Australian book cover designer WH Chong has won numerous awards for his book designs. And speaking to Spook Magazine, he singled out some of his favorite book cover designs for classic science fiction. (Which also happen to be for some of the best books ever written.)
About the book cover above, Chong writes:
There is a sense of foreboding. You know that any human figure would be a very small thing. In others words, there is a big cosmic environment, which is what you want science fiction to do with you. And then you turn to the back cover and you think, ‘Oh My God’, because that is actually the whole point of the story. It is a fictional depiction of a geo stationary elevators, an idea first thought up in real life by a Russian scientist and Arthur C Clarke used it in this book. It is probably my favourite of Clarke’s books.
(Although after Googling for a minute, I see that the same cover art also appeared on a book by Lucius Shepard.)
He also picks out covers for two of Ursula K. Le Guin’s most famous books:
Looking at these now they are my idea of perfect science fiction covers. Obviously I didn’t know this when I first read them. The Dispossessed is a story of rivalry about two planets, one of which claims to be run on socialist grounds but is actually quite authoritarian, the other is capitalist and more overtly totalitarian. The image is a very simple, iconic, memorable image. There is this very neat thing, where the hero, who looks very heroic, is looking at a world. But you can break it down. The figure is very much the same as the man in the famous 1818 painting by Caspar David Friedrick, ‘Wanderer About A Sea of Fog’....
They look especially good side by side. There is a red themed book cover, The Dispossessed, and a blue book, The Left Hand of Darkness. The latter was about a planet where men and women share biological characteristics. The protagonist is an ambassador from another empire who comes to the planet and discovers the population can change sex according to who they partner with. This is incredible discovery for the ambassador, who I think is a man, and of course, the whole point of this is to discuss how the politics and power structure works because there are no men, as such, in charge.
The cover for the The Left Hand of Darkness is cold but also warm at the same time. You are moving into a very cold place, but you know that there is something warm in the guise of the city in the background. That is why it is such an attractive cover. It evokes the same feeling you have when you are at the end of a long journey and you are driving through a dark night and you see that glowing window in the farmhouse.
There are tons more covers, and a lot more fascinating comments about them, over at Spook Magazine.