This is one of those books I read about on a blog somewhere discussing “forgotten classics” of SF. The premise sounded neat: a pair of heroes (more psychic EMTs than cops) roams the weird streets of a future New York City that’s fragmented into communes.
The novel began its life as a series of novellas in Analog before going the fix-up route, so it’s no wonder that the Analog cover with its Apocalypse Chair is the most apt, sort of. The second picture is the first paperback novel printing and it’s your standard 1970s SF moodscape, like for real man, without any indication of setting or character. All it needs is a sketchy disembodied head screaming and you could call it Operation: Mindcrime. The next with the black cover is the
Prime Books Wildside Press edition that’s in print now and it’s the copy I read, and, well, that’s the dullest of the bunch. It’s a road sign.
All of which is a shame because Missing Man is a fun book. It’s dated for sure, and a bit eyebrow-raising whenever the conflict centers on rescuing someone from a “crazy” ethnic or racial minority, but it’s also weirdly prescient in the way its fragmented NYC resembles the Internet: a world where people have segregated themselves from each other along the lines of their interests and via their computers so they never need to encounter someone who disagrees with them.
Missing Man may be wrong in the particulars and technology of this fragmentation, but I suspect it’s right in depicting some of the results.
It’s time for another edition of one book, four covers. This time Lolly Willowes.
Once again I read the NYRB edition. That’s the one all the way over on the left. I think it’s a bit lousy–misleading and unappealing. It calls to mind folk artwork and certainly doesn’t tell you what the book’s likely to be about. The second one… umm.. yeah… First I guess it was published during the 60s/70s Gothic boom where a cover required an old house, a young woman, and some stuffy disapproving mysterious dudes. I’m surprised she’s not wearing a nightgown. Second, the ad-copy:
A charming woman–a midnight meeting–the scent of witchcraft “remarkable… pungent and satisfying”.
From now on I am going to say “remarkable… pungent and satisfying” whenever I smell anything.
The third cover is great. It screams THIS BOOK IS ABOUT WITCHES DEAL WITH IT! while also suggesting a playful irreverence. The fourth cover is a bit too much. Again it’s misleading and takes itself too seriously. It’s much too dark and brooding. As with the second cover it plays up the Old House aspect of the story, which is really a negligible part of the whole story.
Here’s an assortment of covers from the book I recently finished. I get a kick out of seeing how each would have shaped my expectations.
I read the second one from the left. It’s not a bad cover. Somewhat classy. The first one brings to mind a 1950s young adult novel — not a bad thing and I like the artwork. The third one looks like an off-market, but probably decent D&D supplement (maybe a Harn module). And the last one is kind of all over the place like the artist proposed three covers and the publisher decided to go with all of them. None of them make you really want to read the book, nor do they make the characters look appealing. Well, maybe the fourth one does or at least it comes the closest. The rest, eh, not so much. Which is a shame, because it’s a pretty damn good book if you like your vikings mixed in with Dumas-style adventurous swashbuckling.