I really like it. It’s simple and calls enough on Star Trek (where the term originated thanks to those ill-fated, low-ranking security officers and engineers included on away missions) to be familiar and nostalgic, but also clear that it’s not a spin-off. It also seems geared more towards a more commercial/general audience (outside of tried-and-true Science Fiction fans) than Scalzi’s previous books with a cover that doesn’t scream its genre. Classy work from Irene Gallo and the team at Tor.
I love love love love love it.
Why do I love it? Let me count the ways.
1. The title of the book is Redshirts. What should the cover be? I mean, duh, this is not rocket science. It’s simple, iconic and obvious in the best way.
2. Also, the cover looks almost exactly like I imagined it should look like in my head.
3. But it actually looks better than I imagined it in my head, because I am not an art designer or an art director, whereas Irene Gallo and Peter Lutjen are, and this is what they do. I love it when reality is better than what you imagined.
4. And aside from any of this, I think this is a magnificent piece of commercial art. Book covers are advertisements, both to readers and to booksellers. This cover works because it’s clear from the cover what you’re getting in the book, and you can see the thing from across a crowded real world bookstore — or in a tiny thumbnail on your favorite online bookstore. It’s an eye-catcher, and if you know what a “red shirt” is, and almost everyone does at this point, it’ll make you smile.
In short: Love love love love love it. I really could not be happier with this cover.
Tor.com also shows off various alternate covers, all of which are just as nice:
In particular, I like the third cover, which is kitschy and fun. Scalzi suggests that these covers might be even more suited to a commercial audience and it’s easy to see these sitting alongside Chabon, Grossman, Cronin or Fforde in the ‘Literature’ section of any given bookstore. I love how the ‘Redshirt’ on the first cover is made anonymous by the title of the novel, very clever.
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed. Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy belowdecks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.
Being a Scalzi novel, you know it’s going to be fun, engaging and a blazing fast read. I can also almost guarantee that the protagonist will be exceptionally witty, handsome and able to get out of sticky situations with nothing but a bit of elbow grease, a lot of good luck and some fairly acidic dialogue. I’m excited.