Looking for examples of marketing or blurb lies or bait-and-switch on book jackets.
August 29, 2008 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Do you know any books that have blurbs on the back which incorrectly describe the plot of the book?

So, I picked up this book called Samedi The Deafness which says on the back:

One morning in the park James Sim discovers a man, crumpled on the ground, stabbed in the chest. With his last breath, the man whispers one word: Samedi. What follows is a spellbinding game of cat and mouse..."

I picked up the book, but that's not what happens in it. Yeah, the guy is stabbed and dying, but he doesn't whisper one word. Their conversation goes on for like two pages.

This is not the first time I've bought a book with a summary on the back that has been false. I'm wondering if anyone else has some examples of the same.

posted by dobbs to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The book Star Wars: Allegiance by Timothy Zahn lies. It lies like the devil! Here is the description:


Never before has the incendiary mix of action, politics, and intrigue that has become Timothy Zahn's trademark, been more evident that in this new Star Wars epic. On the heels of the stunning events chronicled in Star Wars: A New Hope, the newly minted heroes of the Rebellion—fledgling Jedi Luke Skywalker, smuggler turned reluctant freedom-fighter Han Solo, and Princess Leia Organa, a bold leader with a world to avenge—must face the harsh realities of the cataclysmic conflict into which they have so bravely plunged. From this point forward, legends will grow, treachery will abound, and lives will be irrevocably altered, in the long, hard fight to counter the fist of tyranny and restore hope to a galaxy too long in darkness.

The destruction of the Death Star by the Rebel Alliance was a decisive blow against the Empire, but Palpatine and his monstrous enforcer, Darth Vader, are no less of a threat. The brutal extermination of Alderaan not only demonstrated the magnitude of their murderous power, but served as a chilling testament to their resolve to crush the Rebel uprising. Standing against them, Skywalker, Solo, and the Princess remain uncertain opponents. Luke is gifted and brave, but unschooled in the power he possesses. Han has doubts about waging someone else's war—and his contentiousness is one more burden for Leia to bear as she struggles to help keep the Rebellion alive. The three have been sent to mediate a dispute between Rebel Alliance factions in Shelsha Sector—agitating matters by forcing Han to deal not only with pirates, but with his more dreaded enemy, politics. At the same time, Mara Jade—all of eighteen and years away from her fateful meeting with Luke—is serving her evil master, Palpatine, well in her role as the Emperor's Hand: tracking suspected treachery in the Empire to what may be high places—while trying to stay out of Darth Vader's way.

But the Rebels will prove to be only one of the Empire's concerns. For Imperial Stormtrooper Daric LaRone, his faith in the Empire shaken by the wanton destruction of Alderaan, will commit a sudden and violent act of defiance, and take four other enforcers with him, in a desperate bid to elude their masters' wrath.

Each of these fateful actions, whether sanctioned, secret, or scandalous, will expose brutality and corruption, spur upheavals destined to shake the Empire to its core, and shape momentous events yet to come.


This entire book is about Mara jade and the Stormtrooper Daric LaRone. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo have little more than cameos, Princess Leia a minor, minor subplot, and the Rebellion barely figures in the book at all.

Many Star Wars fans were quite angered as the book sold itself as the adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han between the movie Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back, but had little to none of that...
posted by arniec at 11:50 AM on August 29, 2008

Is the last word he says in his conversation "Samedi"? Cause then, technically, the blurb is correct...
posted by Grither at 12:05 PM on August 29, 2008

Thanks arniec.

Grither, no, it's not even in the last four paragraphs of the dying man's speech.
posted by dobbs at 12:08 PM on August 29, 2008

Not a blurb, but marketing: 1984 as a pulp novel.
posted by griphus at 12:17 PM on August 29, 2008

Cool, it's hilarious when things are all wrong like that. And not sure it counts exactly, but I'm currently reading "The Armageddon Inheritance" by David Weber, and the blurb is this. And I suppose there are prequels/sequels or something, because everything up to "mutiny" doesn't happen in this book. And only about half of the book is about the Colin character, too. And it wouldn't be a problem if it mentioned anywhere on the cover that it was a sequel. Ah well.
posted by Grither at 12:17 PM on August 29, 2008

this thread could become an article or a FPP (?)
posted by captainsohler at 12:24 PM on August 29, 2008

My copy of Saramago's The Cave is not technically wrong, but reveals a plot development that doesn't take place until the last 30 pages or so of the novel.
posted by nasreddin at 12:26 PM on August 29, 2008

A few years back I bought my wife a large lot (like 75) Agatha Christie books off Ebay. Most of them are trashy paperback editions from the 60s and apparently a large percentage of them have plot descriptions that are completely wrong. They also feature cover art which is completely wrong, as in they all have guns or knives on the cover, no matter whether anyone in the story used either.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2008

The british copy of The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon reveals a crucial plot detail in the blurb... I emailed the publisher about this, but no response yet.
posted by PTCHFRKR at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2008

There was a book by Neil Gaiman & Kim Newman called Ghastly Beyond Belief that had loads of examples of this sort of thing.

I've no longer got a copy but one I remember was for an old Lon Chaney Jr film, The Mummy's Ghost, that was billed with the line: 'Nameless! Fleshless! Deathless!'

The writers point out that the 'ghost' actually has a name (Kharis), is rather tubby and drowns at the end of the movie... so that's three lies in three words.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:33 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike YA horror novels feature grossly innaccurate back blurbs and cover art that have little to do with the actual plot.
posted by yellowbinder at 2:33 PM on August 29, 2008

This cover's skewed take on Northanger Abbey never fails to crack me up.
posted by sciapod at 2:56 PM on August 29, 2008 [4 favorites]

I know you are specifically looking for books here, but it's not uncommon in movies as well. And particularly in bootlegged DVDs such as this one: front cover, hilarious back cover.
posted by litlnemo at 3:20 PM on August 29, 2008

A few years back I bought my wife a large lot (like 75) Agatha Christie books off Ebay. Most of them are trashy paperback editions from the 60s and apparently a large percentage of them have plot descriptions that are completely wrong. They also feature cover art which is completely wrong, as in they all have guns or knives on the cover, no matter whether anyone in the story used either.

Yes-.I used to collect AC as a teenager; my Nana would buy them from the second hand store where she volunteered. They were mostly 60's and 70's paperbacks and many of the blurbs were wrong. They're all in a box in the basement now or I'd hunt down some more specific examples.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:45 PM on August 29, 2008

When you are engulfed in flames by David Sedaris has a hilarious front flap that lies twice before actually discussing the contents of the book. I have to say I was slightly disappointed it didn't have the first story in it. However, it was done for humor and not as a mistake.
posted by nursegracer at 5:54 PM on August 29, 2008

Sort of a non-answer, but Samedi is exactly the book I immediately thought of when I read the question.

Also, a slightly different situation, but if you're going to design a book cover taking its cue from a plot detail like a character having a third leg, you should probably make sure it's the correct leg. Unfortunately the larger view of the book loads entirely different art for some reason, but there's a pretty detailed description telling you whether he has an extra left or right foot in the first ten pages or so.
posted by Su at 9:18 PM on August 29, 2008

My mass-market paperback copy of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossessed has the names of the two planets (Urras and Anarres) interchanged on the back cover. Really confused me the first time I read it.
posted by teraflop at 9:27 PM on August 29, 2008

Not exactly the same, but:

I do a big Halloween display in my front yard. Think 10 ft tall animatronic scarecrow and you're pretty much there. A few years ago I picked up a book which covered the design of the frames for these systems and how to spec the pneumatic cylinders you need and what not.

The cover blurb is not for that book. Instead it is for a book that covers holiday displays in general with a section on animatronics. This is, aparently, the book which the author pitched to the publisher, but the publisher asked him to rework it to focus almost exclusively on the animatronics. Then the marketing people took the original pitch document and designed the cover.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:09 PM on August 29, 2008

The back of the book Trout Fishing In America by Richard Brautigan is a solid red cover with only one word on it. "Mayonnaise". Let me assure you, it has nothing to do with the content.
posted by ezabeta at 7:45 PM on October 3, 2008

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