Friday Faceoff – Old friends, like old swords, are still trusted best… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffclassic/vintagecovers


This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring CLASSIC SCI FI covers.

I’ve attempted to find an older science fiction book to feature that I particularly enjoyed – and discovered that I generally don’t read vintage stories, these days. So I finally settled upon To Say Nothing of the Dog – Book 2 of the Oxford Time Travel series by Connie Willis, one of the most magnificently funny and joyful books I’ve read in the past few years – see my review. Which isn’t a surprise when a lot of the inspiration of it comes from the wonderfully ageless Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.

This edition was produced by Spectra in January 1998. It’s busy and the scenes do relate directly to the content – but that’s all I can say in praise of it. You’d never guess that this is a humorous book with a strong Victorian inspiration, looking at this cover. And given that a cover should also give a sense of the overall tone, then it is doesn’t hit the mark.

Published in May 2013 by Gollanczs, this cover again successfully tackles much of the subject matter within the book. But that dark blue and distorted view of Coventry Cathedral evokes a sense of dread or foreboding – where is the glorious lazing along the river? The sheer joy of the farcical plot and the wonderfully eccentric characters? Nope, not getting a HINT of it here…

This edition, published by J’ai Lu in May 2000, has taken us onto the water. But while the sepia tones and the stiffly posed characters on the riverbank do give me a strong sense of the Victorian era – I’m expecting either a man-eating eel to suddenly erupt from the water, or some ghostly menace to creep from the head of one of those spooky-looking characters. Where is the joy and madcap chaos and sheer cleverness of this wonderful book? I know, I know… I’m sounding like a cracked record!

This edition, produced by Allen & Unwin in February 2012 has at least effectively evoked the correct tone – I don’t get the sense that an axe murderer is about to jump out from behind the bridge. And we also have the dog of the title. BUT anyone who has spent any time on this site will know that I LOATHE textboxes and here is a ghastly example slap bang in the middle of the cover.

This Japanese edition, published by Hayakawa Shobō in April 2004, FINALLY hits the mark. Here we have the main characters punting down the river. I love the fact that the design has been slightly tweaked so there is an eastern flavour to it. But shame on alll those UK publishers who dismally failed to evoke the zany Englishness that Willis, a remarkably talented American author, so wonderfully wrote. Needless to say – this is my favourite! Have you read the book? Which cover do you prefer?

21 responses »

  1. Wow, with the first three covers, I never would have guessed that the book was meant to be humorous. They’re all so dark. I really like the last two. I’m a sucker for a dog on a cover, which is the appeal of the fourth one, and the last cover is just perfect.

    • Thank you, Suzanne. I’d begun to think it was just me, when nearly every cover I encountered was just so grim! And it’s a joyous book… Thank goodness for the last two:).

    • Yes! Ironic nicely sums it up… Seriously though, the poor cover choice – and I’d like to say there were others out there that were better, but there weren’t – must really hurt book sales. Or folks come away with a book that they think is one thing, before discovering it’s something else. And that NEVER ends well!

  2. OK, I’m weird, but I like the colorful confusion of the 1st one. I know, I know, it tells nothing of the book, but OH! the appeal!
    I went back to read the review and found that I had commented I wanted to read it, and the audiobook sounded like just the thing. Now, I will put actions to my words. Promise.

  3. Not knowing the story, I was initially drawn to the blue cover because of the eye peering out at me. LOL But, then as I read what the book was about, I was drawn to the one with the yellow background and bulldog. I agree, though, that the text box breaks up the picture and isn’t ideal. So, I’m with you on the last one with the boat on the river and a dog aboard.

    • Thank you, Wanda:)). I’m aware that I descended into a bit of a rant – but if I were Connie Willis I’d be very cross about some of the these covers that give a completely false idea about the book.

    • Yes, I’ll give you that:). I think what I found particularly frustrating is that it is actually a good cover – it’s just completely wrong for this particular book! Not that I got ranty or opinionated over this one. At all… Much…

  4. I like your choice. It made me smile – not sure if the intention or not?
    I was just going to ask if this was a reference to Three Men and a Boat when I scrolled back and saw your comment.
    Lynn 😀

    • If you want a book with a series of chaotic misfortunes, a lot of memorable eccentric characters and a very slow-burn romance – To Say Nothing of the Dog – then I can highly recommend this one:)).

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