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What is it with books getting republished with atrocious covers? It happens all the time when I read a library book more than a decade old, decide I like the series, drop by Collins or Dymocks to buy it and find that it’s been re-issued with some terrible new cover.

Let me show you an example in Green Mars, the middle novel in Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic Mars trilogy. I’m not using for its literary value (since I still can’t make up my mind whether I like the trilogy or not; granted, Green Mars is the best of the three), but rather because it’s a perfect example of covers that gradually slide down the sucky slope.

Here’s the first cover, for the original edition in 1993. (edit: Closer inspection reveals that it is not, in fact, the original cover; that was probably the airship one. But doing them in anything but best-to-worst order would kill the argument so shut up.)

It’s a great science fiction cover. Nice illustrations, montage of scenes, captures the vast and beautiful nature of the story etc. Couldn’t be happier with it.

A few years down the track we have this:

Okay, not too shabby. Less impressive than the last one, but still a pretty good cover. Airship over green field, snow on Mars, sense of adventure. Let’s see how things go for the next reissue in the late 90’s…

…Oh dear.

Gone is the colourful hand-drawn illustration of the previous two covers, replaced with computer generated rubbish that reminds me of the shitty CGI desktops you find when using Google Image search for practically anything. I’ve seen the versions of this cover for Red and Blue Mars, too; it’s essentially the same canyon, but bare red/filled with water respectively. This is a vomit-worthy cover, but still better than the most recent one, a publication only a few years old which I found in my local Borders:

 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOORING

 

No matter how bad a cover is, it’s always better than no cover at all, which is essentially what this one is. It’s not even fucking green. If you’re going to have a blank cover with a tiny picture, for this of all trilogies, at least use different fucking colours instead of making them all blue.

Another example: the original publication for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Tedium Time series, and the 2000s version which is the only one you will ever be able to find in a modern bookstore.

Which would you prefer? Image or no image? The question is rhetorical and anyone who responds to it will be shot.

I don’t know why they do this. Some people have suggested that it’s a copyright issue; that the cover artist retains the rights and refuses to lease them again for a republication of the same book. If that’s the case, why not just hire a new artist?

Or is the truth much stupider? Do the marketing people at all these publishing houses think readers actually want these dull, boring, bland, generic covers with no zazz to them whatsoever? Is that why they try to push them as “collector’s editions?”

I’m not averse to having different covers for different press editions of the same book. It makes them more interesting. But every cover should actually be eye-catching, i.e. have a fucking picture of something on it. Should I ever have something published, and then have it re-published with a cover that has absolutely no allure to it, I will… I will get very huffy but do nothing about it because I’ll be lucky enough to have a book on the market, that’s what I’ll do.

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23. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (1971) 204 p.

"We can't stop here! This is bat country!"

I really loved this, which I wasn’t expecting too. I haven’t seen the movie, and all I knew about the book was that it was a semi-autobiography detailing the drug-addled adventures of an acid-soaked writer during one week in Vegas. I was dubious as to how entertaining that might be. I needn’t have worried.

I’m not sure how closely the story correlates to real life, but essentially, Thompson (as his alter ego Raoul Duke) is sent to Las Vegas to cover a racing tournament, and brings along his gigantic Samoan attorney who is as much of an irredeemable basehead as he is. The duo spend a week roaring around Vegas in a red convertible, the trunk containing enough drugs to “kill an entire platoon of United States Marines,” and essentially bare their asses at every law they find. They trash hotel rooms, terrify hitchhikers, and infiltrate a police convention on drug crimes, all while speeding off their heads and hallucinating about “huge pterodactyls lumbering around the corridors in pools of fresh blood” or “two women fucking a polar bear.” The sense of an alternately fascinating and horrifying seven day drug trip is perfectly supplemented by Ralph Steadman’s grotesque, blotchy illustrations, scattered throughout the book (my only complaint is that the scenes they depict usually occurred about twelve pages ago).

You’d imagine that two hundred pages of acid trips would grow old fast, but Thompson’s skill as a writer is such that it maintains its lustre all the way through. Raoul Duke is one of those loveable characters who lives purely on fanatical, reckless impulse, with no consequences to either his freedom or health. Any real person who took the amount of drugs Raoul and his attorney do would be dead in seconds and probably also find themselves immortalised as an oddity in a journal of medicine. Likewise, a brush with the law and twenty years in prison would also be inevitable; unlike the health consequences, however, Thompson sweats over this with constant paranoia. Fortunately for the reader, he has a great sense of humour about it all, first seen when they pick up a hitchiker in the opening chapter:

How long can we maintain? I wondered. How long before one of us starts raving and jabbering at this boy? What will he think then? This same lonely desert was the last known home of the Manson family. Will he make that grim connection when my attorney starts screaming about bats and huge manta rays coming down on the car? If so – well, we’ll just have to cut his head off and bury him somewhere. Because it goes without saying that we can’t turn him loose. he’ll report us at once to some kind of outback law enforcement agency, and they’ll run us down like dogs.
Jesus! Did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did they hear me? I glanced over at my attorney, but he seemed oblivious – watching the road, driving our Great Red Shark along at a hundred and ten or so. There was no sound from the back seat.
Maybe I’d better have a chat with this boy, I thought. Perhaps if I explain things, he’ll rest easy.
Of course. I leaned around in the seat and gave him a fine big smile… admiring the shape of his skull.

My other favourite quote was on the topic of highway police:

No cop was ever born who isn’t a sucker for a finely-executed high-speed Controlled Drift all the way around one of those cloverleaf freeway interchanges.

The place of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a watershed moment in twentieth century culture was deservedly won. There’s a whole slew of themes and messages in this book, which Thompson described as a “vile epitaph for the drug culture of the sixties,” but I was enjoying it too much to bother thinking about them. Fundamentally, it’s just an exhilerating, high-octane journey through the neon lights, vomit-streaked hotel rooms and warped culture of 1971 Las Vegas. A hell of a toboggan ride!

Books: 23/50
Words: 7010

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

So now you're a fucking fire warden too huh

This was another episode (like The Economist) in which more happened in the off-island storyline than the on-island storyline, which I don’t necessarily dislike. What I do dislike is episodes that don’t feature either of the two most interesting storylines: Team Awesome solving mysteries on the freighter, and Locke’s continual loss of control over even his own pathetic, deluded spirit quest. Dude cracks me up. Anyway:

1. So, I guess Danielle is dead after all (and Carl but who cares). That’s a shame, because I’d heard she was supposed to have a flashback episode this season. Incidentally, it was quite surprising to see that the mercenaries even bothered to bury them.
2. I still fucking hate Keamy and want to see him get shot in the face. Predicting it will be Sayid who eventually does the honours.
3. Hurley’s quiet confession that he’d been seeing Charlie, and subsequent dire warning, was very spooky, as was Jack seeing his father at the hospital. The cinematography in those night scenes was particularly good.
4. Bernard is becoming a more and more useful survivor, with his leet Morse Code/Novacane skills, which is nice to see. Even if it is only happening because the beach camp is running short of characters.
5. They’re being really slack on the discipline with the actor that plays Jin. Almost overnight, he suddenly has long hair and butch biceps.
6. Hilariously ironic: Sun saying to Jin “They’re not going to help us,” while she and Jin stand around doing jack shit, and Daniel and Charlotte gather medical supplies to save Jack’s life.
7. Jack forcing Kate to watch his surgery when she was so clearly uncomfortable with it was kinda jerky. So was the idea of staying conscious in the first place. God, but he is a stubborn dickhead.
8. I am a MAN with a heart of flint, but Aaron and his stuffed orca still made me “awwwwww.”

A good episode. Not as good as the previous one, due to the lack of the two best storylines, but the flashforward was interesting enough to make up for it.

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