Everybody has their own take on what should and what should not go into book reviews. One thing I struggle with is whether reviewers should mention the publishing aspects of a book – covers, copyediting etc. – and, for the most part, I think they shouldn’t. Why? Well, firstly, usually publishers are doing the best they can in the circumstances. Time and resources are limited, and everyone usually does want to do the best book possible. Secondly, reviews are about books and writers. Readers don’t usually care about who the publisher is, and a negative review because of publishing problems wrongly victimises the author, who typically has absolutely no control over such matters.
Of course, that begs the question: why mention this now? Well, since this isn’t a review column, and because I do intend to review the book itself, I thought I’d take a moment here to mention the cover for the new Clive Barker novel, Days of Magic, Nights of War. For those who don’t recall, Barker sold his ‘Abarat Quartet’ to a movie studio and publisher based on an outline and some paintings for a ton of money. One of the main selling points for the series was the artwork, and Barker has been duly producing hundreds of color pieces, a bunch of which appeared in the first book. Now, not all of the paintings are to my taste, but some are very good indeed. The book covers, though, are very perplexing. The designer has, in both cases, placed selected images from the book in a simple 3 x 3 grid, along with some text. It’s an approach that manages to rob the art of its impact, and to really dilute the cover itself, which lacks focus, branding or message (book covers, it always seemed to me, are most like movie posters). I’m not sure why the marketing department thinks it works, but it seems unfortunate to me, and unlikely to attract readers (which is, after all, the job of a book cover).