As you read this post, the Wheel of Time is, in fact, being adapted for television by Amazon. Thanks to the success of Game of Thrones, other networks have been keeping a weather eye out for similar worlds. Amazon found theirs in Wheel of Time, the fourteen-book fantasy series by Robert Jordan. If you’re not familiar, the series follows the now-standard red-haired step-protagonist Rand al’FakeName (seriously, Rand al’Thor) and his crew of more interesting companions as they navigate through one of the most perfectly realized universes since Tolkien. Many more excellent series await adaptation. We’ve collected some of our favorite books and book series that would make incredible movie or television adaptations.
The Kingkiller Chronicles
This series isn’t done yet, but hey, they started shooting Game of Thrones before it was finished! Except now it probably never will be finished, since the show will be the canonical ending… nevermind!
Perhaps the most xenophobic tale about anthropomorphized rodents running an abbey and fighting the forces of evil, the Brian Jacques’ Redwall series is a childhood favorite of many a present-day Druid player. It would provide the perfect world for a 2D-Disney style animated film or TV series. In a world where everything even halfway good is created twice, I have to imagine that only Brian Jacques stands between this series and a filmed version.
The Forever War
Not to be confused with the identically-named book about the Iraq War, The Forever War by Joe Joe Haldeman is partly a story of a dystopian sci-fi Vietnam and partly a story of utilitarianism run amok. It’s a clear-eyed look at war of the future from the perspective of the front lines, a more effective story that Starship Troopers and better deserving of an adaptation.
The First Law
Dark and stormy like Game of Thrones, but not nearly so self-serious, The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie has heart, heroics, and humor. A punchy screenplay would practically write itself. In fact, hang on a second, let me call Joe…
Well, it is nearly the last Philip K. Dick novel that hasn’t been adapted for film or TV. A lot of Philip K. Dick stories sport unsatisfying endings and extended philosophical maundering, but Ubik probably has the least of it. It’s the most action-oriented book in the PKD canon, with the most coherent storyline, highly memorable scenes (like the door that charges you to leave your house), and an effective and somewhat surprising ending.
(¡SPOILER JOKE!) With all the “you’re-dead-and-things-are-weird” shows everyone is buying on on a blue streak, now has never been a better time. Unfortunately, it has a troubled history of failed adaptations, some of which never even generated a screenplay. An Ubik movie would be thrilling, and it packs a killer twist. It’s the perfect germ for a big-brain sci-fi picture like Annihilation and Arrival.
The Abhorsen Trilogy
The series that contains Sabriel is a high-fantasy story with an unusual protagonist: a necromancer and her family of similarly-endowed women. There’s zombies, a cat named Mogget, and magical Wesleyan University.
Brandon Sanderson’s writing is naturally cinematic, but it’s never been more so than in the Mistborn series. While many readers can relate to Sanderson thanks to his excellent work finishing Wheel of Time, Mistborn is Sanderson’s own incredible creation, with scene after scene of page-turning intrigue. While the middle might sag, the magic of the Mistborn universe isn’t in the background politics. It’s in the high-flying combat of the allomancers, the deep hard magic system, and an intriguingly realized steampunk universe.
Maybe if they put it on TV, I would be able to understand it. Steven Erikson gives new meanings to the words “epic”, “complexity,” and “too long,” with massive tomes that sometimes read like dusty but fascinating tax records. There’s more material here than any movie could ever cover, so TV appears to be the way to go. It could have similar aesthetics to Game of Thrones, just with a plot that requires multiple highlighters to follow on the first read instead of “everyone is a jerk, then gets revenge on everyone forever.”
Sword of Truth
Put down your pitchforks: I don’t like these books. I think they’re dumb, repetitive, and highly derivative. I especially liked the scene where the White Savior protagonist defeats The Evils of Communism with a rousing speech. Despite that, with a talented screenwriter to adapt the basic ideas behind the material, we could see a really interesting story crafted from the smelly mud of the Sword of Truth series. There’s just enough interesting structure there, like the tripartite division of the world and the opposed schools of magic, but the good ideas were ruined by the book’s execution. With judicious editing and liberal cutting, we might see someone build an actually interesting story from this letdown of a series. And I hardly consider the aborted television adaptation to be worthy of consideration.
From the first gutting chapter of Dan Simmon’s sci-fi classic Hyperion, I was in. It’s a unique and dangerous sci-fi universe where religion, a supernatural metal monster known as the Shrike for the way it tortures its victims, a man who surgically replaced his legs with those of a satyr, and, of all things, John Keats, play a major role. The plot can be explained, but the masterful multi-perspective storytelling and lovingly detailed hard sci-fi universe should be experienced by any fan of the genre.
The books are a literary tour-de-force, including some of the best sci-fi writing we have to date. Adapting that element to the screen might be challenging, but it can be done: look at Cormac McCarthy’s brutally elegant film adaptations, which capture largely the mood and majesty of his writing. News bounced around about a SyFy adaptation in 2015, but that obviously didn’t work out.
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