The Southern Reach Goes Retro with Covers by Matthew Revert

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With Authority, the middle book of the Southern Reach, launching this month, I thought it was a good time to reveal these “Go Retro” covers for the Southern Reach trilogy. Designed by the extraordinary Matthew Revert, they don’t appear as the covers for any of the actual editions of the novels, but one can hope. I’m a big fan of Revert’s design style and these covers came about as the result of a conversation we had about cover design after he did some work for my Wonderbook last year. Besides, it kinda fits if you read this review of Authority or this Big Idea feature. Yeah, there’s a fair amount of seventies and early eighties influence in these books, repurposed and assimilated. For an excerpt from the novel, check out the first chapter at io9 and this excerpt at PoetryGenius featuring image-heavy annotations from yours truly.

I like the idea of these editions being found by readers in some dusty ill-lit corner of a used bookstore in the early 1970s. An unexpected find, like the ones that led me in the 1980s to find authors like Edward Whittemore and Frederic Prokosch. I still haunt used bookstores looking for those kinds of unexpected discoveries, and I still make finds that I treasure to this day.

To do these covers justice, I’ve created my own new book descriptions modeled on back cover copy from several 1970s mass market paperbacks in my library. Granted, they’re teetering between serious and satirical…


ANNIHILATION: A mysterious wilderness in which the animals are changing! A tunnel into the earth, not on any map! An expedition divided against itself! In an adventure unlike any other, will the old ruined lighthouse guide them to safety or wreck them on the rocks? Come visit Area X with the biologist on the twelfth expedition. Nothing is at it seems, and nowhere is safe…


AUTHORITY: Beware the rabbit–especially when there are two thousand of them tasks with clandestine special ops. Heir to a spy dynasty, John Rodriquez will pass through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole when he takes over as director of the super-secret Southern Reach agency. Charged with discovering the mystery behind Area X, Rodriguez is running out of time and the clues just keep multiplying like the rabbits in the Southern Reach’s bizarre experiments. Reality is a fractured mirror in this game of parsing truth from untruth.


ACCEPTANCE: In the triumphant conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy, a desperate new expedition crosses the border into Area X seeking the truth. But will Area X oblige them? This mind-blowing climax is haunted by demons and shadows–and owls. Travel into the past with a lighthouse keeper and explore the history of the Southern Reach secret agency. Bear witness to horrors and miracles. Who will be chosen? Who will fall…and what will rise? Only the owl knows.

14 comments on “The Southern Reach Goes Retro with Covers by Matthew Revert

  1. PhilRM says:

    Those are really cool – and your back-cover copy is perfect (says someone who also has a large collection of 1970s mass-market SFF paperbacks).

    I’m halfway through Authority (started it yesterday) and loving it.

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  3. Bumblebee says:

    Will these covers be offered as a special edition at any point? Loving the Southern Reach trilogy so far, and buying book two tonight!

  4. csb says:

    Gosh! I was just looking at the covers of these (for review purposes) and thinking I wish there were some new covers.

    It’s rare to have a 70’s ‘feel’, I can tell you that! Nothing much ‘survived’ that decade… so it’s cool that the Vibe of those times is in Mr. Vandermeers most interesting Trilogy.

  5. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    There is a foreign language publisher thinking about using them. But, yeah, it’d be cool to see them on an actual edition!

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