There are a lot of sad things in this world. Homeless kittens. Cleveland Browns fans. Income inequality. The color taupe. Political corruption. Musicians whose audiences can’t reliably clap on two and four.
But one of the saddest things in this world, just gosh-darn tragedies, is when book publishers feel the need to slap a logo on a book which is going to become/is becoming/has become a featured film or–even worse!–when book publishers create a new version of the book with promotional pictures from the film.
I have an omnibus of the Chronicles of Narnia. It is a beautifully-designed book, just a paperback, but it’s very nice. It looks like this:
This is a fabulous cover. Aslan (who is the lion, if you’ve lived under a rock for six decades) is more or less the centerpiece of the entire series. This cover portrays him with the requisite gravitas. I mean, his mane is literally fire here. Lit.
Well, I lied a little. It looks like that, but has one tiny edition that threatens to ruin all of it:
This little thing is a travesty. It’s 2018. NOBODY CARES THAT THERE WAS A THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE MOVIE. These things just rapidly become quaint anachronisms very quickly. Like the little patches that appeared on Lord of the Rings books before Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Aw, honey; the first movie is almost old enough to vote. Everyone already knows that they’re movies, dear. All that patch is doing is ruining your nice book cover.
Not all patches ruin the cover, thankfully. I bought Ready Player One to read before watching the movie, I’m pretty sure that it has some sort of “Spielberg is making this into a movie” patch, and the fact that I don’t remember is a strong testament to how thoughtful they were with the design. Furthermore, some of these patches are actually stickers, which can be removed and tossed into the fire and brimstone from whens they came. Unfortunately, most are not, and are printed into the book like some sort of demonic branding.
What’s worse is when publishers change a perfectly good cover, swapping out marketing images from the movie it inspired. At best, it’s tacky. At worst, it’s a bait-and-switch that torpedoes great cover art for images that could possibly be totally unrelated to the book.
As an example, take a look at this. It’s the cover for Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I bought it alongside Ready Player One. Its cover is gorgeous. And its inside cover is almost better:
Ohhhhh yeah. Fantastic.
The film Annihilation is fantastic, too, but it is its own thing. It isn’t strictly an adaption, although it technically is one. Rather, it is a story inspired by the book. Its core story is only tangentially related to Annihilation’s core story, and it features practically none of the plot beats in the book. Again, that’s fine; the film is smart enough to do its own thing, and it’s a great movie.
But inflicting this horror on the book is just one step too far:
My feelings for this cover can’t be put into exact words, but let’s just say this is legitimately one of the worst book covers I have ever witnessed when you take into account the cover it takes the place of.
Not only does it feature three characters on the cover who aren’t even in the book you’re about to read, and not only does it also feature an inane review quote at the top, but it also slaps the “NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE” badge in the corner for good measure, as if you didn’t already surmise that from NATALIE FREAKING PORTMAN being front and center.
This is depressing me too much, so I’ll just leave one more example that’s probably equally as egregious and then go eat some chocolate.
Ugh. Hold me.