Out of the Silent Planet: Book cover survey

In preparation of our Culturezoo Summer Series where we read through Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, I thought I’d put together a quick survey of all the different book covers I could find for this novel. There’s some interesting ones. I’ve broken them out into the following categories:

Did they actually read the book?

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Good job! You correctly identified that there IS a man in this book. The rocket and the giant eyeball are, sadly, not to be found in the text.
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Space suits? Easter egg halves? Me and the cover artist are both really confused.
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This is the copy I had as a kid. It’s interesting because it seems like the artist had a vague familiarity with the book. Enough to get the shape of the spacecraft right and there’s a slight nod towards the Malacandran structures in the background. Unfortunately this novel does not take place on the moon and nobody ever wears a spacesuit. The spacesuit seems to be a real sticking point for a lot of these covers. Also, check out the sweet Krazy Kat pattern on the side of the ship. Weston and Devine got style.

 

Thank you for your participation

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This one feels somehow TOO faithful to the text. It manages to cram the entire plot into a single picture. Everyone except Ransom looks completely annoyed.
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Cover artist: “So tell me about this book.” Publisher: “It’s a fantastic adventure that takes place on another planet where we meet a complex culture comprised of multiple species where religion, evolution, and myth all blend into one.” Cover artist: “I drew three guys and a globe with stars around it.” Publisher: “Nailed it.”
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This really belongs under the “We need a cover now! Any cover!” category.

Almost, not quite

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One of the key elements of the Malacandran landscape is bright, warm colors. So why does this cover scene take place inside a 1970s living room with an overabundance of dry houseplants? Ransom looks pretty non-plussed about it too.
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This is the cover of that most of us are probably familiar with. It’s ok. They get the main details right. I don’t know why they put a Compsognathus at the bottom. The figures of Ransom and Hyoi seem a little awkwardly rendered and the perspective on the water feels off.

Winners

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The original cover perfectly hints at the fantastic Malacandran landscape. The titles are contained in two separated spheres, like the separation between Earth and Mars. The lettering is gorgeous. The color palate is subtle but fits the story. Love this cover.
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If you’re going for simple, this is a good way to do it. Some nice hints of Malacandran shapes but the real strength of this cover is a strong, graphic rendering.
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As far as more realistic renderings go, I think the Japanese edition is the best. The spaceship and color palette are especially on-point.
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I love this cover but I can’t find a larger image of it anywhere. It’s an excellent modern take on the book. If anyone has a larger scan, please send it to me.

 

There they are, the good, bad, and ugly of Out of the Silent Planet covers. If I missed any, please send them my way.

Update: Reddit user, Jay-Em pointed out that I missed this one:

I’d say this falls under the “Beginner’s Guide to Photoshop” category. And who calls it the “Cosmic Trilogy”?

2 thoughts on “Out of the Silent Planet: Book cover survey

  1. I call it the Cosmic Trilogy. And so do my friends who are familiar with it. 🙂 Actually, I used to call it Lewis’ Space Trilogy, until a friend pointed out that one of the book’s main point is that what we think of as empty space is actually full of stuff, and thus that Cosmic Trilogy is more appropriate because it references how the structure and essence of the universe is a core subject of the book’s. So I happily adopted that name for it. I’ve also heard it called the Ransom Trilogy. I’ve no idea if Lewis had a series name for it.

    I read the same edition you did, with that green cover. I always liked the alien weirdness of it, although it, like most of the covers, isn’t very accurate.

    But man, that Avon one with Ransom in the boat and the very accurate and detailed depiction of the aliens! I’m impressed at how well the artist captured Lewis’ description, especially with the otter-like body but the face being just a bit too human for comfort, and yet still friendly. That’s a tough balance, but I like that artist’s take. Too busy for a cover, though.

    And that Japanese cover is lovely. Makes me want an amazing Studio Ghibli adaptation of the book…except that Ghibli tends to radically alter the story of books they adapt, and I wouldn’t want that happening to Lewis. It would be amazing if that artist produced a fully illustrated edition of the book, though. Like Alan Lee does with a bunch of Tolkien’s works.

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