I am, in all honesty, a huge fan of the book-to-movie trend. I can name at least three friends who dislike Hollywood’s habit of recreating beloved books for the big (or small) screen very much, but I don’t mind it at all.
For one thing, it’s not as though the book disappears. The book will always be there, even if the movie blows. For another, sometimes something really great happens and the adaptation turns out to be…well, great.
It’s always been Hollywood’s fallback plan, from the early days onward: if you don’t have a good story, get it from somewhere else. Okay, so sometimes the partnership isn’t always a good one, and sometimes people adapt the wrong books (enough Nicholas Sparks, please!). The rising trend toward adapting fantasy books in particular hasn’t gone unnoticed.
I’d be very surprised if there weren’t more movies to be seen soon from novels like Harry Potter, The Lord Of The Rings, The Golden Compass, and so on, and so forth, etcetera… There are so many, though, that Hollywood is missing.
I’m certain this list will be disputed, and it’s by no means comprehensive. But these are the books that should be movies, if someone would just get around to it.
10. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
I have a thing for young adult fantasy, and I also have a serious thing for Francesca Lia Block. Lyrical and bright, with just enough shadows thrown in, Block’s writing is nothing less than an ambrosial feast for the imagination.
The Weetzie Bat series, her most poignant and often playful work to date, follows a ‘family’ (not all strictly related, but far more of a family than most relatives are) who live and, more importantly, love in Los Angeles.
The books’ fantasy elements are so subtle and seamlessly incorporated into what would otherwise be simply a stunning work of modern fiction, that the reader takes for granted that they are there, in much the same way people take for granted the magical elements of the classic fairytales. This is, in every sense that means something, a modern fairytale, and to see the glittering world of Block’s Los Angeles put to screen is a thought just too good to be true.
9. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
I know, I know… ‘But Something Wicked This Way Comes is a movie, you silly duck! It was made in 1983 starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce!”
Silly duck I may be, but I know it’s a movie. I enjoy the movie. I could listen to Jonathan Pryce talk for days (preferably in conversation with Jeremy Irons, but that’s beside the point). The problem is, the book is much, much better than the movie, and while a) that’s not uncommon and b) the movie isn’t a very bad one, it is still not quite the book.
So even though my favourite creepy carnival story of all time has been a movie already, I would still like to see it attempted again…only better. The darkness that was left out of the original movie sorely needs to be replaced, even at the expense of also probably having to replace Jonathan Pryce.
8. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Rumors of this being made into a movie have been bouncing around for years now. Years, okay? And it’s not getting any done-er. This is, in my opinion, utterly lamentable.
Granted, the books get progressively more out-there as the series goes on, but they certainly don’t get worse, and fact remains that the first is the simplest, most interesting, and most filmable. So why has nobody gotten around to depicting Colfer’s whimsically dangerous take on fairies and his cunning genius of a teenaged protagonist? Nobody knows. (Well, somebody knows, but it’s all so complicated and silly and disappointing, it’s hardly worth thinking about.)
But really, done well and blockbuster-big, this could be a great success. And once upon a time, before complication ensued, somebody knew that. Hopefully, one of these days it’ll be picked back up, dusted off, and put into action.
7. Vellum by Hal Duncan
To be fair, I’m not entirely sure how this would be filmed in a way that gets the full concept of the story across. There would have to be some damn creative scripting going on, as well as multiple storylines and a lot of flashbacking to deal with, which is probably why this will never happen.
As a sucker for creative use of mythology, however, I would still love to see someone try.
I would explain what it’s about, but since I read it twice, love it, and still have no clue, you may just have to read it yourself. Then, come back here and tell me I’m insane. I think this is probably the only book on this list that may well be unfilmable, but one can dream, no?
6. Valiant by Holly Black
I say Valiant and not Tithe, which is the first of the series, for two reasons. One, I’m biased. I like it better, end of story. Two, I feel it is the better introduction into Black’s world.
Taking place in the streets (and subway tunnels) of modern New York, runaway Valerie Russell is taken under the wing of a gang of homeless teens, only to be exposed to a world she was unaware existed, finding herself entwined in it so deeply she can’t get out. And, whether she should or not, probably doesn’t want to.
The novel is a beautiful one, descriptive and even lyrical at times, and somehow manages to retain its gritty feel. The characters are both unique and believable and people who, onscreen, would be easy to fall in love with, for one reason or another.
I don’t believe anything of Holly Black’s has been optioned for filming other than the younger audience’s The Spiderwick Chronicles, which is a shame, and a surprise.
5. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
This is another one that has been considered, played about with, and subsequently dropped flat on its pretty, potential-laden face.
Armstrong’s story of a female werewolf and the Pack she has been trying desperately to avoid being a part of is a surprisingly good one. I was never one for the lycanthrope crowd, but Armstrong’s werewolves got me hooked. They’re strong, they’re powerful, they’re smart (most of them), and they are utterly badass.
They are werewolves the film world hasn’t really seen yet, and anything the film world hasn’t seen yet is a good thing. Besides that, the storyline is straight, cohesive, and doesn’t involve any of the more complicated weirdness of any of Armstrong’s likewise filmable, but more fiddly novels.
4. The Eyes Of The Dragon/Tears Of The Dragon by Stephen King
I have never seen a version with the former title, but my friend reminded me to include it, just in case. Anyway, this is my favourite Stephen King novel. And, despite his massive repertoire of books/stories-that-have-been-movies, this has not been one of them, nor the commonly associated Dark Tower Series (which I almost put instead of this and probably should have, but I like this one better).
Riding a classic, and surprisingly (unless you’re a King fan) clever fairytale arc, Eyes/Tears Of The Dragon is unlike most of his work in that, fantasy-wise, it’s pretty traditional. Dragons, kings, magicians, unjust imprisonings, a dollhouse as a plot point, and done by Stephen King.
So, why has adaptation King not had this one scooped up? Good question. That’s what I said.
3. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This is another one that’s been bandied around, sometimes quite hopefully, even to the point of casting rumors, until finally it fell with a sloppy squish on the studio floor. Who knows, maybe it’s still being bandied. Maybe it’s being made! After repeated bandying, I kind of stopped following. Either way, it still hasn’t been done, and needs to.
Pratchett and Gaiman’s (a match made in the highest echelons of Heaven) hilarious, and oddly thought provoking, take on the Apocalypse is the premise of what, I believe, is the funniest book I have ever read. I’ve read it eight times and still can’t read it on the train because I still keep laughing aloud.
There is no especial reason this book should be a movie other than the fact that it is a really, really, reallytimesPi good book. Also, it’s the trickiest and most fun book on this list to fantasy-cast, not that I engage in such activities.
2. Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke
I think I read this once, and I don’t remember exactly what it was about because it’s been a long time, but I do recall distinctly thinking that it would be a great movie. The atmosphere is perfect for the silver screen – 19th century England with a bit of a kick to it.
Throw in two magicians, some good old-fashioned intrigue, and a historical figure cool enough to be called the Raven King, and you have a recipe for what could potentially be a very good movie. With a very good title.
EDIT: I just double-checked, and it turns out this is currently being scripted and is supposedly slated for 2010. So, I’m keeping it in the list because I’m very pleased to discover that I was, apparently, correct.
1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
If you’ve noticed this is the second time Gaiman has ended up on this list, the reason is that he is my favourite author and I would see any movie he were remotely associated with, novel, script, or otherwise. That aside, American Gods is also my favourite book of forever, and for good reason.
The combination of ancient mythology with modern America is intriguing enough, but taking that and throwing in characters you can sink your teeth into Dracula-style and a penchant for bizarre roadside attractions, it makes me salivate just thinking about it. And I’ve read it at least twice a year since 8th grade.
Filmed, it might come across on a common theme as a typical ‘road movie’, but it would be a road movie the likes of which audiences have ever seen.
I also believe that it’s an important book for Americans (I may be biased since I am one, but I do appreciate the irony that a book capturing the soul of America so well was penned by an Englishman, though it doesn’t really surprise me), and nothing broadens an audience like Hollywood.
Of all of Gaiman’s books, this is not only the best, it is the most evocative, the most intriguing, and the most true. And just begging for a little screentime love.
Thoughts? Disagreements? Petty disdain or otherwise scoffing clacking of tongues? Feel free to add your own.