Prior to his departure in 1949, Jan Tschichold had been working on a new idea for Penguin fiction covers which rotated the three horizontal bands of Edward Young's design through ninety degrees. The horizontal divisions were also retained but the upper and lower sections were now much smaller and demarcated by a black line, with the orange and white vertical bands extending the full height of the cover. PENGUIN BOOKS kept its place in the topmost section but there was no longer room for its large white quartic, and the lower section now contained the price instead of the logo, which was relocated to a small white roundel halfway down the right-hand orange band.

This layout created a much larger space in the centre of the cover, which could now accommodate some promotional blurb as well as the title and author's name. Tschichold's replacement, Hans Schmoller, completed the design and sf titles began using it in 1954, starting, as before, with Erewhon.

SAMUEL BUTLER Erewhon, 1954 Erewhon (20) by Samuel Butler

1954 reprint.
H G WELLS The War of the Worlds, 1954 The War of the Worlds (570) by H G Wells

1954 reprint.
ALDOUS HUXLEY Brave New World, 1955 Brave New World (1052) by Aldous Huxley

First published 1932.

Published by Penguin Books April 1955.

Brave New World is one of ten Huxley titles that Penguin published in April 1955 and at first they look just like any other Penguin, but a second look reveals that a serif typeface has been used and there is no promotional blurb, the implication being that none is needed since Huxley's name alone makes the books essential reading.

JOHN CHRISTOPHER The Death of Grass, 1958 The Death of Grass (1300) by John Christopher

First published 1956.

Published by Penguin Books July 1958.

John Christopher was a pseudonym used by the English writer Samuel Youd.

The Death of Grass re-examines the ethical consequences of crop failure and global famine explored by J J Connington in « Nordenholt's Million » although the stories soon part company, with Christopher's descending into cold-blooded murder.

JOHN WYNDHAM The Chrysalids, 1958 The Chrysalids (1308) by John Wyndham

First published 1955.

Published by Penguin Books August 1958.
JOHN WYNDHAM The Seeds of Time, 1959 The Seeds of Time (1385) by John Wyndham

Ten stories, first published as a collection in 1956.

Published by Penguin Books July 1959.

Time to Rest
Pawley's Peepholes
Opposite Number
Pillar to Post
Dumb Martian
Compassion Circuit
Wild Flower

The blurb on the cover of The Seeds of Time gushingly undersold the book as 'nine fantastic stories' instead of ten. The error was corrected for the « 1962 reprint » though by then the blurb had shifted to the book's back cover.

DAVID KARP One, 1960 One (1459) by David Karp

First published 1953.

Published by Penguin Books July 1960.

When One was first published it had been bracketed with Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Huxley's Brave New World and Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon. It was a claim the literary critic Cyril Connolly, writing in The Sunday Times, 'at first thought presumptuous; but now, after reading it, I am inclined to agree'. Like its predecessors, Karp's novel bore the hallmarks of a classic. A note in the Penguin editorial file summed it up by asking 'What would happen if everyone thought alike, if all were members of a vast, harmonious society where all are equal, all conform? Can an intelligent man be stifled of his personality? Must the abstraction of the State extort the final sacrifice from its members?'.

BERNARD WOLFE Limbo '90, 1961 Limbo '90 (1647) by Bernard Wolfe

First published 1952.

Published by Penguin Books August 1961.

Limbo '90 was the last Penguin sf title to use a purely typographic cover and the first, according to the blurb on the back, to project the concept of cybernetics 'to its logical and terrifying conclusion'. Whoever wrote this had evidently not read the book, which is set in the wake of a third world war waged between two supercomputers and has young men flocking to join a global pacifist movement by volunteering to have their limbs amputated and thereby 'immobilise' their aggressive impulses. This conceit is, of course, a pun on the idea of disarmament, and Wolfe's penchant for wordplay litters the text like so many dropped clues. The intention is neither logical nor terrifying but that of a ludicrous satire, as emphasised by the fact that most amputees are fitted with prosthetic arms and legs that give them superhuman abilities far beyond the limbs they've lopped off. It is nonsense dressed up as a mock Hegelian dialectic on the passive-aggressive, a sheep in Wolfe's clothing, a bad joke masquerading as a mix of crackpot philosophy and psychoanalytical claptrap. It only makes sense if read as nonsense, but even so the book is far too long and once its point is made the joke wears thin. It would have been better as a novella and Penguin, perhaps realising this, published an abridged edition.