The Bad Book Blurb Contest: Worst Descriptions of Classic Spec Fic Books

This week, I’m going to do something a bit different from my usual blog post routine, and do something humorous.

Why? Partly because we’re all in a tough time right now and we could always use a few more laughs. Also because this humorous thing connects to topics I’ve discussed frequently in my regular posts: speculative fiction (that is, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror) and the ideas that underpin those genres.

A couple of months ago, I bought a rare and quite hilarious book: Ghastly Beyond Belief: the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book of Quotations.

The book, published in 1985, was written by two young writers named Kim Newman (a few years before he became a successful novelist and film critic) and Neil Gaiman (a year before he wrote a guide to Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and then various acclaimed graphic novels and other stories).

As the title suggests, Ghastly Beyond Belief is a collection of ridiculous quotes, descriptions and book cover blurbs from various fantasy/sci-fi/horror novels. I personally found the first section, “Attach of the Killer Blurbs,” the most humorous. It’s full of over-blown, melodramatic descriptions of the stories (sometimes descriptions that don’t even match the book, as Gaiman notes). It was especially interesting when I realized that this sort of thing can happen even to classic works.

While taking part in a seminar at Taylor University’s C.S. Lewis Center in 2019, I was shown some old paperback copies of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy published by Avon. The Avon book cover for Perelandra showed a giant nude couple looking a smaller man, with the back cover proclaiming something like “Two Adams and one Eve in a new garden of Eden.”

(If you think I’m joking, you can find a picture of this edition on Brenton Dickieson’s “A Pilgrim in Narnia” blog. Goodreads currently has the photo listed as the book cover for a 2018 Kindle version, for reasons I can’t fathom.)

All of this got me thinking: Ghastly Beyond Belief just passed its 25th anniversary, and it might be fun to apply the concept to beloved speculative fiction works as well as the trashy ones.

With this in mind, I’m started a contest. Over the next few weeks I will be posting my own badly done blurbs for various classic speculative fiction books. Many of these books are well-known, some are obscure but well worth reading. I will post five new blurbs every week to this post for a while, and post them all on twitter with several hashtags, including the already in-use #badblurbs.

As I post, I’d love to have people chime in with their own worst book blurbs. Post them in the comments, post them as replies to my tweets. Just show me your worst, and I do mean, worst efforts.

Alright, here we go. Gets your pens ready and your brains roaring.

Terrible Book Blurbs for Classic Sci-Fi/Horror/Fantasy Books

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker: The British think all other Europeans are strange. But they weren’t prepared for this Eastern European nobleman and his ways with women.
  2. Neuromancer by William Gibson: He’s drunk. He’s drugged. And he can’t hack computers anymore. Not until mercenaries offer him a job he can’t refuse. Let the ultimate VR trip begin.
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke: The monkeys are getting restless. Some say the aliens are responsible.
  4. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: The dark lord cometh. Will the tiny men with foot problems save us this time?
  5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly: The lengths some students will go to just to get that perfect grade on their final research project…
  6. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson: They say you can’t have it both ways. But this MANIAC FROM LONDON wouldn’t have it any other way!
  7. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: And now a heist film in book format. With dragons involved.
  8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: A strange future where not only does everyone watch the same TV shows, but they all like watching them on big screens. Sci-fi truly doesn’t get stranger than this…
  9. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin: A compelling realistic tale about one couple’s struggle to find an affordable place in New York, where the neighbors aren’t too weird.
  10. Dune by Frank Herbert: One planet’s psychedelics are another planet’s inter-dimensional navigation tools. Thus a new war on drugs began…
  11. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty: Just when it seems you’ve got a handle on single parenting, something new barges in…
  12. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells: Will the perverse octopoid blood-suckers from the sky offer us friendship?
  13. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne: His name is latin for nobody. Just a nobody with a steampunk submarine and a LUST FOR ADVENTURE THAT THE WORLD ITSELF CAN’T HANDLE.
  14. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: A tale of near-kidnappings, bribery via Turkish candy, and underage boys leading armies. A book for children, of course.
  15. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum: Ah, the joys of the open road. The fresh air, the people you meet… what could be better? Wait, what’s that winged thing overhead?
  16. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells: Something is rotten in the English countryside. If only we could find it…
  17. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: They ran away with a strange boy, and his best friend is a fairy with jealousy issues. Where will it all end?
  18. Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: The proper English girl’s guide to experimental substances and making new friends.
  19. Psycho by Robert Bloch: A lovely story about mother-son relationships in a little house off the beaten path of an America that was ever so much simpler…
  20. Jurassic Park by Michael Crighton: And the monsters of big business were EATEN ALIVE by the very monsters they had spawned! Look upon their jaws and flee!!!
  21. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov: Our metal brethren are not so different from us. Except when they are.
  22. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson: This time, the apocalypse doesn’t include zombies. Not really, anyway.
  23. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: Are these kids are on the most exclusive field trip ever…. or a LIFE-THREATENING RIDE TO WHO KNOWS WHAT?!?!
  24. Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux: For some, music and culture are hobbies. Others take it far, far, FAR too seriously.
  25. The Once and Future King by T.H. White: In a hopelessly violent world, one man and his private army tried to change things.
  26. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: Some days you wake and discover you’ve turned into a giant cockroach. But will family members show any sympathy? Nooo….
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: With Earth gone, Arthur has a lot he needs therapy for. If he lives long enough to get it.
  28. Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris: A feast for psychological horror connoisseurs.
  29. The Shining by Stephen King: They say cabin fever gets to you. Especially if you’re an alcoholic.
  30. Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard: With biceps that could crush walnuts, and a skull that could withstand an earthquake, this warrior wades through acres of blood seeking life-defying adventures!
  31. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling : Oliver Twist for a magic-crazy generation.
  32. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip K. Dick: No. Next question?
  33. Paradise Lost by John Milton: In heaven, quarrels with management get really sticky.
  34. The Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne: Geology has never been so exciting.
  35. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury: Humanity’s new frontier is really a lot closer to Earth than we thought. No, we mean it.
  36. The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft: Feel your mind take three steps back… and gape in horror at the thing WHOSE NAME CAN NEVER BE SAID!!!!
  37. The Inferno by Dante Aligheri: Your personal tour of the afterlife’s most inclusive locale.
  38. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling: He wasn’t born to be wild… BUT HE SURE WAS RAISED TO BE!!!
  39. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein: And he might not have any choice in the matter…
  40. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: A man with a heart like coal itself… finally learns how to warm it up again. 
  41. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein: Earth people are regarded as strange the universe over. Just ask this Martian immigrant.
  42. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift: Travel the world. Meeting interesting people. Of all shapes and sizes.
  43. The Belgariad by David Eddings: This farm boy is too down-to-earth to believe he’s the chosen one. Wait for what happens after book one.
  44. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis: Can’t a man take a vacation anymore without old schoolmates kidnapping him to give to space aliens as a human sacrifice?
  45. Carrie by Stephen King: A fascinating Freudian allegory of a young girl becoming a woman in a small town.
  46. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan: The road-trip/philosophical dialogue/personal development book you’ve been looking for.
  47. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells: A scientist visits a time like our own. But it’s also highly different. In its own way.
  48. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand: When all else fails, the entrepreneurs will save us. Except when they don’t want to.
  49. The Odyssey by Homer: The war’s over and the wife’s waiting at home… why not take the scenic route back?”
  50. The BFG by Roald Dahl: Sophie’s not big on cannibalism. Fortunately her giant kidnapper, unlike his neighbors, isn’t big on it either.

One thought on “The Bad Book Blurb Contest: Worst Descriptions of Classic Spec Fic Books

  1. Pingback: More of my worst book blurbs (and some by other people) – G. Connor Salter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s