Mightily resisting the urge to include Deathless and The End of Mr. Y, because studies show that favoritism has a negative effect on all children in the home, and I'm gonna raise my book babies right.
1. Parasite, by Mira Grant
This is by far my favorite red cover. Just look at it! It’s a brilliant visual for a story in which human medicine has advanced to the point where all disease has been eradicated via symbiotic parasites merging into your bloodstream.
Sal is a medical miracle in an age where medical miracles are taken for granted. She survives a car accident and wakes from her coma with a completely blank slate -- she has to relearn speech, motor functions, and even her own personality. She's proof that major pharmaceutical company Symbogen's parasitic transplant can literally work wonders -- except now the parasites are mutating and she's not sure how much of herself is left.
At any rate, this cover makes me want to buy these pills. I don’t care what they’re for, or that at some point the genetically engineered tapeworms that protect me from cancer and allergies will eventually become sentient and take over my body—details, details! I’m looking at the bigger picture—specifically, this one! While I'm slowly losing control of my own body and disappearing from my own mind, at least the delicious sight of cheerful blue capsules popping out from that ominous red foil will soothe me into slavering, violent oblivion.
2. The Martian, by Andy Weir
When I unwrapped my hardcover version of this, I discovered that the matte cover jacket had a discreet kind of shimmer to it, and promptly spent the next ten minutes just touching it and making admiring noises (as you will). Even though the colors are bright, there’s still something sort of spooky about this image of a faceless astronaut floundering in a dusty reddish fog.
This book has the uncanny ability to grab you by the lungs and hold on, because I swear, every page is like a disaster waiting in the wings for our unfortunate astronaut hero Mark Watney. He’s endured hardships beyond imagination, not the least of which is the fact that the only music he’s had to listen to for months is all disco. I mean, there should be a limit to human suffering, and Andy Weir is clearly a sadist. Disco!
Sidebar, I think this is being turned into a movie. Matt Damon will apparently star as our endlessly resourceful engineering astronerd Mark Watney, and Sean Bean will finally have a role where he'll come out alive by the time the credits roll.
3. Mara, by Brian Wood and Ming Doyle
So anything with the gorgeous Ming Doyle’s even more gorgeous art instantly nets me and flays me open like a grizzly bear with a freshly caught salmon.
Or, to be narratively relevant, it smacks me like a violent volleyball spike to the face -- relevant because Mara is a volleyball superstar in a world where volleyball (a sport which I've always regarded as the devil's own, back when it broke my pinky finger in high school) has become madly popular all over the world. Mara then inexplicably gains superpowers and transcends the pettiness of humanity.
Ming Doyle's talent for facial expression here is absolutely splendid. I feel like Mara is staring into my soul and finding everything I’ve ever done laughably insignificant. Her sharp suit rubs a goodly helping of salt into the wound as well, because no amount of reality TV makeover shows will ever bring me to that level of fierceness. Yet there's something sort of sympathetic in there, too, like "sorry you'll never be as breathtakingly amazing as me, bye." In the face of this cover, I wither into nothingness.
4. American Vampire Vol 3., by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque
What? Another comic book series? YES another comic book series, I mean look at it!
Rafael Albuquerque is an absolute master of cover art (and also master of my heart, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss today) and thus deserves to be worshiped in every corner of the internet. I could write odes to his brush strokes and sonnets to the way he draws his characters’ noses. If I could post all of his red-themed American Vampire covers and talk about them, I’d be on my computer all day (hahaha who am I kidding, I’m never anywhere else).
Scott Snyder’s American Vampire makes all other fictional vampires scuff their shoes in profound embarrassment because these guys mean BUSINESS. The first time I saw Pearl transform into a vampire, I actually jerked away from the page because Albuquerque's design was freaking scary. His design is less about classically vampiric sparkles and more about massively unhinged jaws of razor sharp teeth, eyes spitting with murderous fire, and long, wicked claws ready for all-purpose gouging. Snyder’s world-spanning storytelling and Albuquerque’s alternately gorgeous and visceral art makes American Vampire a thing you need to be reading yesterday.
5. Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch
Okay, I’m putting this in the list because I’ve actually run out of red covers I like, and also because this has “red” in the title twice, so it probably qualifies???
To be completely honest, this cover could be so much better than it is. The art, as exciting as a burning ship is, makes it look like your run of the mill fantasy story, and Red Seas Under Red Skies is anything but. And don’t even get me started on this lazy typography. Maybe it's typical of the genre, but with a story like this, who wants to be typical? The less said about the cover, the better.
However, Scott Lynch’s delightful turns of phrase and his brilliant navigation through the twists and turns of his clever narrative make this book more than the sum of its poorly designed and regretfully typical parts. I will sing praises to the Gentleman Bastards series until the cows come home to trample my larynx to the ground. You can’t read about the number one literary BROTP Locke and Jean’s nutbar adventures without falling in love and headlong into disaster with them.