So. Waterstones has a new Import Section, and I muse over American book covers.

I’ve actually been sitting on the knowledge of this since last weekend, but today I went into Waterstones on Piccadilly, walked to the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section, and once more basked in the glory of all these books that ordinarily I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on without resorting to A) searching out the Forbidden Planet shop I know is lurking somewhere in this city, I’ve been there after all, or B) the internet in physical form or C) the internet in digital form.

Take Lois McMaster Bujold, for instance. A fantastic and prolific writer, yet most of the books I have by her are in digital format because I desperately wanted to read them and I couldn’t find them in any of my local bookshops, and didn’t want to wait for them to be posted to me. The only time I’d actually seen a book by her on a shelf was one single book, all by itself among the other authors. I’m not saying that other book shops aren’t stocking her work, I’m sure Forbidden Planet does; I’m just saying that I personally haven’t seen her work stocked to a great extent in this country up until now.

Now, I stood and basked in the warm glow of her name upon the spines directly in front of me. I was momentarily distracted by a whole row of Mercedes Lackey with some frankly astonishing covers, but my attention was drawn back to my lady love. At last I picked two books from a series of hers that I hadn’t yet read – the Chalion series – and marveled again at the covers.

These were two gorgeous covers. I felt as if I were looking at Renaissance or Pre-Raphelite paintings, rather than books. Witness these, both by David Bowers:

Capture paladin of Souls Capture The Hallowed Hunt

American covers, I’ve noticed, are sometimes quite different from English covers. Take Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings. Here’s the American cover, by artist Michael Whelan:

Capture The Way of Kings

Although, let’s do this image full justice; here it is in full:

Capture The Way of Kings 2

That? That is just too damn pretty.

And this is the English cover:

Capture The Way of Kings English

I won’t say that English covers are simpler – often they can be just as elaborate and fancy – but my limited experience with the new Waterstones’ import section suggests that American fantasy publications, at least, tend to go in for covers that look like paintings, bright and colourful.

Also, some more things to notice about the covers of my purchases, such as the texture. Instead of the type of texture one usually gets with an English paperback, shiny and smooth, these paperbacks feel slightly grainy, almost like plastic. It’s a curious experience to touch and hold them. And in the case of some of them – though by no means all – there’s a whole lot more blurb on the backs than I’m accustomed to, detailing a lot of the plot straight out. I was always told to keep blurbs short and succinct in order to whet the appetite, less is more, but perhaps more is even better here.

I really do hope that this import section is here to stay, as well as the new crime import section. I have a great need to explore further.

Finally, plugging time! Not only do I implore on my knees that you check out Lois McMaster Bujold, who is an absolutely brilliant and funny and wonderful writer (look no further than here: http://www.dendarii.com/ ) I also recommend this rather big beauty that I picked up today as well:

Capture Sailor Twain or the mermaid in the hudson

An absolutely outstanding comic that was completed on the web a while ago. I can recommend the website: http://sailortwain.com/ but do please try to get hold of the book as well; Siegel is an extremely talented author and artist, so do try to support him!

A warning; the titular mermaid starts off bare breasted, and…well, she never really stops being bare breasted. She don’t need no stinkin’ seashells!!!

And, to round it off, I recommend Brandon Sanderson. The Way of Kings, Elantris, The Emperor’s Soul; doesn’t matter what he’s written, I recommend it. Check him out here: http://www.brandonsanderson.com/

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