Friday, September 10, 2004

KING COVERS: Rage (1977)

1977 was a good year for Stephen King novels, even when he wasn't Stephen King. First, you have what what I consider the best novel of his career -- The Shining -- and then the first release from his Richard Bachman pseudonym, under whose name he would later publish another five novels -- Rage.

Rage is the story of a disturbed high-school student, Charlie Decker, who shoots his algebra teacher and seizes control of the classroom, forcing the students to play a weird, adolescent hybrid of show-and-tell and truth-or-dare. At first, following the brutal murder of the teacher, the students are terrified, but as the day rolls on and they discover the joys of airing their dirtiest secrets, admitting their darkest truths and outing their inner demons.

Rage was actually written before Carrie and rejected when he first submitted it to publishers at the time, but it's a surprisingly good novel from such a young writer and, much like the Shining, works hard to transcend what could have been just an ordinary story of high-school violence.

Unfortunately, it's the high-school violence tag that stuck to the book and King, being the responsible type, has removed the book from publication. If you'd like to give the story a read, you're going to have to find it in a second hand book store. Which, by the way, I highly recommend you do.

Now, as for the's slim pickings. Because this was a Richard Backman novel and not a Stephen King novel, it didn't have the honour of being released every year or two with a brand new cover (at least until years later, when it would become part of the "Bachman Books" collection). In fact, it only ever had one US cover -- and that's the one you see above, courtesy of Signet.

Still, for having one cover to choose could certainly do worse. It makes it's point and gives you just enough to tell what the stories about. The mildly unblanaced teen sitting atop his teacher's desk; the legs, presumably from a dead teacher, jutting out from the right side of the book; the rest of the teacher's body just out of view, leaving her ultimate fate a mystery, though we can be pretty sure that it wasn't very nice.

Yeah, all in all, a pretty good cover.

The British edition kind of plays up a similar "high-school-student-gone-wrong" feel, but it doesn't quite work as well for me. The image of the student leaning back in his chair feels more like a depiction of the typical classroom smart-ass which, we'll later learn, Charlie is far from being. And I don't like the colour yellow. On anything.

Cool use of typography, though.

The Swedish version of Rage does a nice job of giving you the vital information from the story with a minimal design -- a gun and a couple of bullets on top of a school book. Could it get any simpler than that? Well, yes, it could actually, as you'll see in a few moments.

This entry, as clean and minimal and lovely as it is, does lose points by coming from the "Let's print Stephen King's name so big that it fills a third of the cover" era of publishing.

This German edition hits the "school" theme on the head, but seems to miss the hint of terror. Unless those are kids running away in terror. Hard to tell. I'm actually going to assume they are, and presto, it's already a better cover.

And, hey, gotta like that translation: AMOK. That's almost a better title that RAGE.

Now for tonight's winner, thanks to a beautifully simple design. This cover, from the Spanish edition, tells you everything you need to know with a picture of a blood-spattered school-crossing sign. Simple. Chilling. Effective. In spite of the fact that Stephen King's name takes up more than HALF of the freaking cover. Easily the best Rage cover design, and one of the best design's of a King book yet covered in this space.

I'm only bothering to include this cover from Italy because, not only does the image have nothing to do with the story, but I'm also 99% sure this is a picture from a completely unrelated horror movie. I can't think of what it is for the life of me, though. I know there's a similar image in the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" but I don't think that's the source of this pic. Anyone recognize this image? Help me!

All covers are stolen without permission from the Stephen King Cover Gallery. Here's hoping that if I'm nice and give him a link, he won't ask me to take these down.

No comments: