When Adam first told me about his new novel he described it as being ‘the one with the talking cat’. Now this may ring alarm bells with you and a few years ago it would have done with me as well. But I have since learned not to take Adam’s pitches at face value: whatever he says his new book is about it rarely is. Well it is, but just not in the way you thought (or feared) it might be.
So Bete is about talking animals. But this is no Aristocats, no Madagascar. This is a novel about the nature of intelligence and artificial intelligence, about man’s relationship with the natural world. You know, all those things that are really easy to illustrate on the front of an SF novel. I idly threatened Adam with a cover of a cat in a monocle and a cravat. I didn’t mean it of course but as I racked my brains for a cover brief that option sometimes seemed better than the ideas I was coming up with.
Then I thought about nature books, about how the covers for them at the moment often feature a retro nod to 18th and 18th century woodcuts in their designs. And I thought about the circle we always have on Adam’s cover (our sole linking feature – it’s been there since Swiftly), and about Escher (sort of) and animals spiralling in towards words. And I scribbled not much more than this down on the briefing form and off it went to the designers at (appropriately enough this time) Black Sheep again. And look at the thing of beauty they came up with.
You never quite know what you are going to get with an Adam Roberts novel, but when you see one of Blacksheep’s designs for his covers you get a very clear feeling for it and you know that you probably can judge the book by its cover.