Horribly bad blurbs

Some bookcover blurbs have mistakes - like the one on the back of my copy of Niven’s “Tales of Known Space” which claims that the book tells the next 10,000 years of history - the last story in the book occurs about 3000 AD, or the one that calls 2150AD the 21st century.

But this one is just horrible (I’ve expurgated the distinguishing features for the moment - try to figure out what book is being maligned yourself before I tell you):

“Character name”
The fantabulous secret weapon in the cold war between the worlds.
Back Cover:
Tomorrow’s answer to the anti-missile-missile.
“Character name”
An interplanetary bombshell who rocked the constellations when
she invaded the Venus Hilton and attacked the mighty mechanical
men with a strange, overpowering blast of highly explosive Sex
A cenTERRIFICal tale of two planets by the mastermind of “Author Name”
Inside Front Page:
She was the sun, the moon and the stars. Wherever pretty “character nickname”
rocketed, her radiation waves could be felt for lightyears. The
fun and games’ rooms at Las Vega, Venus, had never seen anything
like this minx from Mars. “Character nickname” was having the time of her
celestial life–until one of her male satellites discovered that
“character name” spelled trouble…in anybody’s orbit.

Does it have the word “vortex” anywhere?*

In any case, 50s and 60s blurbs often had that same gushy and overwrote prose, especially on paperbacks.

*Extremely obscure SF reference; I actually don’t remember the story it came from myself.

Oh, wow. I had to Google phrases from this because I HAD to know. Oh…just…wow. That’s bad. No, that’s worse than bad. I’m not sure there’s a word in English for what that is.

Not likely; centriPITal, maybe.

I wouldn’t have guessed (I also Googled) but it doesn’t surprise me all that much. Around the same time publishers had a habit of reprinting classic cosy mysteries of the 1930s with naked girls on the covers.

You can’t tell a book by its cover, but you can sure sell it by one.

Oftentimes the blurb writers have to write the blurb without knowing much or anything about the book. I once had to write 200 words on a new Robert Jordan novel – which had not been delivered to the publisher yet.

ETA: but what I wrote was waaay less bad than the OP. It was just vague to an almost astounding level.

One editor said that the covers and blurbs for paperbacks of the era were not designed for any potential readers, but for the truck drivers and rack jobbers who put the books out. If they liked the cover and blurb, your book got better location and better distribution than if they didn’t.

Mad magazine made fun of this back in the mid-1960s. They have an “interview” with a publisher who gussies up his economics texts with blurbs like:
“What Horrible Law did Gresham Submit Women To?”

Um, Girl from Mars, goes to Venus, hangs at the Venus Hilton, …

Robert Heinlein’s, Podkayne of Mars?

If so, you are correct, that is a dreadful assassination of the plot. Not that I wouldn’t read that story, just that it isn’t the story of the book I named.

In China, it’s pretty easy to buy pirate DVDs. The pirates will go to great lengths to make their product look nice, including cover art and a blurb on the back. Unfortunately, often this blurb is just lifted wholesale from the Internet, and so often the blurb on the back will be along the lines of “This movie was terrible, do not waste your money on it.”

You have correctly identified the book. Poor main character is being seriously misrepresented - like describing Nancy Drew as Mata Hari.

Now that that’s solved, can we malign – or at least misalign – some SF faves?

“The boy they called the Mouse is out for blood and power, and taking no prisoners. But before he can avenge his father’s death he must battle an insane cult of witches who have brainwashed his mother to kill him, dominate a band of desperate desert terrorists in a fight to the death, and steal the hearts of two women–one a hot-blooded temptress and the other a cold princess from another world.”


My paperback edition of the first Star Trek novel shows the Enterprise streaking around the planet, similar to the opening shots in the TV Series. The Enterprise has its two cylindrical engines, a cylindrical lower section, and a front saucer. A good drawing, obviously captured from the series. The engines use energy and not rockets and the lower cylindrical section has the shuttle craft bay at the tail end of it. So how did the artist draw the book cover?

The engines have long flaming streamers shooting out - and so does the shuttle bay! :eek:

That’s not the fault of the book – that picture was used by the network to promote the series when it first appeared on TV – the Bantam paperback simply used the existing series art.
Blame NBC, not the book company or the artist.

That was my guess, too. The weird thing? I’ve never read Podkayne of Mars. I don’t have a clue what the book’s about, other than (I presume) someone named Podkayne, who comes from Mars.

Despite that, my first reaction on reading the OP was, “Must be Podkayne of Mars.”

Somebody need to write a book based on that blurb! :smiley:

When I was in 8th grade, I bought a paperback copy of, IIRC, Life In A Putty Knife Factory by humorist H. Allen Smith. The cover, totally unrelated to the book, showed a cheesecake shot of a buxom babe. That was pretty racy for 1959, and I pasted a manila folder cover over the racy one, so I wouldn’t get in trouble for reading it in school.

I’ve never read Podkayne of Mars, but once the title was correctly identified I was very surprised by the blurb in the OP because I’d had the impression that the book was about a little girl! Wikipedia tells me the title character is actually about 17, which makes the “interplanetary bombshell” with “a strange, overpowering blast of highly explosive Sex Appeal” business slightly less disturbing.

There was an infamous cheap paperback edition of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey published in the mid 1960s that portrays the book as a Gothic romance. I could almost suspect this of being a deliberate joke on the part of the publisher, as Northanger Abbey features a heroine who reads a lot of Gothic romances and lets her imagination get the best of her.

Heck, I remember the blurbs for a political thriller called “The R Document”, which described one female character as “she padded the government payroll as a sex object”. Well, okay… on the four or five pages that character actually appears, she’s the mistress of the Director of the FBI, as well as working for the Bureau in some fashion, so anyone expecting Tales of the Office Slave will be sorely disappointed.