05 June 2011

How the Future Dates

I stumbled across the ISFDB tonight - where has it been all my life? Clicking around I was struck by how bad much of the cover art was, and thought I'd test this by looking at all the covers of Neuromancer - arguably the most influential SF novel of the last 30 years.

And boy, are they bad. With the exception of the classic Gollancz sleeve, and a couple of elegant later efforts, the future seems to be about bad haircuts and half-arsed video games. Spot on, you might say. So without further ado...

I don't remember starry-eyed mutant cat statues, but it's been a couple of years. Nice futuristic font, Gollancz.

Something about the abomination on the left reminds me of the dream representations in Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World, cutting edge graphics from a time when MS Paint was all the rage. As for Mr. Punky Widow's Peak (Ray Reardon, anybody?) and his discothèque bathroom tiles, well, points for effort, I suppose. The Standard miss the point rather, I think.

Mullets, wifi keyboards and cyberspace as a series of tubes leaking steam. On the other hand Molly's glasses are decent, and there's a sleazy street-level approximation of Chiba City.

Someone's been watching Terminator on the left. Not a lot of serifs in the future, evidently. On the right another decent stab at Molly let down by futuristic eggs with pictures of... what?... in them.

Rehashing the MS Paint classic for the 10th anniversary was a masterstroke, we can all agree. While the simplicity of the one of the right is welcome in comparison, it's just as well that some binary code warns people the novel might just be one of those geeky scifi things.

Ten years later the colour scheme is better and owes something to Dave McKean's Sandman covers. Oddly the cartoon Molly on the right is a bit Sandman-esque too, but too cartoony for what is anything but a cartoon future.

Case as demon about to launch into an interpretive dance. The future's so bright, etc... Again with the widow's peak, in both of them. I'm going to have to re-read it looking for descriptions of Case's hair. I'm fond of the latter cos it's the one I had when I first read it, but it's more of the same future-as-grid/light/sunglasses that seems to reoccur again and again.

In conclusion, go with Gollancz. If you can afford it.


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