Friday, October 01, 2004

KING COVERS: The Dead Zone (1979)

This book and The Shining are, hands down, the best books of the early King era. In fact, in many interviews at the time, King points to The Dead Zone as his best work; or, at least, he most story driven. And there's no denying that, underneath the surface idea of "What would happen if you could see the future," there are real moral and ethical issues being struggled with here. Not to be a sadist, but I think the greatest writing comes from putting characters into difficult situations to see how they'll cope.

Unfortunately, for such a great book (and haven't I said this a time or two before?) there are some unbearably shitty covers attached to it. I don't know if it's because the graphic artists were feeling particularly uninspired, or if it was because the details of a book like this are hard to express with a simple design, but there are really no covers for The Dead Zone that stick out and scream, "That's BRILLIANT!" to me. Nonetheless, let's look at a few. Shall we?

This original cover, from the Viking hardcover at least trys to work with the material -- the shadowy face, and the wheel of fortune (vital the story, if only in ways that are too complicated to explain here) give the closest taste of the story that was probably possible. Too bad there wasn't some way of just creating a scratch-and-sniff cover that would just fill the potential reader with the sense that this book was too fucking good not to buy. Then marking would be easy.

As much as it's pretty much an exact duplicate of the hardcover, I'm going to give the Signet paperback edition the prize for this entry. The image is pretty much identical, but it's a bit more shadowy, and it's black and white instead of in colour, which just somehow works better for me. Maybe it's in the ironic way that the book deals with how issues are never clearly black and white? Maybe not? Whatever. This is the best of the covers, so if this is what you came here for, you can go to bed now.

(Though, to be fair, I guess this cover gets a few unavoidable bonus points for being the edition I first owned and read. In a case like this, when all the covers are damn near hideous, bonus points can go a long way).

The wheel of fortune theme continues with this later Signet paperback edition. Somehow, though, it seems to be a bit too creepy, which doesn't quite work with the actual content of the story.

Wheel of fortune theme continues again, this time with a skull! Which is even creepier before! It's the wheel of fortune of DEATH! OOOOOOH! SCARY!

There's something that I haven't said before, that I'm going to say now, and get out of the way before there's any further discussion. I hate movie tie-in covers. There are a number of King adaptations that I love (The Dead Zone being one of the) but books are books, and movies are movies, and never the twain shall meet. Or something or other.

Movie tie-in covers have nothing to do with selling the book. It's all about selling the movie. Which has no place in book promotion.

Movie tie-in covers are the work of the devil.



Speaking of evil, what is up with this cover? An image from the cover of Night Shift, based on a short story from Night Shift, which has nothing to do with The Dead Zone (except, maybe, "seeing" the future, but, c'mon, that's stretching it).

And speaking of "what's up with this cover" -- what's up with this cover? A guy tries to cross the street while a truck drives by? This is *not* The Dead Zone, no matter how deeply you look between the lines.

This UK cover gets close to the heart of it, with the image of a carnival (where, of course, you'd find the wheel of fortune) with a storm brewing in the background.

Of all the non-American covers, this gets closest to the heart of the what the book is about, and almost --
almost -- beats the winner. Shaking hands with the devil while the world ends behind you. If that doesn't hit the nail on the head of this particular book, I don't know what does. Unfortunately, I almost think it hits the nail a little too accurately -- there are a few things should be kept as secrets.

We all hate the movie trailers that give away the ending before we even go to see the film, don't we?

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