I know. I know. Don’t judge a book by its cover. This age old adage rings true in a number of life’s scenarios. And when taken literally with actual novels, the meaning really hits home. However, I recently read the novel, Kop by Warren Hammond (I finished it just before I started blogging again). This was a great book!
True grit, anti-heroes, and a great detective story to boot. I have to admit, the cover design (by the talented Christian McGrath, whose repertoire includes other popular titles like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series) caught my eye. When I saw the book on the shelf in the bookstore, I thought, “Hmm. That looks quite interesting. Why is that city so dirty and crowded? Who pissed off that dude? Is that his girlfriend? Why is he carrying?”
After a quick barcode scan with the iPhone I pulled up the reviews on Amazon. From there it shot to the top of my must-read-next list.
So a few days later, I settle into the book and after reading through the “self-description” of the main character, I’m a little taken aback. Juno describes himself as:
“slightly darker than average skin and barely kinked hair were the last remnants of my diluted African blood.”
What?! This was certainly a welcome surprise. It’s not often that I read a scifi novel where the main character isn’t white.
But this description did not square with the cover. Juno is not some rough and tumble non-latin looking white guy that I originally imagined. After reading through the author’s description, my mind’s eye saw something like the picture of Laz Alonso at right instead…
Why is this? Juno’s ethnicity has nothing to do with the story. It’s just who he is. The fact that he is of African descent is only mentioned in the story when the author needs to describe how Juno looks to the reader. That’s it!
Personally, I was very impressed that most all of the characters in the book were of one hue or another and not just cornbread white with cornbread white names and cornbread white backgrounds: Jim, John, Robert, Sarah, Jane, Emily. In my opinion, Hammond did a great job with fleshing out a more realistic and likely future where all of humanity has expanded out into the stars and not just white Americans.
So why the switcharoo on the cover art? Why not use an image of Juno that the author writes as having “brown” skin? Would the novel have been less appealing to a book shopper with a “minority” on the cover? Does it matter?
The purpose of the cover art is to attract the eye of a casual browser (like me). It should say, “HEY! Over here!” And once it has your attention, it should give you some semblance of what you will encounter as you dive into its covers. The cover for KOP definitely did that for me. But…but….but….
I don’t have an answer for this. I don’t think I even have an opinion. I thought that I had long reached the place where these types of quirks about race and ethnicity didn’t bother me much. America will be America. But, here I am blogging about it. I would love to hear a comment or two from the author or the artist. Maybe they’ll stumble across this blog entry.
What do you think?
Drop me a comment…
What better way to get back into blogging than with a book review. Over the past year, I have read at least 30 books. And while, I’m not going to go back and retro-review each of them, Ex-KOP by Warren Hammond will give you a good insight into what I have been reading.
This novel is the sequel to KOP which I finished reading a few weeks back. It continues the story of the ultimate anti-hero, Juno Mozambe. Kicked out of KOP (the law on his planet Lagarto), Juno struggles to make ends meet while flying with no cover, a sick wife, and an even worse anger management problem than the last book. Hammond is a pretty good writer and the story plays out very well. I hate when a plot is so obvious that you always feel two steps ahead of the writer. And while you may think you know what’s going on in Ex-KOP, Hammond does a great job of reveals on a need-to-know basis.
I particularly love the characters and their language. Each one plays an important piece in the story and no one is wasted. All of the pieces in this puzzle fit neatly together.
With this only being Hammond’s second novel, he’s definitely hit a nice groove. As I told you a few years back, I am a hard scifi junkie. This book fits my tastes to a T. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
My only negative. The novel cover matches the feel of the story in all aspects except for one. I’ll address that in another post…
On a sidenote, do not visit the author’s website (http://www.warrenhammond.net/index.htm). It’s stuck in 1998 and may cause your modern browser to laugh and cackle at you.
Note to Mr. Hammond: use some of your royalties and get someone to build you an updated site. Just 1 page or 2 will do.