Books adapted for the screen (big or small) tend to create a vocal audience. There’s always concerns about casting the right actors or what plot points might have to be sacrificed.
Hollywood isn’t known for its loyalty to the text, but some works don’t translate well to the big screen.
There have been a few blunders along the way, yet some of the most powerful and intriguing adaptations were created from the minds of Thomas Harris, George R. R. Martin, and Roald Dahl.
For the past couple years, I have been crawling my way through NPR’s top 100 science-fiction series of all times, a list I highly recommend for newcomers and veterans of the genre.
Several of the books on the list already have popular onscreen adaptations (The Princess Bride, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings), but there are a few I think could withstand the often brutal transition from page to screen
With the proper vision and the right script, these books have a fighting chance of making worthwhile films.
The following titles only apply to half of NPR’s list since, well, I’m only halfway through the book selections (a greater achievement than it sounds, I can assure you). So I give you Part I of Science-Fiction Books We’d Love to See on the Big Screen.
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
No one combines humor with apocalyptic disaster quite like Vonnegut, and the science behind his science-fiction always makes a miraculous amount of sense.
A script for Cat’s Cradle would need a dark wit to compensate for the loss of the book’s first-person narrative, but the book does the heavy-lifting when it comes to drama.
If the book makes you hold it as far away from yourself as possible while your eyes bulge at the unfolding events, imagine what effect the movie could have.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is a master at creating new worlds.
She constructs cultures that are so realistic and in-depth that they seem like places you just haven’t visited yet. The Left Hand of Darkness delves into the world of Gethen, a planet populated with ambisexuals who have no gender identity until they have to mate.
One of the first books to examine androgyny, the novel addresses sex and gender and its effects on society, politics, and religion. It would be fascinating to see such a complex, new world on the big screen, especially one that forces the audience to examine how their own culture is influenced by gender.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
China Mieville’s steampunk, bug-ridden, parallel universe is an aesthetic wet dream.
The characters and societies are rich, diverse, and complicated, constantly moving in the background and foreground.
The slow burn in Mieville’s novel wouldn’t be a problem in a film adaptation, and his masterful command of action and drama requires little tampering from a screenwriter. Plus I’m desperately curious to see what a garuda or khepri would look like.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
This series by Jasper Fforde is full of adventure, cheeky British humor, and English literature references (I recommend reading Jane Eyre ahead of time or else spoilers ensue).
Fforde’s alternate version of the 1980s is quite like ours except for one distinctive difference: book characters are alive and real and interact in their own world, and there exists a special task force to keep them in check.
If the right director and script could come together with the same self-deprecating humor Thursday Next brings to her adventures (while kicking total ass), The Eyre Affair could stand a chance at being a successful one-off. Just please don’t make a sequel.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Okay, there is in fact already a movie for The Last Unicorn, but it’s a musical cartoon that could definitely do with a modern rejuvenation.
Beagle’s classic tale is altogether painful, frightening, emotional, and bittersweet; and it would stand strong as either an animation or live-action film. Someone call the horse from War Horse; he’d be perfect for the lead role.