The Best (Worst) Fantasy & Science Fiction Book Covers


If you've been in any bookstore in your lifetime, you're probably familiar with that most peculiar of book retail locales: the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. This strange and sweaty place is kept separate from the rest of the bookstore so that its residents, the soap-averse fans of Fantasy & Science Fiction novels, can go about their plots and dark rituals without disturbing any of the normal-smelling clientele.

But there' another very good reason for keeping Fantasy & Science Fiction books segregated. They look really weird. The absolute worst part about every fantasy novel, apart from the writing, is the ludicrous cover art they all seem to have. It' so bad, that ironically enough in this modern age, it' still very bad.

And so, after a great deal of very stinky research, I present to you the absolute worst Fantasy & Science Fiction book covers.

Like most guys, I've got posters of heavily muscled men on the walls of my room, and can say that I honestly have no problem staring at the male form for hours on end. But here things may have gotten a bit out of hand. These guys look like they're made out of balls of twine.

Pictured on the cover is our hero, The Golden Queen, accompanied by both his hairstylist, and a bear, boldly striding out of this novel and into a better one.

Zeor: "No! Come back! You haven't seen any of my good pentagrams yet!"

Ninja versus a man-snake with four arms. For some reason, the ninja is positioned to attack someone just off the cover. Who could it be? A man-snake with four legs? It is a mystery.

Author, Jack L Chalker: "Hey Bernie, what' the biggest number there is?"
Editor, Bernie Ciscain: "Ninety trillion. Why do you ask?"
Jack L Chalker: "No reason."

My lord, that is a lot of horses. I gather that for pre-teen girls this is basically pornography. I would bet ninety trillion dollars there' a scene where the heroine comes across an unloved horse, and seeing the potential within him, takes him and wins the gold medal at the county fair horse championship.

More pony-porn. In this one the heroine has to pretend to be a boy. She eventually proves to the world that girls can do anything just as well as boys can by revealing her gender at the dramatic conclusion, after winning the county fair horse championship.

There' nothing exceptionally funny about this, except that Crystal Walls sounds sort of like a retirement home for porn stars.

What kind of fantastic world is this, where snowmobiles are towed along by tiny polar bears? Oh, what adventures they must have in this ridiculous fucking land!

Little known fact: every one of these polar bears is named 'Wesley.'

I actually don't see anything that funny with this one. I'm not sure why I even included it.

I think I actually own that belt even.

The Fey is the special code name given by the government to the two most precious assassins in the land of Nar'Blip'pt'anana.

I really like the subtitle on this one. "It wouldn't be easy for Sklar Hast to kill a sea monster that refused to die!" No, I guess it wouldn't.

Visit mysterious and sensual Tschai, renowned throughout the galaxy for their abundant natural supply of handjobs.

Cloud Castles: The story of Prince Arthus, the last unicorn of Drak-Halur, and Gerry, the man who rode around on his back.

I question the advertising value of proclaiming on a novels cover which actors were featured in the dramatization of that novel. Still, Barry Morse! Yes, the Barry Morse!

I ski all the time, and this has never happened to me. Maybe it' set in Europe? I don't know.

Actually, this is probably the best cover I've ever seen for any book, ever. I seriously want to read it to find out what the fuck is happening here.

Princess Shalalain escapes from a cabal of deadly assassins atop David Bowie.

Why, why, why must the future always involve skin-tight body suits? Why? Unless you're the pinnacle of human beauty (right), there' no possible way to look good in a body suit.

What the cover of the book doesn't reveal is that they're fighting over a girl.

First we had the guy who got a bunch of miniature polar bears to tow his snowmobile, and now we have this guy standing on the backs of a couple of tigers. Preposterous. He also appears to be wielding the most impractical weapon I've ever seen: a spiked club connected to two other spiked clubs.

Maybe the other clubs belonged to his friends? I bet that when you're dealing with tigers, it' important to have some sort of buddy system.

"I will never forgive you, Flame-Tiger, for what you did to my family!"

Why on earth this is called The Eye of the Dragon, I'll never know. Just right now, I've come up with Flame Tiger Throwdown, which is probably the most incredible name for a novel I've ever heard of. Hell, that' an incredible name for a child.

Continuing the parade of ridiculous methods of transport, we have this woman, who rides into battle inside the mouth of a lizard.

Any ruler who keeps a chained midget at his feet is alright in my books. Let's be honest: it' a sign of a stable and well-run society.

What a ridiculous concept. A full two thirds of this novel is just this poor sap picking up dog poo and disposing of it hygienically.

It' an old cliché for fantasy novel covers to prominently feature a cartoonishly voluptuous woman, usually wearing something insubstantial and vaguely military, like chain mail panties, or Mithril nipple clamps. Sort of a "Swords and Sorcery and T and A" kind of thing. For the sake of any children reading this article, I've selected an example of the genre containing no T, but making up for it with a heaping portion of A.

Author, Brian Cooper: "Look, I don't care what the cover is. Just, you know"¦ something terrifying."
Graphic Art Guy: "Like 3D letters? Is that terrifying?"
Brian Cooper: "I have just shat my chair, that is so terrifying."

This is why NASA astronauts go through such rigorous training. Because shit like this is happening all the time in space.

That' not a valley, and that' not a worm. If I had to title this, and if I also had instructions to make it sound like a Robert Ludlum novel, I'd have called it The Millipede Scenario.

Sure, now we know the Man-Frog to be a horrible villain who should be spared no mercy. But at the time, all anyone could say was that at least he made the trains run on time.

Chris Bucholz is a Contributing Editor at Cracked, and writes the hilarious blog Robotman!

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