I have a special New Year’s present for you, the readers. In the run up to the year’s end I had two serious pieces I was going to write, but given the way things are going I figured they’d bring everybody down. That’s why I figured today’s post should be something uplifting. Something absurd. It’s time for another load of insane Russian sci-fi covers!
For those of you who haven’t caught my earlier pieces on this topic, you can follow this link to the original, and this one for the second installment. But before we begin I have a couple things to get out of the way.
First, while these book covers can be found on Russian online book retailers, I am very grateful to the people behind the Vkontakte group “Batshit Covers of Russian Science-Fiction” for gathering the best of the worst, so to speak.
Also, during this time I’ve spent collecting these book covers and writing about them, I was reminded of an episode from my early childhood that might explain my affinity for over-the-top cover art. Sure, I could just chalk it up to the 1980’s, but this one episode stands out. Dear readers, take a gander at this book cover (it’s the best image I could find online).
Contrary to what you might think, this is supposedly not a novel. It was supposed to be a memoir (I’ve since found info that says its veracity is questionable). Back when I was 4, maybe 5, my mother saw this guy speak at her church and she brought the book home. Obviously it was a bit above my reading level back then but that didn’t matter because LOOK AT THAT COVER!
That boat’s getting shot to pieces. There’s brass and shattered glass all over the deck. The .50 cal gunner’s dead and bleeding all over the deck. Bloody footprints- serious attention to detail! And all the while you’ve got what I assume was supposed to be the author, decked out in tiger-stripe camo and blasting away at Mr. Charlie with “the pig.” I was too young to watch Rambo back then, but who cares? I had this book cover and my childhood imagination. And did I not already mention that this was being sold in a church? Since then churches are the place where they can take the story of a guy getting crucified and stuck in the side with a spear and make it lame and “family-friendly.” That’s why young people are running off to go join ISIS (which is illegal in the Russian Federation!). But I digress.
I’m just sharing that anecdote because it shows how resonant awesome cover art can be. In the 21st century heroes are practically invincible until the script says they need to get injured or hurt to hit a story beat. Back in the 1980’s, we liked our action heroes beaten to hell and back, struggling against the excruciating pain and overwhelming odds to prevail in the end, John McClane style.
Alright, enough of me yelling at a cloud. Let’s look at some insane book covers!
Okay let’s see. Judging by the helmets I’d say we’re in late Roman Britain, but I’m going to take a stab in the dark and suggest that the authors may not have been too overly concerned with historical authenticity. Going with my original hypothesis, I’m guessing some Picts or invading Germanic tribes are going to have a nasty surprise when they attempt to conquer Britannia. In any case, Briton king Vortigern will have no need for the Saxons Hengist and Horsa to do his fighting for him so long as the ammunition doesn’t run out. He’s more likely to have them shot straight in their Saxon faces.
Look to our own defenses? Got it sorted, mate.
All you need there is a flock of doves flying out from behind them and you’ve got a John Woo film made for the Russian market. Okay let’s unpack this. It appears to be Soviet NKVD chief Lavrenti Beria teaming up with what looks like White Guard leader Admiral Kolchak. Do I even need to point out what’s wrong with that? No? Good.
Also here’s a little tip about dual wielding handguns. First of all- you won’t hit anything and it just looks cool. But if you must look cool, be sure to dual wield handguns that can be easily reloaded. Revolvers can’t for obvious reasons, and neither can that Mauser broom handle, which loaded from a stripper clip fed from above. But then again, given the style of the image I’m sure when they run out of bullets they resort to Matrix-like martial arts skills.
Whatever the case, I’m sure this book is worth reading if only for the long political debates it must surely contain.
As if it weren’t enough that this guy clearly has some kind of automatic weapon with him, he was apparently lucky enough to fall into a fantasy world with a Ka-52 attack chopper to back him up. Anyway the Mongol-looking guy looks quite pleased with his new friendship.
The wizard is another matter. It looks like he’s conjuring that little ball of light because he’s intimidated by all these new magical devices he’s witnessing. It’s as if he’s saying “Sure, his mechanical flying dragon just blasted half your army into little pieces, but can it light your path in the deep dark caverns of the Globlin King Ulug-Thalak? I don’t think so!”
So this is called Schrodinger’s Raccoon and it’s listed as “anti-science fiction.” They’ve certainly got that part down. Now you might be asking why it’s a raccoon and not a cat. Well guess what…
There you go. Schrodinger’s cat. Schrodinger’s Soviet, heavily armed space cat. This is both insane and not insane at the same time until we open the book and observe its content.
This fellow looks like he bounced through several different time periods on his way into this fantasy world. The clothes are modern, but the weapon is the WWII-vintage PPS-43. The woman’s wearing something that looks like it’s out of ancient Egypt, but she’s armed with a flintlock musket, meaning they can’t share ammunition. On the plus side, there’s a Zeppelin in this fantasy world, and if you follow me on Twitter you know I’m a big advocate of bringing Zeppelins back as a mode of air travel.
Perhaps this fantasy dimension is a place where random shit from other time periods gets dumped. That would explain all the anachronisms. Either that or the authors were trying to make their own Final Fantasy VI ripoff.
It’s called Knight in The Grey Greatcoat, and that’s exactly what we see. What tactical advantage an old Russian police greatcoat would afford a knight in battle is beyond me though. Perhaps he plans to waylay other knights along the road, tell them that the violated some trivial law of the realm, and suggest that they may be forgiven if they would only pay a small fine here and now. It’s either that, or, as one would expect from these popadantsy novels, he uses his gun to cheat in the royal tournament.
All I can say about this is that apparently some graphic designers in Russia accept payment in LSD.
For the non war-nerds out there, the ZSU-23-4 Shilka is a radar-guided anti-aircraft gun system with four 23mm cannons. They have also been used in a ground attack role, often in combat. They do not, however, fly. At least they don’t in boring reality.
Honestly though I think whoever designed the cover of Aviashilka was clearly just trolling. I sure hope so.
Remember earlier when I said sometimes the people who design covers are paid in LSD? Well sometimes that applies to the authors as well. Here we have an example of vatnik fap fiction, only this time instead of defeating the Third Reich, Russia has defeated NATO. How they would do this with no allies and a much weaker country than the USSR is hopefully explained in the book.
There’s not much going on here but I’m including it because I want to get on my political soapbox for a bit. Our hero is so mesmerized by his flaming katana that he’s not even paying attention to that awesome futuristic Zeppelin that’s looming not too far away. Isn’t that a metaphor for our world these days? We’re so preoccupied with war and conflict that we forget about the vast benefits that could be had if we only brought back airship travel. Think about it.
Let’s see- Germans defeated at Brest Fortress. Anyone here ever play that old game Close Combat III: The Russian Front? I remember getting good enough at it to the point where I could stop the Germans on the border and basically ruin Operation: Barbarossa. And you know what? I didn’t need a tricked out AK-12 to do it.
Yes. Throw a knife in a world where you get attacked by people wearing plate armor. No need to use…like…a fully automatic assault rifle or anything! In any case our naval infantry hero probably won’t have time to regret his mistake since that armored guy is clearly sneaking up behind him.
Okay let’s see here- our heroes are a modern-day Russian spetsnaz guy who’s teamed up with a Wehrmacht soldier of the Third Reich. They’ve destroyed an American Sherman tank in London.
But remember, kids, all Ukrainians are Banderite Nazis!
Another exemplar of the sub-sub-sub genre known as “Britain sucks.” Here we’ve got yet another British soldier totally outclassed arms-wise and getting shot in the face as a result. You know I can’t think of many nations that still hold a grudge about the Seven Years War.
This one’s called Popadantsy of the Caribbean. You might ask whether or not they are pirates. Well you see, modern Russian pirates are a little different than what you may be used to. Here’s a video that explains that difference (possibly NSFW, depends on where you work I guess). May that video be seared into your brain and recalled every time you hear a Russian politician talking about Russia’s deep traditional values.
Apparently there’s fap fiction for Ukrainian nationalists as well, at least judging from the cover. Given their long history of piracy and raids against the Ottoman Empire, it’s interesting to imagine what would happen if they attacked the Ottomans in an unexpected place. Egypt’s kind of pushing it.
That being said, did they really need modern weapons like an 82mm mortar? The problem with all these “alternate history” novels that involve modern artillery is that I suspect they leave out key details such as how the forward observers are communicating with the gunners to adjust their fire. I’m sorry but that just totally takes me out of the story and I can no longer suspend my disbelief.
The image of a pro-Putin youth from the 21st century battling vikings might be confusing, but I think it’s a metaphor. See, he’s gone back in time and found himself in Kyivian Rus. As such, he has determined that these warriors are clearly minions of the Nazi Banderite junta in Kyiv. “Take that! Azov scum!” he shouts as he hews down another Rus warrior, not realizing that his slavish devotion to Vladimir Putin is literally destroying the Russian nation at its root. Just like in real life!
I predict adventure- sexy adventure! Seriously though, it’s worth noting that the title here, And the Gods There are Quiet, is a play on words based on the title of a famous Soviet film (based on a novel) that has been remade many times.
“A last alliance of Men and Elves marched against the armies of Germany. Just when it seemed all was lost, Quel’tha’aa’aas picked up the enchanted scoped G-43 rifle from a fallen Waffen SS “Charlemagne” Division soldier and picked off the Hitlerjugend boys who had been hiding in shell holes, brandishing Panzerfausts. With them out of the way, the magic T-34-85s were finally able to advance down the block and pour overwhelming firepower from their 85mm main guns into the facade of the Reich Chancellery, where the Dark Lord Hitler was hiding.”
–Lord Lothar Dragonscale, Chronicle of the Realm Vol. XIII
First I should probably point out that what this “jihadi” girl is doing is definitely banned in the territory of the Russian Federation. You should not do that. I’m guessing the man with the American flag cuff link is supposed to be Obama, because Russia. And if that is Obama, it means the girl is probably Ukrainian. UKRAINA AKBAR!!!
That’s 7.62×39 and you don’t even have the stock on your shoulder? That thing’s going to wind up straight in your face, son! Sure, have a laugh, but it’s possible that these books are designed to prepare the Russian population for the conscription of child soldiers in the near future. The Russian army hasn’t been hitting its contract goals lately.
Once again we have a novel that looks like it was meant to appeal to Ukrainian nationalists. Interesting to note that our kozak hero doesn’t seem to have any modern weapons, but that’s based only on what we can see. For all we know the rest of the Polish hussars were wiped out by the new Ukrainian Dozor-B armored car.
Also here’s a little tip. If you want to upset a Polish nationalist or Polonophile in nine simple words, just say the following- Polish hussars probably didn’t wear their wings in combat.
What book cover bonanza would be complete without Novorossiya fap fiction? Here vatniks can imagine that they’ll conquer Kyiv once they somehow get a modern air force. Sure, there’s always that pesky fact that virtually every conceivable location for an airfield within the separatist territory is within range of Ukrainian artillery or rockets, but that’s why it’s fantasy, right?
And of course, the modern Russian uniforms they’re wearing, plus the Russian Mi-28 helicopters in the background, were purchased at Ukrainian military surplus stores. Ukraine has the best military surplus stores in the world.
Seriously though, they should really stop printing these Novorossiya novels. The more Russians think about Novorossiya, the more they’ll be reminded that their dictatorial government whipped them into a fervor in support of this pseudo-state and then basically all but abandoned it because sanctions hurt their ability to fork over more stolen money into Western banks and luxury real estate.
This looks like the poster for the worst buddy-cop comedy movie ever.
Pro-Russian separatist: When I’m driving, we listen to my music! Not that Banderite Nazi crap! *switches radio to Soviet retro station*
Ukrainian nationalist: It’s my car! So I choose the music! *switches radio again*
Pro-Russian separatist: Damn you Banderite! *switches dial to a third station*
Pro-Russian separatist: …
Ukrainian nationalist: …
Both together: This hit, that ice cold Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold. This one for them hood girls Them good girls straight masterpieces. Stylin’, whilen, livin’ it up in the city. Got Chucks on with Saint Laurent! Got kiss myself, I’m so pretty!
Pig chariot. No further comment needed.
More “anti-fascism,” as you can see from this cover. I guess Space Soviets team up with Space Nazis to destroy Space Liberals or something.
This is another sub-genre of popadanyets novels, known as pimpadanyets. When he’s not making that sweet green he’s gunning down Nazis. Extra points for removing the DT machine gun from the tank.
Yes, Western leftists. The country where popular literature involves the Red Army traveling back in time to help the slave-owning Confederacy win the Civil War is definitely the global headquarters of anti-fascism. Keep up the anti-imperialist struggle!
Well there you have it folks. Have a happy New Year and get ready to start talking about how 2017 is “like, the worst year ever!”
P.S. Donating money to good causes is guaranteed to make your New Year’s wishes come true!*
*Not a guarantee.