Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Books (Science Fiction): The Vor Game

Monday night I finished the second Miles Vorkosigan book, The Vor Game. I'm not going to go into details about it (I don't want to post spoilers), though I will mention that it's a little odd in structure, more like a short story followed by a (related) novella than a single novel -- about a quarter of the way in Miles changes commander, location, and mission completely.

One complaint I do have about the books -- or, rather, the editions I have -- is the cover art. I've complained earlier about the way the Garrett, P.I. cover art almost always shows Garrett with a hat, even though Glen Cook explicitly says in the books that he never wears one (except once, as part of a disguise).

One of the central elements of the Miles Vorkosigan books is that Miles is severely deformed because of a poison gas attack when his mother was pregnant, which left his bones extremely fragile. He's four-foot-nine with a hunched back and legs that require braces to keep them from breaking. But so far, in the three books I've looked at this time through (I haven't dug out the others to check their covers yet), the cover art has largely glossed over this. The Vor Game is the best of the three in this respect, showing Miles's short stature next to a six-foot-plus sergeant; Cetaganda, the book I'm reading now, is probably the worst, showing Miles from behind, on his knees, before a Cetagandan haut-lady (a member of the highest aristocracy on that planet). As far as I can tell, given his position, he's about the same height as the haut-lady (who are described as extremely tall), and there is no sign of a hunch in his back.

I'm not sure what the process is for approving this artwork. The artist has obviously read something about the book, as some of the details are correct: the haut-lady is in a floating chair wittin a bubble, for example. The figures of Miles and the haut-lady are flanked by profiles of Miles and a ghem-lord (a member of the lower aristocracy) staring each other down, and the ghem-lord's face is painted in swirling patterns. So some of the more minor details are there, though major ones are missing.

The first book, The Warrior's Apprentice, had the strangest bit of artwork of the three. It's a typical "character faces floating in front of a space scene" cover, showing Miles and what appears to be Fu Manchu. I have no idea why there would be the face of a Chinese stereotype (complete with droopy moustache, scar over one eye, and a 19th-century Chinese hat) floating next to Miles's. The only thing I can think is that one of Miles's allies later in the book is a fellow named Commodore Tung who is Chinese (presumably -- it's never stated, though in Cetaganda Miles quotes him quoting Chou En Lai). I have no idea why the artist would make Tung look so sinister, though. The closest thing The Warrior's Apprentice has to a personal villain is Tung's rival, Oser, though for the most part the book is a "Miles against circumstances" story, with no single antagonist.

The cover art business is a minor irritation, but it suggests to me that the authors have little input into the process, which bugs me. And it's not as if correcting the mistakes would hurt the artwork. Garrett would look less like Sam Spade, and Miles would not be as attractive -- but Garrett shouldn't look like Sam Spade, and Miles's unattractiveness is vitally important to the Miles books (and Miles's personality). Is it really that hard to get it right?

1 comment:

Granny said...

Hi James. I just came over from wemovetocanada and I'd like to borrow your mouse story please. It would fit as well in the USA.

I can be found at or
by clicking on granny which will take you to both blogs.