The departure of Alan Aldridge in early 1968 left Penguin without an art director for fiction and with Tony Godwin gone too Penguin was, for a time, a ship without a rudder. Allen Lane was now semi-retired but with his firm adrift in troubled waters he stepped into the breach and launched a clean-up campaign aimed at putting Penguin back on course.

Lane had spelled out his intentions in a statement issued at the time of Godwin's departure in May of the previous year. 'Future fiction covers will emphasize the Penguin identity', he had said, adding that the phrase, a Penguin Book, would be 'making a prominent return to the front cover'. This attempt to reassert the Penguin brand – which, it was felt, had been eroded over the previous few years – became evident when A PENGUIN BOOK was stamped across the tops of covers in large block capitals. These panic tops, as they became known, were unpopular with cover designers and illustrators and some were upset that they had not been consulted. In his statement Lane had said that the covers would aim for 'visual impact without vulgarity, visual excitement without titillation, clear and legible typography'. The impact of the panic tops was undeniable but for all the wrong reasons. They were ugly and made the covers look top heavy. Likewise the typography, which was certainly clear and legible but lacked 'visual excitement', as did the covers in general.

H G WELLS The War in the Air, 1967 The War in the Air (343) by H G Wells

1967 reprint with a cover by Harry Willock.
H G WELLS The War of the Worlds, 1967 The War of the Worlds (570) by H G Wells

1967 reprint with a cover by Harry Willock.
H G WELLS The Island of Doctor Moreau, 1967 The Island of Doctor Moreau (571) by H G Wells

1967 reprint with a cover by Harry Willock.
H G WELLS The Time Machine, 1968 Selected Short Stories (1310) by H G Wells

The Time Machine and other stories, first published as a collection in 1927.

Published by Penguin Books 1958 and reprinted in 1968 (shown left)
with a cover by Harry Willock.
JULES VERNE Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 1968 Journey to the Centre of the Earth (2265) by Jules Verne

1968 reprint with a cover by Harry Willock.

The appointment of David Pelham as Aldridge's replacement in May 1968 coincided with the publication of five new sf titles by English authors. The books had panic tops in sf mauve and cover designs by Richard Hollis but if the intention was to draw a line under all things Aldridge then these new covers were a little too successful. Certainly the artwork based on photographs from science books and magazines was the coldest of turkey after Aldridge's lysergic images, and the typography also saw a return to sobriety, with the wrecked titles of the previous year now reformed characters.

J G BALLARD The Drought, 1968 The Drought (2753) by J G Ballard

First published in 1964 as The Burning World.

Published by Penguin Books May 1968 with a cover by Richard Hollis, using a detail from
a microphotograph of anatase (titanium dioxide) by Stévan Célébonovic in The Living Rocks, 1957.

"On the right ..... was a faded reproduction of a small painting he had clipped from a
magazine, 'Jours de Lenteur' by Yves Tanguy. With its smooth, pebble-like objects,
drained of all associations, suspended on a washed tidal floor, this painting had
helped to free him from the tiresome repetitions of everyday life.

All evidence of Aldridge was erased but unfortunately this included the science fiction label beneath the penguin logo and with no banner either there was nothing on the covers to identify the books as sf. Mr Hyde had returned to his former respectable self but Dr Jekyll had thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

ERIC FRANK RUSSELL Somewhere a Voice, 1968 Somewhere a Voice (2722) by Eric Frank Russell

Seven short stories, first published as an anthology in 1965.

Published by Penguin Books May 1968 with a cover by Richard Hollis, using a detail from
a microphotograph by Carl Strüwe in Formen des Mikrokosmos (Forms of the
), 1955.

Somewhere a Voice
Seat of Oblivion
Displaced Person
Dear Devil
I Am Nothing
JOHN PETTY The Last Refuge, 1968 The Last Refuge (2734) by John Petty

First published 1966.

Published by Penguin Books May 1968 with a cover by Richard Hollis, using a detail from
a photograph by William Garnett in Geology by William C Putnam, Oxford University
Press, 1964.

Sturgeon's Law is the name given to an aphorism by the American sf writer Theodore Sturgeon, who responded to claims by critics that ninety percent of sf is 'crud' by observing that ninety percent of everything is crud. Both statements are rhetorical, of course, but it would be fair to say that with a few exceptions, most of the eighty sf titles that Penguin had published during its first 33 years – by authors such as Jules Verne, H G Wells, Olaf Stapledon, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, John Wyndham, Robert Heinlein, Philip K Dick and J G Ballard – fell within the other ten percent. Not so The Last Refuge, which managed to slip past the crud detectors and onto the pages of A PENGUIN BOOK.

The story is set in 1999 and its protagonist James Muller is not a well man. Following a nuclear war in the 1970s, England is a police state and the countryside a concrete wasteland. Persecuted, tortured and sent into exile by a führer-like and sadistic Chief of Police, Muller never recovers and neither does the story, which the author simply abandons after 192 pages. As no doubt many readers did, albeit far sooner.

JOHN BRUNNER Telepathist, 1968 Telepathist (2715) by John Brunner

First published in 1964 as The Whole Man.

Published by Penguin Books May 1968 with a cover by Richard Hollis, using a detail from
a microphotograph by Carl Strüwe in Formen des Mikrokosmos (Forms of the
), 1955.

Telepathist is divided into three parts which take their titles from a Latin expression,
mens agitat molem, used by the Roman poet Virgil in the Aeneid and commonly
translated as 'mind over matter'.

John Brunner's Telepathist is not much better although it starts well enough, while his other novel published by Penguin in 1968, The Long Result, starts poorly but soon turns into an excellent tale of interstellar politics in which pacifism and diplomacy have replaced war, and humans have colonized two planets a little over ten light-years from Earth. Starhome, which orbits Epsilon Eridani, is a technological and highly organized though somewhat authoritarian society, while the neo-Roussellian colonists on the pastoral planet of Viridis at 61 Cygni favour the arts. Humans have good relations with several alien races whose planets orbit stars at somewhat greater distances, and as the only species with interstellar travel, humanity is willing to share its knowledge with these other races. But not everyone agrees and a little-known supremacist organization called the 'Stars Are For Man League' is becoming increasingly radicalized.

The League's anti-alien hate mail campaign is soon linked to the attempted murder of a visiting Regulan, while the arrival on Earth of a Starhomer ship carrying a delegation of Tau Cetians who are almost killed leaves Earth's Bureau of Cultural Relations struggling to avert a major diplomatic crisis. The Bureau's work is further complicated when it becomes apparent that the Starhomers have a hidden agenda, for Earth has become somewhat settled in its ways and Starhome has now overtaken it. Realising this, the bureaucrats on Earth must help Starhome to prepare not only for its independence but also for the long result – a new world order – when Earth will cede human leadership to Starhome.

JOHN BRUNNER The Long Result, 1968 The Long Result (2804) by John Brunner

First published 1965.

Published by Penguin Books May 1968. The cover is unattributed.

Reprints of three other sf titles in 1968 also featured panic tops and Richard Hollis covers though only Aldiss's anthology revealed itself as sf.

ISAAC ASIMOV (Ed) The Hugo Winners, 1968 The Hugo Winners (1905) edited by Isaac Asimov

1968 reprint with a cover by Richard Hollis, using a microphotograph by Stévan Célébonovic in The Living Rocks, 1957.
BRIAN ALDISS (Ed) More Penguin Science Fiction, 1968 More Penguin Science Fiction (1963) edited by Brian Aldiss

1968 reprint with a cover by Richard Hollis, using a photograph by C Bleil and W Sturner in Scientific American.
J G BALLARD The Drowned World, 1968 The Drowned World (2229) by J G Ballard

1968 reprint with a cover by Richard Hollis.

The 1968 reprint of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four retained the Marber grid and cover art from its previous print run but now displayed the orange panic top that was being used for the main fiction list.

GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1968 Nineteen Eighty-Four (972) by George Orwell

1968 reprint. The cover shows The Control Room, Civil Defence Headquarters (1942) by William Roberts, at the Salford Art Gallery in Manchester, England.
ALDOUS HUXLEY Island, 1968 Island (2193) by Aldous Huxley

1968 reprint with a cover by Grant Grimbly.

With Orwell on orange alert it seemed fitting that a reprint of Huxley's Island should offer sanctuary in troubled times. The absence of a panic top and the use of a plain white cover bearing the typewritten title and author's name gave the impression that here, finally, was Huxley's long-awaited manuscript which Penguin had fast-tracked into print. That this was a book like no other was further demonstrated by the bizarre spectacle of a mynah bird perched on a branch, eloquently reciting a synopsis of the novel into a large speech bubble. Add to this the fact that Island was Huxley's final work of fiction and the talking bird makes this swansong even quirkier.