Front, back, and spine of a cover for a literary science fiction book. Below is a summary of the book, followed by specific guidance for the design.
HIGH LEVEL SUMMARY:
On the surface, thirteen convicted men are sent to the wilderness with a suicide mission. This is the justice system; if you survive, your sentence is considered served. If you do not, all the better. These men simply want to survive each other, the jungle, and the savages in it. And to go home.
Beneath the surface, they wrestle with each other, with questions of guilt, forgiveness, identity, and manhood.
See the blurb at the end of this section for additional detail/tone.
I would like a cover that evokes a sense of place. It should have a mood of stillness, and lean toward noir, though interspersed light would be good.
Science fiction covers typically show the setting and a figure that would be the main character or characters (see attached Noir cover). Literature covers typically have a calligraphic art style (see Catcher in the Rye cover) and lean toward design or abstraction. I recommend focusing on the science fiction type cover, but if you can weave in some elements, or overlay, a more literary style, even better.
- 13 soldiers, but not trained, hardened men. Convicted men who are conscripted, coerced, discouraged. (Note: the Black Hawk Down image is attached because it captures the mood of a tired, discouraged soldier so well. Just reference it for mood)
- Book is first person, focusing on one of these convict-soldiers
- A satellite weapon that fires a single shot from orbit, as a pillar of white light
- A tinker, one who works on machines and circuitry in his garage and basement
- Remorse, regret, hope, longing
- A futuristic “vertical city” (see pinterest images)
Elements to avoid:
• No high action
• Not whimsical
• I don’t favor photorealism
• Do not make the characters or a human figure the largest, most prominent image
• Do not dwell on the “savages” motif
I’ve pinned and notated (the notes will be helpful!) some images at:
The cover should have a front, spine, and back. The front should have the title and author’s name, with greater emphasis on the title. Both should be visible in a thumbnail image.
Title: The Unforgiven
Author Name: Daniel H. Murphy
Dimensions: inches, 5.25 x 8 x 1.25 thick
Spine: Title and author name, emphasis on the title
BACK BLURB (may be updated):
I need to tell you everything.
What happened when they sent us to the Outlands, doomed men with a doomed task, abandoned in a place where even the trees went savage. The State told us to kill. They left us to die. We wondered which they expected of us.
What happened to the twelve men with me. The pure hearts and the rotten. All condemned, most afraid. How respect and fear and hate tangled together until the threads broke and you looked into blank, staring eyes to ask if it ended well. To ask what you could have done.
What I did before, the guilt and regret that dogged me even in that place until I knew – they are a part of me and always will be. They always were. The ones I love bear the testament. I bear the shame.
I need to tell you that everything has changed.
UPDATE - 4/20/16
If you want more reading, I wanted to provide more detail on the book and characters. I don't want to overload with too much detail or too many constraints, so just browse this if you are curious.
MAIN CHARACTER DESCRIPTION:
The main character is nicknamed “Thirteen”, as he is the last to arrive, and we don’t learn his real name until the last few pages. He is a talented engineer who works as a janitor out of a sense of burdensome duty and his moral principles. He is in his late 30s. He is proud in his heart but when push comes to shove, his fear of the other men wins out. He is not overly large or strong. All the men have been given close-cropped haircuts when admitted to the prison.
He is wrestling with:
- Grief, at a death in the family and broken relationships
- Guilt, at his role in the accident
- Anger/bitterness, at the injustice of being condemned and punished when he doesn’t believe he deserves it
- Feeling lost, not knowing how everything went wrong, what he can do to fix it, or what kind of person he should be
- Fear, as a janitor thrown into the jungle with violent men, ordered to kill the local savages and survive the wilderness
TONE OF THE TEAM:
The group of men is diverse. There is an old man called Boots who is stoic and plods along, constant in every situation. There is a man called Ivan who wants to control everyone and is always instigating power struggles. There is a man called Taj who is an unrepentant assassin, his only fear that the incompetent men he is with will cause his death. There is a giant man called Kodiak who, in his heart, wants to protect people but when he gets angry will lash out and hurt or kill. And a man named Abel who is truly innocent and a good man, who is always fighting to keep the men whole and together.
These men are in constant flux, uniting when there is a battle and arguing or fighting when there is not. Fear, ambition, compassion, fragile friendships, all drive them to do good and bad things even as the jungle slowly erodes them; there is no way out.
SOME QUOTES FROM THE BOOK THAT CAPTURE DIFFERENT EMOTIONS:
“Some will tell you that the Outlands have a way of changing a man, but they are liars. They simply scrape you raw and show you who you always were.”
“I wish I could take it back. That and so much else.”
“I wanted to live. Now I just want things to be right.”
“I believed I could give my best and things would turn out alright. They didn’t. They aren’t alright now, and they won’t be.”
“Behind me lay fierce words and hot tears. Spent trust, spurned love, a broken heart. The earth had charred long before today. I did not want to go back. The weight terrified me.”
“I knew what was happening; my body was trying to survive. I knew what was happening but it felt like death. It was prehistoric, feral, the instincts programmed by millennia upon millennia of death and mistakes. I felt savage; I'd felt it before but never this intensely. And every time before, it was a misfire of evolution. This was who we really were, though. This was what we'd evolved for. To kill and, by killing, to live. I wanted to fight and flee and scream.”
“All too often it came to that, all of us sitting together, each alone.”
“What have I done, Thirteen? I’ve worn the beautiful lines off of everything good.”
“Looking at the curling smoke that morning, the nascent hope finally broke the surface, like a wooden spar floating up next to a drowning man.”
“I breathed in the metal dust and closed my eyes, my mind stepping into the machine to gaze at the network until all the paths unified into a beautiful whole.”
“I lay there for a long time. The morning quiet and the sighing high above wove a spell I didn’t want to break. The air was cool and wet and it felt clean on my skin, leaving a light coat of dew. I breathed it deep into my lungs and felt the chill spread inside of me. The dust and tang of the city was absent but in its place was dirt and tree dander, moss and bark. It tasted green.
When the morning light pierced through the leaves the wet air caught it, making beams that lanced the space beneath the canopy until trees or branches caught them, splashing them back in spots of brilliant white. Nothing reached the ground and I still lay still in the cool shadow."
“There is beauty out there. There is still goodness out there.”