, the characters that evoke the world in which Ender exists. In most ways that is what Ender’s Game is about for me. The characters. Although the situation is thought-provoking and unique, it’s Ender’s struggle that grabs you and breaks your heart. The weight of the actions he is forced to take in the name of both human and personal survival is crushing. It’s a personal and emotional struggle that feels relevant and timeless, completely independent of the set pieces and stage that Card has nonetheless so beautifully crafted.

As an illustrator, ultimately you want to find something in a story that grabs you, something that pleases a part of your own artistic compulsion and allows you to contribute to the work, even if it's only in a small way. There is so much to draw upon in this book, from the strange and haunting metaphors that populate Free Play, to Ender’s own physical struggles in Battle School. In the end, Irene Gallo and I ended up settling on a simple solution. With its pared-down background and central figure, it feels theatrical to me, which I like. I’d hoped from the beginning to create something emotional and personal, an image that conveys the loneliness Ender is forced to endure because of his almost alien brilliance.

Reference can be a great asset to an illustrator and it became quickly apparent that I needed to base Ender on a real person. Like the figure at the center of some Greek tragedy, Ender suffers for no fault of his own. I wanted him to seem human and fragile in spite of this mythological quality. Certainly Card achieves this with great success. I am fortunate to have found a model who enabled me to bring this character to life. One of the great things about work set in imaginary places is the freedom that comes with envisioning the unknown. Grounding it in something (or someone) real is important, I think, as it gives the viewer a way in and can lend the work a sense of believability that is difficult to create without observing the world and people around us.

Below are a few of Sam Weber’s initial sketches. Again, so many of these would make great paintings. I imagine some of these would make incredible poster designs, if not book covers.

Sam Weber, sketches for Ender’s Game ebook cover


A cycle through the painting phases:

Ender’s Game ebook cover, Sam Weber



Sam Weber, Ender’s Game detail


Full painting, without type:

Sam Weber, Ender’s Game

Irene Gallo is the art director for Tor, Forge, and Starscape Books and

Beth Meacham
2. bam
I still like the next-to-last sketch a lot, too -- the close-up of Ender's face, partly shattered. But the sense of weightlessness in the chosen sketch, and the final painting, really makes this cover.

So happy with it!
Rachel L.
4. Rachel L.
I love this cover and I really love these segments! *heart!*
Rachel L.
6. Jon Schindehette
It's a beaut!
Scott Brundage
7. Sbrundage
This cover has been haunting me since I saw it in your office. Amazing cover.
Jared Fiorino
8. jfiorino
Good god, Sam! Breathtaking! Literally, I just lost my breath for a moment.
Dominick Saponaro
9. SwashbuckleDom
Holy smokes! Just Gorgeous! Im Curious to know what was added digitaly. Is the first cycling picture the unaltered painting? The second? Or another that isnt shown? One of my favorite covers in a long time. Great type treatment too. Thanks for sharing!
Rachel L.
10. Henry Sene Yee
I love it!
It's so hard to repackage a classic into a new classic.
James Hogan
11. Sonofthunder
Such an AMAZING cover to one of my all-time favorite books. Well done!!!!!!!
Rachel L.
12. Aaron Johnston
Flat out awesome! Best cover of ENDER'S GAME ever! Thank you, TOR, for sharing the art and for explaining how it came about. I have several copies of this book, but you can be sure I'm buying this edition as well as soon as it comes out!
Joshua Starr
14. JStarr
This is wonderful. Just sent the link to the post to my parents and sister, all of whom read Ender's Game lo these many years ago. I think anyone who's read the book will be happy to finally see a depiction of Ender with such... ahem... gravity.
15. Freelancer
Irene strikes again! Having just finished the Shadow set, I had Bean on the mind more than Ender, but that cover is Ender for certain!

Pop quiz, what do the Wheel of Time, and the Ender series have in common, besides e-book cover art commissioned by Tor?
Bridget McGovern
16. BMcGovern
One of my all-time favorite covers...I'm still in awe, and I've been looking at it for a week. Sam and Jamie--you guys are amazing :)
Rachel L.
17. JoshBurch
outstanding piece, makes me wish it would be used for a new printing of the book.
Rachel L.
18. Logan York
Oh my gah! Sam you have outdone yourself here again. This is just one unspeakably beautiful cover.
Rachel L.
19. Mathilda
i mean this cover is no joke. It's legit Ender. I wish i could draw like this.
Rachel L.
20. Brentus
Well done! I really like these new covers the e-books are getting. Sam did a great job with this and The Shadow Rising.
Patrick Garson
21. patrickg
That's incredible. God, it makes such a difference not only when an artist is capable, but they have actually read and invested in the text. Breath-taking work.
Rachel L.
22. Aaron Rossell
Absolutely stunning--not only a beautiful and skillfully rendered illustration, but an image that grabs my soul and teaches it a lesson.
Rachel L.
23. EllieAngel
Off topic, but ...

... when I saw Avatar, particularly the scene in the beginning when people wake up on a starship and float up into the air, my very first thought was "I NEED TO SEE THE BATTLESCHOOL IN 3D" followed shortly by "the technology finally exists to make that movie super-awesome."

This isn't a movie, but good art that grasps the aesthetics and emotional struggle of a novel is the next best thing.
Brian Mann
24. hypnoskills
Excellent cover!

As an offtopic aside, I don't trust any librarian who believes in the existence of "bad words".
Rachel L.
25. Duncan Long
TOR is to be commended for giving us these behind-the-scene peeks into how covers are created. I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. It really helps a person appreciate all the work (and often more than one excellent design) that goes into producing a quality book cover illustration.

Keep up the good work!

--Duncan Long
Freelance illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, Solomon Press, Fort Ross, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and many other publishers and self-publishing authors. See my cover illustrations at:
Rachel L.
26. CDoris
Best cover. It really is Ender.
Rachel L.
27. Kaffis
@Freelancer #15:

They share an editor, as much as it never ceases to amaze me.
Rachel L.
28. ManuelD
When can i buy this?
Rachel L.
29. RKettring
Enders hair is a little long for Military
regulations but i understand why it is longer. Overall the Cover is Brilliant.

By the way,
I think it is time for a serious campaign to get the movie made. CGI and 3D are ready to handle this movie.
Rachel L.
30. jadekarrde
Despite the author's name over Ender's Crotch I'd buy the book again in hardcover with this cover.
Rachel L.
31. JDsg
The only thing is, I've never thought of Ender as blond. ;)
Rachel L.
32. DanielR
I would love this painting as a poster. And it's not even so geeky that I would need to get another half-naked model poster to balance out the nerdity.

Best of all, "the enemy's gate is down".
Rachel L.
35. kaylascott
wow ! it's just beautiful cover of the year.
"Ebooks For Sale"
Philbert de Zwart
37. philbert
It's not really clear to me how to actually purchase this ebook though:

Should I go somewhere else?
Irene Gallo
38. Irene
It's probably easiest to go through whichever retailer runs the ereader you have.

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