When I first saw Steve Rawlings’ cover for Gridlinked, I have to admit to a degree of puzzlement and disappointment, since for so long I had been in love with old lurid SFF, covers like those produced by Foss, or like the thoroughly lurid ones found on one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars books, maybe a green multi-armed Tars Tarkas weilding two or three axes or swords. However, it then being the case that, ‘this is your cover’and ‘you like it don’t you?’ I kept my mouth shut and, by the time the cover for The Skinner appeared with a similar design but in wonderful shades of Mediterranean blue, I was hooked.
On the fifth book, Brass Man, it seemed the time for a change had come as I was now ‘a name’, that name needing to be larger on a plainer background. So the hardback came out with a design similar to that of the previous four, whilst the paperback got the makeover. It was pretty cool – the brass man himself reflected in a lizard eye – and many of the ensuing covers have been as good. Yet how good was driven home to me as I became thoroughly aware of just how bad covers could be. For example the cartoonish American cover of The Skinner was a thorough disappointment, and the curious German habit of recycling covers was puzzling and annoying – it took me some while to work out what was going on with the Lubbe cover for Gridlinked, until I discovered they had reused the one for Arthur C Clarke’s 2010.
As the new design of cover progressed we decided on a main and thoroughly relevant picture on the front, along with one of my inevitable monsters displayed on the back. However, sometimes the monster turned out better than the main picture and in two cases was swapped around. The decidedly odd gabbleduck of The Gabble exchanged places with a somewhat difficult to identify piece of technology. But the Prador Moon revision has to be the best: the generic rocketship being relegated and the Prador itself moved to the front. Some readers have pointed out that the creature doesn’t quite measure up to those described in the book, however, a crab carapace sprouting all sorts of cybernetics along with a couple of Gatling cannons, is quite sufficient to float my boat.
In all, my favourite Macmillan covers are those for Hilldiggers, Prador Moon, Brass Man and Shadow of the Scorpion. But there have been many delights elsewhere: the Japanese cover of Cowl, the American Brass Man and the superb Stephan Martiniere cover for the first French version of The Skinner. And now the new German covers, at last.