Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’d Love to See as Movies/TV Shows.
There are quite a few fantasy and science fiction books/series that I think should be made into films or TV shows – but only if they’re done right! Which to me means: well-written, faithful to the original book in the important things, well-cast, and visually “right” for the feel and style of the book. The Lord of the Rings movies got it right, for the most part; so did the Harry Potter movies. The Percy Jackson movies, not so much. And we won’t even mention A Wrinkle in Time. Or I, Robot, which, though it was entertaining, completely distorted the whole point Asimov was trying to make.
Movies and TV series I’d love to see:
- The Temeraire series (Naomi Novik: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, etc.) Alternate-history Napoleonic Wars with dragons as the Aerial Force. Think Master and Commander crossed with Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, with social commentary, terrific character growth, and of course dragons. A TV series would be best, because it would give time to really develop the characters and explore the complexities of the social and political issues. (As of 2009, Peter Jackson had optioned the books and was reportedly considering doing them as a miniseries. Nothing has happened since, though, and he’s currently working on the Tintin movies, so don’t hold your breath.)
- The All Souls Trilogy (Deborah Harkness: A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, The Book of Life) Take the magical-world-beside-our-own appeal of Harry Potter, and recast it for adults, adding vampires and daemons in addition to witches, conspiracies and an ancient bespelled manuscript, cross-factional romance and scholarly erudition, Oxford and Salem, London and a French chateau, time travel and modern genetics and nonhuman politics. That should give you some idea of why the All Souls Trilogy has been so popular, and why it would make a good movie or TV series – it has similarities to Harry Potter, Twilight, and even The Da Vinci Code without copying any of them. My 2013 post about a possible movie has generated more page views and comments than any other post in my blog by a factor of at least ten; most of the comments are about casting. (In February 2015, Harkness announced that the books are “in development” by the BBC for a television adaptation, but she hasn’t given any details.)
- The Lunar Chronicles (Marissa Meyer: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter) Fairy-tale retellings with wonderful (and diverse) main characters, set against a SF backdrop of interplanetary conquest, imperial politics, espionage, and genetic and cyborg engineering. These would make fantastic movies! (In 2013, Meyer indicated that the Lunar Chronicles books had been optioned, but there has been no news since, and IMDB doesn’t list Cinder among their titles.)
- The Kingkiller Chronicle (Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind; The Wise Man’s Fear) These books are amazing, and I’m honestly not sure if even a Game of Thrones-style TV series could do them justice. But if they could be done well, they’d be amazing. The main character is fascinating – a brilliant, talented young musician and rogue with a propensity for getting himself into and (usually but not always) out of trouble, an insatiable curiosity, and a curious mixture of street-smarts, naivete, mature wisdom, and folly. The books, which Rothfuss describes as picaresque fantasy, mix humor, suspense, mystery, adventure, and heartwrenching emotional scenes. Done right, it could indeed rival Game of Thrones. (In 2013, Twentieth Century Fox optioned the books for a TV series, and has actually released a description of the series. It’s clearly not going to be entirely true to the books, and the production staff isn’t great… so “done right” isn’t looking too hopeful at this point.)
- The Protector of the Small Quartet (Tamora Pierce: First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight) Although I’d love to see almost any of Pierce’s books on the screen, I think this series would do particularly well, especially as a TV series. There’s action, character development, plenty of conflict and medieval-style fighting, humor, animals, magic, and one of the best “ordinary” heroines I’ve ever come across in Keladry of Mindelan. Sadly, it’s never even been optioned. (series review)
- The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey) I’ve been waiting for decades for someone to do a movie or TV series based on the Pern books. It’s gone through several false starts, including a TV series in 2002 that almost went into production, but the writer pulled out when Warner Brothers changed it so much it was no longer recognizable. Now they’ve optioned it again (as of last summer.) Hopefully this time around they have learned from the success of the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Hunger Games franchises that fans are much happier (and films are more successful) when you Stick. To. The. Books. Please, Warner, don’t ruin Pern!
- The Magic Ex Libris series (Jim C. Hines: Libriomancer, Codex Born, Unbound, more to come) Libriomancer struck me as highly cinematic the first time I read it, and my opinion hasn’t changed. This series where magic involves literally pulling things out of fiction books – from lightsabers to Lucy’s healing cordial to ordinary revolvers – would make a fantastic, action-packed movie with broad appeal. (Oh, and did I mention the fire spider? And the appearance of both Gutenberg and Ponce de Leon?) Unfortunately, the difficulty of obtaining the necessary permissions to the myriads of fictional worlds referenced, from Twilight to Star Wars to Narnia to hard-boiled detective novels, will probably keep my dream of a Libriomancer movie from ever becoming reality.
- The Ranger’s Apprentice series (John Flanagan: Ranger’s Apprentice, The Burning Bridge, The Icebound Land, The Battle for Skandia, etc.) Will, an undersized boy with a talent for mischief, sneaking, and climbing, wants desperately to be a knight, but ends up apprenticed to the Ranger Corps, who serve as the king’s eyes and ears throughout the kingdom. The series follows him through his apprenticeship and on to his early years as a full-fledged ranger. Along the way, he rescues a princess, is captured and enslaved by the equivalent of Vikings, helps foil several invasions, and falls in love. There’s plenty of humor and wonderful friendships. It would probably do better as a TV series. (According to Wikipedia, United Artists optioned the Ranger’s Apprentice books in 2008, but I can’t find any more recent information on a possible movie.)
Books I wish they would adapt again… because the first movies were so bad
I’m sure we all have a short list of books whose adaptations were so bad, we’re secretly longing for a do-over.
- The Little White Horse (Elizabeth Goudge) Because The Secret of Moonacre was ghastly on several levels.
- The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper) I didn’t even see The Seeker, but Robin did, and hated it. They departed so far from the original book, it’s hardly recognizable. I’d like to see the whole series done right, or at least The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree.
- A Wrinkle in Time. The TV adaptation was a bit saccharine, and not completely true to the novel. It does look like a new version is in development for Disney, written by Frozen director Jennifer Lee. Fingers crossed.
- The Percy Jackson movies. OK, they got some stuff right, but they really messed up a lot of it – especially the stuff about the prophecy. And Percy and Annabeth started out too old, which makes going on with the series problematic.
So what SF/F books would you pick to adapt?