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Science Fiction Books that Deserve Their Own Movie

Updated on November 1, 2013

After seeing Prometheus, I realized how much I enjoy a strong science fiction film, but how little great ones there are currently. What's even more surprising is how some of the best books in the genre have yet to be adapted into movies. Once upon a time, we had Blade Runner and Jurassic Park, or we are treated to The Road or Ender's Game. But now, we get studios buying the rights to books but nothing has come of them. In an age of film where nothing is impossible to put to screen, the science fiction genre should be booming.

In hopes of illuminating the studios in charge, I've put together a list of scifi books that would make amazing movies; if done right. To be fair, I admit, I'm woefully under-read, but of the ones I have finished, I see great potential.


Ringworld (A Del Rey book)
Ringworld (A Del Rey book)

A strange but fun read.

 

Ringworld

The Book: Written by Larry Niven, Ringworld came out in 1970. The story follows Louis Wu, an aging and bored scientist, as he travels to an abandoned ring structure. He makes the journey with three others; the pacifist alien Nessus, the tiger-like Speaker-to-Animals and the human female Teela Brown. Once the party arrives on the Ringworld, it becomes a story of exploration and escape.

The Pitch: Now, as a movie, there wouldn't be much confrontational action. In fact, playing up the violence or adding more would hurt the story. It could, however, be a film of fun adventure and wonderful sights, like Avatar before the shooting started. Even in orbit around the Ringworld, the heroes would have to avoid dangers presented by the artificial world. The book is a weird one, with a great sense of humor but grand design. To work, Ringworld would have to be a visual film that doesn't shy away from scope.

Getting the movie away from Halo comparisons would be difficult, but only in the broad concept that there is a giant ring world out there in space. Ringworld is a unique book and would make for a unique film. Filming in 3D is a no-brainer, especially to show the true size of the ring. With a likable cast and strong cinematography, Niven's world could work on film and stand out among the rest.

Not only that, but the book has spawned sequels and prequels that could span a whole series of films. Studios looking for a cool new tent-pole film should be jumping at the chance for this movie.

The Director: Guillermo del Toro or Peter Jackson; both who have a true sense of scale and creature design.


Boneshaker
Boneshaker

Steampunk done right!

 

Boneshaker

The Book: Cherie Priest's Boneshaker was mine and my wife's first steampunk book and it was one heck of an introduction. Airships, steamtech, zombies and mad scientist fill the pages. The plot centers around Briar Wilkes as she searches for her son in the walled off city of Seattle, Washington. The book moved back and forth between Briar's adventures and her son, Zeke's. The book is actually scary in ways I wasn't expected, with Priest writing some terrifying zombie chases. The airships aren't as impressive but they still have the element of cool only an airship can gain. Over the course of the book, both Briar and Zeke come to face the facts about the man who caused the infection that claimed Seattle and the personal ramification of it all.

The Movie: Boneshaker isn't a perfect book. The ending is rushed and the "villain" of the book is defeated by a side-character, which is a bad idea in any story. Zeke, being a teenager, makes a lot of dumb choices. In the movie, these elements can be fixed. Zeke's character, mainly, depends strongly on getting a likable actor to play him. Briar is a lot like Ripley from the Alien movies; protective, headstrong but not stupid, and dangerous when her back is to the wall. The movie would need a modern Sigourney Weaver.

The tone for this film is tricky. There's zombies, but it's not a zombie movie. There's airships, but it's not a airship movie. The art of balancing all the different elements without hurting them or confusing the viewer will be difficult but not impossible. This film would be a difficult one to promote, but with a big name attached, the film would hopefully speak for itself. Plus, this is another series and could carry on for a few years in theaters.

The Director: Zack Snyder, whom I don't love as a director, actually seems well suited for this adaptation. He's got a strong visual style, a knack for page-to-screen translations and knows how to work with strong female characters, zombies and steamtech.


Red Mars

The Book: Red Mars is the first book of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. The book is large is scope, following the first hundred astronauts from early training to colonization. Every part of changing Mars from a dead rock to a new colony is examined. Robinson tackles the politics, the environmental concerns, the issues about population control and work, ethnicity and philosophies. The science of it all is laid out in entertaining form like a good Crichton novel; how to warm the planet, how to create a waterscape, how to travel, all of these are written in a way that informs and intrigue.

The Movie: The movie would need to be a quickly paced film. If the film is going to cover the the time frame of the first book, it needs to move. Argo is a recent film that shares the quickness that this movie would need. Giving us great visuals is important and necessary, but it can't be the ultimate focus. Red Mars, as a film, would work well in documentary form like District 9. The filmmakers shouldn't be afraid of jumping forward in time, either. It needs to happen and a lot.

I want to say Red Mars has more in common with a political thriller than a man vs. nature film. The first colonist don't have a hard time dealing with the planets as they do with each other. The major theme is that it doesn't matter where humanity goes, we always take ourselves and problems with us. If the movie could work with that, it could be a slow burner of a film. Red Mars could start a brand new trilogy for Hollywood and they do love trilogies. With possible trips to Mars being worked on, it might be just the right time to put the red planet in the spotlight.

The Director: My inclination is to go with Rupert Wyatt on this one. He's a guy with a strong sense of visual flair, as well as great pacing.

The Forever War
The Forever War

Check it out if you haven't already!

 

The Forever War

The Book: Joe Haldeman's anti-war masterpiece has been out for almost forty years and it has yet to be made a movie. That is a shame, because The Forever War is a powerful commentary on the pointlessness of war, especially the Vietnam War which Haldeman fought in. Throughout the book, we follow William Mandella as he continues in to fight in the same war for decades. Because of the results of time dilation, as the war goes on, Earth keeps aging and Mandella has no home to return to, so he stays in the military. With time effected communications and technology, the war between humanity and the alien Taurans never ends.

I already reviewed the book a while back and if you haven't read it, find a copy of the novel and sit down. It's not as put together as Starship Troopers but it stands for the other side of the issue.

The Movie: There are lots of ways to tackle the film. Ridley Scott has talked about shooting the movie in 3D and has been working on a script for a while. However, Scott isn't getting any younger and his list of film's to make keeps growing. I would like to see the movie done in a way that portray's it as a Apocalypse Now in space but I doubt others would agree with me. With all the time dilation and senseless fighting, it could be a trippy military science-fiction film; especially if the film would is in 3D, like Scott plans. I actually think 3D is the way to go with any space story these days, as it helps to immerse in the scale and alien nature of it all.

The Director: David Fincher could be a good choice as director, He's got pacing and style to spare and he seems to favor dark stories. The trick is to lure him to the science-fiction genre after his rough time with Alien3.


The Windup Girl
The Windup Girl

A heavy but great read!

 

The Windup Girl

The Book: Paolo Bacigalupi's bio-punk novel is a weird one and hard to compare to anything else. I wrote a review for the book last year, but even then it was hard to describe. The novel is massive, with four main characters, whose lives all intersect at some point. The story takes place in a strange, near future version of Thailand. Fuel sources are gone and manual labor is the main source of energy. Because of this, calories are the gold of the world. Where once companies made billions off of computers, they now bio-engineer food to produce the most calories and stay safe from the continuing growth of plagues.

The Movie: The book is unique and my first understanding of bio-punk as a genre. As a movie, The Windup Girl would be akin to Babel in tone and method. As I said, most of the characters cross paths, if only for a brief moment in time. There is no real hero or villain in this story, only people trying to survive in this strange future. There would be interesting visuals, such as the engineered elephants that do the heavy lifting. The scenery itself would be great, as Bacigalupi's futurist and dystopian Thailand is unlike anything that has made it to film.

This isn't an action film but it has moments of intensity and drama. This is the kind of film that comes out in November, is great and critically acclaimed, but get's ignored by the Oscars except for a visual effects or cinematography nod.

The Director: The Wachowski's come to mind as potential directors, but so does Joss Whedon. You need someone who can make hard-to-like characters likable and who can keep this massive story moving.

The Universe Next Door

As I said, I'm painfully underread, so if I forgot or failed to mention a great book, forgive me. I only included a few of my favorite choices, which meant I had to ignore a few. Books like Robopocalypse, Ready Player One, Foundation and Old Man's War would make for some great films as well. Like all movies, it would take more than a concept to make this books great on screen. But, I believe each of the ones chosen and more could add life to a strangely quiet genre. Perhaps science-fiction adaptations could have their renaissance soon, as super heroes did. With the coming of Ender's Game and the success of The Hunger Games, maybe we're close to this not-to-distant future.

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      NO 3 years ago

      Interesting that you threw Ringworld into this category. I would not think that it would ever have been contemplated for a movie adaptation because of the lack of action that you mentioned. I found Ringworld to be a fairly tedious read and barely finished it. Certainly never made it to the following books. Niven reminds me of Azimov, too dry and lifeless a writer to actually enjoy reading.

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      Nic 4 years ago

      Can Ringworld star Molly Ringwald?