Nine books that could become great movies.

Okay, so, for the third day of the Novel Films blogfest, I present you with a list of some of my favorite books, all science fiction and fantasy as it just so happens, that I think could make really great films – if adapted well, and the production budget was high enough. 😉

A spell for chameleon, by Piers Anthony.

Ah, the Xanth series before it got swallowed in puns.

I think that this could become a great movie if the original fantasy charm of the story gets captured. It might be hard trying to capture the land of Xanth in a live action movie or a blend of live action and CGI, but it could really do well as any variety of animation film.

The storyline is fairly simple in its core – a young man, Bink, living under a sentence of exile, goes out into the wild lands looking for the answer that might let him keep his home – and though he meets some incredible characters, he doesn’t find that answer, that unique magic, and is sent from the Kingdom of Xanth into cruel Mundania. Once there, he’s immediately captured by the exiled Evil Magician Trent determined to make his way back and take over the Kingdom. When they blunder back into the wilds of Mundania, accompanied by a woman who literally changes with the days of the month, Bink and Trent must settle on the field of honor, to determine the future of the land that they both love, in their own ways.

A Charmed Life, by Diana Wynne Jones

Again, this is a great book, full of magic, and I could really see it being made into a great movie. Chrestomanci Castle is just crying out to be immortalized on film, along with Christopher Chant and his dressing gowns, Cat, Janet, Gwendolyn, and all the remarkable characters of this film. And talk about twists and turns, not knowing who to trust? The only thing I can see going wrong is that the final battle of magic between the Chrestomanci household and the gathering of wicked witches and necromancers could never be as amazing on screen as it is on the page.

Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

This one is a story without true magic, though it does have a lot of wonder – flying dragons, telepathy, and time travel just to start off. And you’ve got a strong romantic plotline, and the dragons could be done beautifully with CGI technology, I think – though it might be important to actually make them smaller than described, just so they don’t look like they’re far too heavy for their own wings.

It’d be amazing to see a full flight of dragons charring silver thread in the sky. One element that might be difficult to convey in the visual medium would be ‘between.’ You could have a total blackout effect, I guess, and possibly voice-over to convey somebody’s thoughts while they’re between, but it’s hard to get the full effect of between without being able to sense the coldness of it.

Protector, by Larry Niven

I’ve heard a lot of discussion about a Ringworld movie, but for my money, if you want Larry Niven, Protector is the book to look at. It’s much closer to home – Earth, the asteroid belt, and a few relatively nearby stars, and a great plotline, with aliens from the core of the galaxy, humankind’s original ancestors, coming back to eradicate us and take our planets for themselves. And the only way to stop them is an alien plant, which humans can eat, if they’re the right age, to make them just as tough and smart… and more than a little alien too.

Here, I’d want to see the Protectors portrayed without CGI, just old-fashioned prosthetic and makeup tricks, which would probably be hell on the actors inside all the rubber, and might make them a little less outrageously weird looking than described in the books, but they’d be easier to relate to that way. I’d alter the pacing a little so you’d have four acts of more or less the same length:
* Twenty-second century, Brennan becomes a Protector and makes his escape.
* Twenty-fourth century, Truesdale and Alice searching for Brennan.
* Twenty-fourth century, Brennan leads Truesdale into interstellar space.
* Twenty-fourth century, Truesdale becomes a Protector and leads planet Home into battle.

So you want to be a wizard, by Diane Duane

We’re back into fantasy now, with one of my favorite series. As I mentioned with ‘Earthsea’ yesterday, the problem with making a movie about two pre-teen wizards learning their abilities would be to not make it look or feel like an ‘American Harry Potter rip-off.’

There are a lot of good elements in the book to lean on here, though – the third main character isn’t another kid wizard, but a friendly talking white hole, and instead of a grand school of Wizardry, Nita and Kit learn mostly on their own, with their wizard’s manuals and a bit of help from the neighborhood Advisories, Tom and Carl. They go into Manhattan to get back a pen that the white hole, Fred, accidentally swallowed, and end up having to wizard their way out of a Dark Universe version of New York City, run by the Power of darkness, full of killer helicopters, packs of nasty checker cabs, fire hydrants that eat pigeons… and the occasional sports car who can be won over with a senseless act of kindness.

Starship Mutiny, by Mike Resnick

As a movie franchise, the Mike Resnick ‘Starship’ series wouldn’t need to worry about being confused with the works of JK Rowling, of course, but it might need to find a way to establish itself as unique from Star Trek. Even the most dynamic character in ‘Mutiny’, Captain Wilson Cole – well, he has a Jim Kirk-esque quality to him.

And I love him plutonically for it.

But as much of a maverick as Jim Kirk was, he never had to deal with problems like these. Three times awarded medals of heroism for his performance as a starship captain, Wilson Cole was also demoted down in rank quietly three times – because every time he found himself in the spotlight meant that he’d embarassed some admiral by defying a senseless order.

When he’s assigned to the Teddy Roosevelt, Cole only wanted to avoid getting into trouble, but he seems unable to avoid it – including accidentally inspiring his Captain to sacrifice himself in a shuttle maneuvers tactic against the enemy. Promoted to First Officer, Wilson Cole is the only person who can react in time when the new Captain interprets her orders much too literally, and makes ready to destroy a world of millions to prevent the enemy from gaining a fuel reserve ‘at all costs.’

But is Wilson Cole ready for the consequences of breaking the ultimate Naval law?

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

Fantasy, again, and the adventures of Bartimaeus the Djinn, along with the novice magician Nathaniel. Again, I think this is so magical a world that it could do very well as an animated film, particularly with all the shapeshifting, viewing the world on different planes, and so on. The themes are rather adult for a YA-oriented premise, with young Nathaniel scheming against his cowardly guardian, then having to watch as the evil magician, Simon Lovelace, kills his master and his foster mother. And at the end, Nathaniel covers up his own conspiracy and pretends to be an innocent victim of circumstance.

But still – I just want to see that final action scene, with Jabor getting sucked down the vortex, and Nathaniel using the summoning horn to vanquish the ineffably powerful spirit, and even make his dramatic gesture to the Prime Minister.

The caves of steel, by Isaac Asimov

A noir detective movie set in the far future, with New York plainclothes cop Elijah Bailey having to accept a robot partner in order to solve the murder of a visiting scientist from the arrogant Spacer worlds. What could be better than that?

If they get the right guy to play Daneel Olivaw, then the ending would blow it all out of the water. “I am beginning to understand, for it seems to me that the destruction of what you call evil, is less desirable than converting evil into what you call good.

“Go, then, and sin no more!”

The long dark tea-time of the soul, by Douglas Adams

I’ve heard that ‘Dirk Gently’s Detective Agency’ was made into a stage play. As much as I like the first book in the Dirk Gently sequence, I have to say that ‘tea-time’ would make a much better movie, because of the Norse gods element. Let’s face it, Thor is pretty hot at the box office, and everything he does in this movie would be hilarious. Thor arguing with the ticket lady at the Heathrow check-in desk, until he gets so upset at being asked to produce his passport that he destroys the terminal. Thor getting glued to the floor of a warehouse by a green goblin. Thor making streetlamp bulbs explode and throwing his hammer at a cross eagle. Thor sitting in a herbal bubble bath to mend his injuries.

And the scene where Dirk slips behind a molecule and joins the heroes of Asgard, feasting in the Valhalla-world equivalent of Saint Pancras station, could be just amazing.

Well, thanks for reading this far. Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks? What books do you think could make great movies?


One Response to Nine books that could become great movies.

  1. Arlee Bird says:

    Since I’m not familiar with these I’ll have to take your word for it. I’m waiting for the next two books of Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. I think All the Pretty Horses got a bum rap and wasn’t that bad of a film. I hope it doesn’t discourage the film companies from proceeding onward with the series.

    Tossing It Out


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