Zoe’s Tale French Cover

A reader in France pointed me to my French publisher’s page for Zoé, the French version of Zoe’s Tale, which includes this spectacular cover, by Didier Florentz:

The creature with Zoë, in case you’re wondering, would be an Obin (although whether Hickory or Dickory I am unsure. There’s the second Obin visible in the corner; it’s a wrap-around illustration). This is actually the second version of the Obin I’ve seen recently, the other coming from Vincent Chong, in the upcoming Subterranean Press signed, limited edition of The Last Colony. Both versions are exceedingly cool, and I like that there are variations in their imagining of the species. Also, should Tor ever do a version of ZT specifically intended for the YA market, they could do worse than to use this cover as a reference point. This is a lovely illustration.

51 thoughts on “Zoe’s Tale French Cover

  1. Haven’t seen the Vincent Chang one yet, but it really was only with Zoe’s Tale that I got a good read on what they looked like and this illustration is pretty close to my latest view of them. Am I wrong, or did you get far more specific about how they looked in ZT? I don’t recall having a great sense of how they looked in GB or LC (I may have read too quickly, of course).

  2. *Fantastic* cover! I wish more US covers were as well done, and actually did as good a job of conveying a sense of what the book is about.

  3. I find the idea of a young adult book subtitled an “old man’s war novel” amusingly ironic.

    …and yes, having a cover that actually has something to do with the contents is refreshingly novel.

  4. That is a great cover.

    My daughter & I have had fun trying to describe our own mental pictures of the Obin. I remembered the spider/giraffe starting point, but she jumped from that origin point into this great description of seeing them as (and I’m paraphrasing as best I can) some sort of “giant upside-down shrimp things with no faces.”

    Also: Yay for the French version’s accent reviving the Great Lost Dieresis Debate. (No, not really.)

  5. Great drawing, I absolutely adore that rendering of the Obin. Very, very nice.

    I’m not sure how I feel about really specific book covers though. If I picked that book up having not read Zoe’s Tale, the cover would more or less dictate how I pictured the Obin in my head when I read it.

    Is that a good thing?

    I’m not sure. On the one hand, that IS a really kickass drawing and would get people interested in picking up the book. On the other hand, having a picture of the main characters spelled out for me takes away some of the wonder and imagination that I think you probably mean to keep in there when you describe these characters, right John?

  6. Dude, you’ve used up your lifetime supply of good cover art.

    Either your luck is over, or you’re perhaps about to finally put a stake in the perennial industrywide problem of having sucky covers on great books…

  7. Patrick:

    I think you’re overthinking the cover.

    Covers are one artist’s interpretation of the work. It’s not definitive, especially in the case of my work, in which I leave lots of physical description unstated.

  8. That looks pretty good. Artwork depicting alien creatures dreamed up by science fiction writers can be really hit and miss. For example, I have never seen a depiction of one of Niven’s Puppeteers that I thought was worth the paper it was drawn on.

  9. John:

    I understand what you’re saying, and I know a cover picture is just one person’s interpretation. (And a really cool one at that.)

    Still, I think a really detailed one tends to skew the reader’s visualization of the characters toward one artist’s conception.

    Like you said, you keep lots of the physical descriptions purposely unstated so people can have fun conjuring up their own visualizations.

    If the main character is illustrated in full color on the front, however, it’s hard (for me anyway) to conjure up an image that doesn’t fall at least partially inline with that portrayal.

    Maybe that just means my imagination is lazy, I dunno.

  10. Odd – no one mentions Zoe. The aliens don’t match my versions of Hickory and Dickory, but they’re good. Zoe, on the other hand, is almost perfectly matched with my imagination.

  11. The agricultural backdrop is what brings it all together too…..it helps to drive home that Zoe had her formative years in a farming community. The familiar down-home farming imagery contrasts so strikingly well with the otherness of the Obin. It ties in on a thematic level with one of your main points: that Zoe is a “normal” girl from a “normal” place (well at least after she moved to Huckleberry) who just happens to be the queen of the Obin. Hmmm, I guess she really *is* like her (adopted) dad…..”normal” salt-of-the-earth types thrown into remarkable situations, and rising to the occasion.

  12. Personally, I decided in my mind early on that the Obin looked like Gumby. I was very disappointed when the giraffe reference came out.

    Unfortunately, this cover doesn’t look like my mental picture of Zöe at all, but that’s ok, it’s still a great cover.

  13. That is an awesome cover.

    However, it is missing LASERS. Perhaps if the french and german cover designers combined their powers you could get a LASER Obintron 3000 on the cover?

  14. John,

    I love that you blog about the cover art of your books. That’s really good for your karma, and makes chewers of crayons the world over nod, very nearly smile and say “That Scalzi’s all right” before getting back to snorting Absinthe and drawing boobies.

  15. What a beautiful cover- I actually just finished reading it yesterday, and Zoe certainly matches up with my mental picture of her. Nicely done- thanks for sharing it.

  16. That is an awesome cover. I’m pretty sure the Obin featured in the picture is Hickory because it looks like it’s up on the roof with Zoe. Dickory in the corner there seems like he’s on the ground, presumably in a state of panic over whether or not Zoe is going to fall.

  17. That’s Hickory. Clearly.

    Excellent cover. Kind of makes me want to print it out and make a custom slipcover for my copy of Zoe’s Tale. Or maybe learn French and order a copy of this edition. Croissant!

    I just finished reading the last 50 pages Zoe’s Tale this morning, by the way (yeah, I waited for the paperback). Thanks for making me get all weepy and sniffley just before work.

  18. You probably don’t need yet one more comment telling you how awesome that cover is, but I just can’t help it. That is freakin’ stunning.

  19. i think i’m the french reader. :-)
    i’m impatient having the book in my hands (25 june : my birthday :-)).
    i don’t undestand this sentence on the cover “old man’s war novel”?
    i prefer the cover without this…
    thks to the editors : L’Atalante.
    good job and great people.

  20. Oh, wow! That French cover is amazing! I feel like the artist reached inside my imagination and grabbed the Obin directly from there.

  21. I too like this cover much better than the US one, and totally agree that this would make a great YA cover. I don’t think it’s offputting to other readers though.

    @32: WOOT!

  22. I think it’s Hickory. dunno why, just do. I don’t see the infamous collar on it though.

    Sorry, don’t mean to be picking no nits. I think it’s a great interpretation for a cover.

  23. Oh hey, congrats John for getting your name above the title on the cover. Though actually… looks like your French (and German?) publisher has done that from the beginning.

    Just waiting for Tor or another NorAm publisher to do this as well, so we can move on to the more important watch of when your name appears in larger typeface than the title.

  24. I had a hard enough time imagining the Obin from your minimalist description but I had a sense that they were taller or larger in general. I have no quarrel with this rendition, though. I’ve been contemplating crocheting an Amigurumi interpretation but I may not get to it before Confluence.

  25. John:

    I see both you and Patrick’s points about the cover depicting characters/species/races etc. I agree that it is one artists rendition of that, but at the same time once that image is in my head, at least, it is difficult to remove it. For instance, when I read The New Jedi Order series of Star Wars, I could, no matter what, get the cover images of the Yuuzhan Vong out of my head.

    On another note, that cover is awesome none-the-less.

  26. @Anne KG Murphy. Unfortunately, my daughter’s charter school doesn’t teach French. They offer Spanish and Latin, Stephanie takes Latin (I’m currently imagining what a Latin cover might look like.) Hmmm… perhaps I could donate a copy or two to the public high schools.

    BTW my daughter pronounced the cover “Very cool!”

    John, I’ve been meaning to ask: Do authors have any control over the covers of their books or is it whatever the marketing department of publisher decides?

  27. I like that they translate “Old Man’s War” as “Old Man and the War”. Nice to have a Hemingway allusion on your cover too.

  28. “Authors generally have no control whatsoever.” That explains many really horrible book covers I’ve seen. One would hope the marketing people would at least have some idea of what the book might be about.

  29. Joyce, major publishers have an art department that talks with the editing and marketing teams. Irene Gallo over at TOR (John’s publisher) does a stellar job (pun intended). You can guess who the expected buyer is for John’s books because of the cover, and the art is still good.

    Personally, I prefer less of a spacewar type cover, but I respect what TOR is doing because the art is telling the prospective buyer that the books might appeal to them because other books they know of had similar covers with impressionistic colored space battles. This is why John Harris is on more covers than Donato (which is on my edition. you can see both covers here) . I like the Donato better, but I’d wager that the Harris is more marketable. Not that Donato isn’t marketable. He did a great run for Mike Resnick, to the point where, if I see a guy who’s not in uniform toting a gun and looking bad ass, and it’s Donato’s style, I figure it’s probably a Resnick, or someone like him.

    John Harris did the covers for what’s probably the most recognizable edition of Ender’s Game. You can read about why Irene Gallo like Harris’ work so much here and her general feelings on cover art and what “sells” here.

  30. @Josh Jasper.

    Thanks. Interesting links and discussions. Just from my long history of visiting bookstores, I’ve seen various cover fads come and go– not so much at the houses that specialize in sf/fantasy, but the “major” publishers. I was curious about that whole aspect of publishing and I wondered about the acuracy of the marketers predictions of what sells versus what inspires readers to pick up a book.

  31. I guess I’m the only one who looked at that cover and at first glance thought, “Jar Jar?”

  32. My own personal cover horror story: Decades ago, I wrote a book on the Forth programming language. I think I called it something unoriginal like “The Forth Programming Language”. When I finally saw the actual book, I discovered that it had been renamed “Fourth: The Fourth Generation Language”. Not only did they imply that the language was something it entirely wasn’t (A “Fourth Generation Language” is something with a definition, and that definition does not fit Forth) but they also misspelled the subject of the book.

    The first problem was never fixed, but they made little stickers to fix the second.

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