Ender's Game Cover Art: Introduction

As we have plenty of time to pass until we get to see the first official stills and trailers for the Ender's Game movie, I will devote a series of articles on the imagery in Ender's Game book covers. How did cover artists from more than 20 countries imagine the world of Ender for the past 27 years? We have compiled an extensive cover art gallery for Ender News where you can browse all international book covers we have collected, though it is nowhere near complete; there are just too many old international releases where we couldn't get our hands on a good cover scan. You will notice a huge variety in styles, themes and quality in our gallery, and I will present you some of my favorite covers in this series.


Before we look at those covers, we should ask ourselves: what makes a good cover? What is the purpose of a book cover?

Many people will say that the cover sells the book, but that is not entirely true. The cover sells the back cover, it should stand out, grab your attention, so you pick it up and see what it's all about. Should the cover image accurately depict the theme or mood of the book? That's probably a task too big for many of the more complex novels, but I tend to agree that the mood of the book should go well with the cover image, as it would be a big negative for the reader if he finds out while reading that what he imagines the book world to look like is nothing like the cover art suggested.

A good cover is one that the reader likes before and after reading the book. The cover image will always and forever be associated with the novel: it is often the only image the reader has outside of his head, and therefore he has to be and stay comfortable with it.

For Ender's Game we find an almost unprecedentedly wide range of designs over the many international releases. Some covers look like generic Sci-Fi art, others are so far off-topic that it seems unlikely that the illustrator has ever seen a single line of text. But many (or even most) cover images look like serious effort went into the design to either capture the mood of the book or to bring a particular scene from the book to life on the cover.

The image shows an excerpt of the wonderful cover art from Sam Weber for the 2010 U.S. eBook version, published by Tor Books. Beth Meacham, Tor's editor for Orson Scott Card, had the following to say about the challenge of creating an Ender's Game cover image:
Covers for this book have always been a problem. It's not a children's book, but when you ask for a painting of a ten year old boy, it's hard not to get something that looks like a children's book. This can lead to problems, like the email I recently got from a school librarian who was sure that there was some mistake; this children's book had "bad words" in it.
Sam Weber's Ender still looks like a 10-year-old boy, but - while very likeable - he's not cute, and his eyes look much older than his age. The full cover shows him in a flash suit, hovering weightlessly above a planet. This could be Earth or the Formic home world, but whatever it is, Ender is alone out there, as Weber puts it: "an image that conveys the loneliness Ender is forced to endure because of his almost alien brilliance."

Orson Scott Card calls it "the best cover art ever to appear on Ender's Game," and after browsing through all those 70+ cover images from all around the world I think he might be just right.
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