Review: Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss

Titan Books, Hardcover, Out Now

If you ever read a British-published paperback science fiction novel in the 1970s or 1980s, chances are you were exposed to the distinctive artwork of Chris Foss.

His chunky, colourful spaceships adorned many a classic work and forgotten pulp publications alike. Authors whose works boasted a Chris Foss cover include Isaac Asimov, E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Arthur C. Clarke, A. E. Van Vogt and Philip K. Dick.

Foss rarely depicts people: he goes for the machines, the larger the better (hence the title of this volume of collected art). His ships and alien landscapes are instantly recognisable, but only occasionally is there a human figure included (and often it’s simply for comparison of scale).

This is the most comprehensive single volume collection of Foss’s SF work (yet it includes some of his aircraft and sea ship images as well). Compiled by British graphic artist Rian Hughes (who also provides a context-setting introductory essay), this is the ideal showcase for Foss’s groundbreaking graphic work, presented without the titles, bylines and blurbs that featured on those disposable paperbacks.

A conversation between Foss and his daughter Imogen offers some biographical detail and hints at his design work for movies (on Dune, Alien and Superman) that was never used (but is nicely showcased here, alongside other preliminary sketches for book covers). Forewords by French comic book creator Moebius and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky also sing the artist’s praises.

This volume is not about the text (only the first 20 pages of 240). It’s the images that rightly dominate, offering a parade of jaw-dropping ships, landscapes and robots filtered through the unique imagination of Chris Foss. A must have for fans of quality SF art.

Verdict: An indispensable collection of out-there space art. 9/10

Sheldon Twigg

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