Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Cover Identity: The Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

Well, when in Rome...

For the first in what I can only imagine will come to be a worrying regular look at cover art here on The Speculative Scotsman, I give you the newly redesigned Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

Though the review is still a few weeks off - the posting schedule is, I'm pleased to say, packed to the gunnels with good stuff in the interim - I had a whale of a time with Leviathan a little while ago, so the thought of more Westerfeld certainly has me in, if not fits of anticipation then certainly mild tremors thereof.

But I don't honestly know that I'd have looked twice at the three Uglies books without these striking new covers. Here, have a gander - the new designs are on the left, the old ones on the right:


Now there's nothing wrong with the old covers of Uglies, Pretties and Specials per se, but I can't help but think the new art will more effectively appeal to the market for these books; which is to say, young adults.

Of course, and I hate to have to stress this every time I talk about YA literature, I don't mean that market exclusively, only that the consensus seems to be that Westerfeld wrote the Uglies trilogy with such readers in mind. If these books are anything like Leviathan, however, they're sure to find an audience among more mature genre junkies, too.


The back-cover credits don't leave me entirely certain who we should be thanking for what, but between illustrator Sam Hadley and designer Nick Stearn, the three reworkings are each iconic pieces that look just lovely together. They have a sense of continuity that the now-outmoded designs rather lacked. Simple, but sleek; bold, but not boisterous.

Not to mention that the old art looks decidedly like something you might find adorning Chuck Palahniuk's back-catalogue, and these novels, from everything I've read and otherwise heard, are not that - not at all.


I can't imagine too many parents being pleased to see their kids reading a book with that last design on the cover, in particular. The new designs are certainly much less risque, but I don't think they've lost anything in the transition. They're perhaps a little generic, yes, but they're significantly less sterile than the old alternatives. They speak of action, intrigue and excitement, whereas the previous covers were cold and clinical - although perhaps that was precisely the plan. Certainly that's a notion tied into the subject matter, but I fear if that were the case, a disservice was done to the intended, all-ages audience.

One way or another, I wholeheartedly approve of the new artwork for Uglies, Pretties and Specials. You can expect reviews of these three, radically redesigned novels - due for release on March 4th from Simon and Schuster - as and when the opportunity to read them presents itself.


Here, opportunity! Wherever could you be hiding?


  1. I quite like the new ones, and they feel about appropriate for the books. The previous covers were a little Irvine Welsh for me.

  2. I really love the old covers, the first one in particular is brilliant. As you say, these new ones are utterly generic. I don't think I'd have looked twice at them in the YA section.

  3. The new covers are cracking, aren't they? The old ones looked like 'Nip/Tuck' tie-in books.

  4. The old ones looked like 'Nip/Tuck' tie-in books.

    Which is pretty appropriate given the content of the books.

    It is also worth pointing out that it isn't actually a trilogy, it is a quartet. The fourth novel is Extras and these are the old and new covers.

    I never got round to reading Extras because although Uglies is brilliant, it is diminishing returns from then on.

  5. @Martin - You're not wrong to point out there's another book in the series, though from everything I've read, Extras is a fairly dramatic departure from the first three - more of a side-story than a sequel - so neither is Uglies quite a quartet, as far as I'm aware.

    In any case, Simon & Schuster are reissuing Extras in May with a new cover design that I can only imagine matches the new Uglies books.

    @Celine - Hey there! Ladies and gentlemen, the author of The Poison Throne (among others) is here amongst us today. Glad to see you stop by, Celine.

  6. a new cover design that I can only imagine matches the new Uglies books.

    Psst, look upwards :)

  7. @Martin - Oh, right. You win! :P

    You know, I don't hate the old covers at all, and given what I know about the actual content of the Uglies series, I would agree that they're a fair representation, but their appeal is decidely exclusive; I still think the new art will do a better job of reeling in the audience Westerfeld, or at least Simon and Schuster, are aiming at. Which isn't to say kids, but certainly younger readers.

  8. I agree with Martin, although I would add the I like the original covers for the series. Found here: http://media.photobucket.com/image/uglies+/mileycyrusroxmysox07/Uglies/Uglies-1.jpg