Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Unstructured Commentary

If you read science fiction, you've probably heard about Baen. And if you're familiar with Baen, you're probably familiar with David Weber. In case you aren't, imagine that Tom Clancy was a science fiction writer (and that he had the prolificacy of Stephen King) and you've got the general idea of what he's about.

Weber most famous series is the Honor Harrington series, which is loosely based on the Horatio Hornblower novels. The eponymous heroine of the story is one of those hypercompetent individuals that one only ever finds in military fiction (and spy novels, to be fair). She, and her sentient "tree-cat" companion go from humble beginnings, through victory after victory, until she's very nearly a demi-god among mortals.

But I'm not here to talk about that. Rather than judging the books, I thought that I'd judge a cover. Baen has a non-enviable reputation for producing the ugliest dust jackets in the genre. This is even taking into account the lamentable 70s when every cover looked like something out of a geeky acid trip. The cover for the latest Harrington novel, At All Costs, however, sets a new record for sheer god-awfulness.

The covers for most of the novels depict Honor with some sort of resolute and determined expression. She's usually in uniform and her hair is generally pulled back. Typically, there's some sort of space battle going on in the background (see the example in the upper-right). In the new book, however, the illustrator decided to go in a different direction. Instead of the standard-issue military pose, we have a sort of Madonna and Child (and book) thing going on. Honor has let her hair down, ditched the uniform, and picked up a kid (you can probably guess the relationship, but I don't want to be accused of spoilers).

The first thing that makes it a bit creepy is the look on her face. I think that they were trying to go for something maternal but what we actually get is a vague, slightly cross-eyed expression that makes her look like she's been lobotomized. But what really pushes it over the edge is her tree-cat. Understand that the tree-cat is supposed to be a good character. The picture, however, makes it look like some sort of Satanic imp. The fact that it's dangling a dangerously pointy bauble within arm's reach of an innocent (indeed, archetypical) baby only adds to the air of malevolence. Clearly this hell-spawned beast has bewitched our beloved Honor and is now preparing to claim the soul of the child as well!

I've included a picture just so you can see for yourself that I'm not exaggerating. Try not to have any nightmares.

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