Judging Books by their Covers

You probably can’t be arsed to read books so we can’t be arsed to review them properly.

You want book reviews? Seriously?! The life of a Cambridge student is fraught enough without having to write book reviews. Getting up for lectures, handing in essays and dodging through the various social engagements that university throws at you is hard enough without ploughing through 400 page tomes in order to write a 500 word article! No, student life leaves no time for writing book reviews, reading book reviews or, indeed, reading any title that isn’t on your reading list. And yet, the book trade in Cambridge is practically booming. Sometimes it seems that every second shop is a bookshop and the city has huge branches of Waterstones, Boarders and even an insidiously disguised Blackwells. Why is it than, that with so little time and so many other distractions, books continue to fly off the shelves?

The answer of course, is that books furnish a room like nothing. They make standard issue college digs look lived in and they make you look thoughtful, intelligent and intellectual. A well-placed copy of Proust (or, for the less sophisticated amongst you, Clarkson) can have the aphrodisiacal effects of an oyster dinner (or, for the less sophisticated amongst you, rohypnol) and propping your laptop up with that vintage hardback edition of War and Peace adds at least ten points to your perceived I.Q. despite the fact you haven’t got past chapter one…. Yet…

So, like any piece of interior decoration, what really matters about books is not what’s in them but what they look like. Fear not, young faux intellectual, for here at the Tab we judge those latest releases by the only standard that really matters. We judge books by their front covers!

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown


Dan Brown’s books have sold into the millions spawning rip-offs, films and vast stinking piles of filthy lucre as they went. Sadly, the cover of The Lost Symbol matches the content of a typical Dan Brown novel- drab, brown and cliché. For what I can only guess is the tale of a missing percussive instrument, Dan’s publisher’s have chosen a clean and acceptable cover, as far as covers go, with a gloomy picture of capital hill and an image of a mysterious key as well as some shiny though notably insipid golden text. In fact, it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the novel- gripping, eye catching and utterly uninspired!

3 Stars

The Scarpetta Factor – Patrick Cornwell


Beyond being by the supposed “world’s number one thriller writer”, I’ve absolutely no idea what the Scarpetta Factor is. An arcane alchemical? A useless equation? The latest Boots own brand eye liner? It’s a mystery! The true nature of the Scarpetta Factor matters little, however, because the front cover is splendid. An elegant duotone with a picture of a red neckerchief, tastefully placed onto a silky smooth white background. But why is the cloth red? Could it be blood? Is it just a red neckerchief? I have no absolutely no idea!!! It’s mysterious, it’s thrilling, it’s elegant and it’s hardback. Who cares about the content, this is what I need to furnish my studential hovel!

4 stars

And Another Thing – Eoin Colfer


Another Hitchhikers guide book by someone other than our own Douglas Adams? Sacrilege, I hear you cry. “They didn’t write a Catch 23” I hear you mutter under your collected breaths. Well… actually…. There was a sequel to Catch 22, but that aside, what of And Another Thing’s cover? It’s cluttered, sure, and it breaks the “no more than two fonts” rule. And it’s loud. And, ok, it’s slightly ugly. But, on the other hand, it’s eye-catching, intriguing and vaguely amusing. For a book that should never have been written, the cover isn’t half bad.

…I guess.

3 ½ stars

Alex Cross's Trial – James Patterson (…& Richard Diallo)


It doesn’t matter that James Patterson is the world’s best selling thriller writer. It doesn’t matter that “In a fight for justice, one man must make the ultimate sacrifice”, this style of front cover was not acceptable since soviet Russia. A tasteless splattering of red fading to orange which looks like it was achieved with the MS Word fill effects tool. The noose may well have been dragged from the clip art library of that same program and not only is the font sans serif it’s sans taste! The co-author Richard Dilallo is blatantly sidelined and the shade of red chosen for his name clashes almost perfectly with the shade of red on the top half of the cover. Alex Cross’s Trial is a complete travesty of cover design! “The world’s best selling thriller writer" should have taken a leaf from the book of ‘The world’s number one thriller writer” and added a bit of that Scarpetta Factor.

1 Star

Songs of the dying earth – George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozios Eds

Songs of the dying earth looks pretentious as a book can be and that, let’s face it, is exactly what a Cambridge student should want! The cover is a near carbon copy of Coldplay’s album Parachutes and very subtly depicts the dying sun as it finally engulfs the earth. I’ve no idea why the earth, at this juncture, would be singing. Maybe it’s a metaphor? It matters not because this is exactly what front covers should look like. Tasteful, subtle, uncluttered, glossy and delicious. It’s amazing what you can do with two colours and one circle! This motif is so good, in fact, that it’s already been used to brand Coldplay, late 20th century Japan and even the moon.

5 Stars