Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: Beyond the Horizon

Book: The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon
ISBN-13: 978-1781168424

Author: John Harris
Publisher: Titan Books
Release: May 27, 2014
Length: 160 pages (Hardcover)

Book Rating: A (100 / 100)


This is the perfect collection to adorn the coffee table of any science fiction fan.
    Pros: Gorgeous iconic art reproduced on large format glossy pages.

    Cons: The book is a little light on author commentary.


World-renowned visionary artist John Harris’ unique paintings capture the Universe on a massive scale, featuring everything from vast landscapes and towering cities to immensely beautiful science fiction vistas. This lovingly curated collection focuses on his wide variety of futuristic paintings, sketches, acrylics and watercolours, as well as his striking covers for a variety of esteemed SF authors, including John Scalzi, Ben Bova, Jack McDevitt, Orson Scott Card and many more.


If you're a fan of science fiction, you're already well acquainted with the art of John Harris. His gorgeous spacescapes have adorned the covers of the genre's landmark titles since the late seventies, including the work of Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Ben Bova, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Larry Niven, Frederik Pohl, John Scalzi, and this year's Nebula Award-winner, Ann Leckie. His 1979 painting for Frederick Pohl's Drunkard's Walk became the iconic cover art for the first edition of Ender’s Game, which anyone who grew up in the eighties will remember vividly.

Today, Titan Books is releasing an updated collection of Harris' most iconic pieces, and they aren't skimping on the presentation. The collection is packaged in a glossy 160-page book with a 9-by-12-inch format that is large enough to present Harris' work in all of its splendor but not so large as to not fit onto a bookshelf.

Beyond the Horizon is packed with gorgeous, full color reproductions of his work. The work is very simply presented, with most pages presenting a single piece with its title in an unobtrusive caption, and the book is pepper with insightful commentary from the artist on his creative process. For example, in the book, Harris reveals the importance of dreams as an inspiration for his work. He explains that one of his earliest experiences with art occurred one day when has he was stuck sick in bed as a child. Bored, he began marking up the white wall with dirty fingers. "I was incredibly struck by the sense of space and depth that I could get from making smudges on a wall," he writes. "And I found that I could dream myself into those spaces."

This may explains the dream-like quality of the artist's work or the way his paintings manage to elicit such a sense of vastness.

The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon showcases Harris' thirty plus year career, offering readers an opportunity to follow the evolution of his work, including cover art, paintings inspired by NASA photographs of Earth, and an on-going pictorial story of his own creation. The art itself will take your breath away, science fiction fan or not. Harris has a singular talent for making you feel like child again, small in the face of his vast vistas but jubilant in the light of his vibrant color palettes. It's easy to get lost in such a powerful collection, which is exactly what makes this such a perfect coffee table book.

In his forward, Scalzi explains how John Harris' painting for the cover of The Ghost Brigade save him from writer's block. "John’s artwork, like that of Richard Powers or Frank Kelly Freas, is iconic, and also Bookstore Iconic–which is to say you can see it from across a bookstore, and when you see it, you know what you’re going to get in the pages of that book: A damn fine read that takes you places you can’t go any other way."

I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon if you're a fan of science fiction, and if you're an aspiring writer, well, here's the inspiration you've been looking for!


The Geek Art Gallery received an advance review copy of The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon, from Titan Books at no cost.  We extend our sincere thanks to Titan for the courtesy; however, the free copy did not influence the opinion of this reviewer.

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