Science Fiction Books Coming to the Screen

Science Fiction Adaptations

Big screen, small screen, no matter. In 2020, the lines are sometimes blurred. In 2016, I wrote a post examining four science fiction books optioned as films. Since then, we’ve seen Altered Carbon on Netflix, and we know that Amazon Prime is already engaged in primary photography for a Wheel of Time series.

One of the books that I’d written about in 2016 which I’m most looking forward to is the adaptation of Robert H Wilson’s Robopocalypse. Despite what I view as an unfortunate title, Robopocalypse was an excellent piece of science fiction. The robots weren’t humanoids, they were functional and efficient: self-driving cars and swarms of rolling smart grenades. Everything made sense, and the story came together in much the same way as another favorite book of mine: World War Z. Soon after the first true AI, named Archos, emerges in a controlled lab, it ingeniously escapes the lab into another computer system and decides that the only way it can save life on Earth is by doing away with a single invasive species: humanity.

The story of how Archos spreads and how it fights is a far more realistic and terrifying version of a machine uprising than what’s portrayed in Terminator. Michael Bay will be directing, which I’m not particularly excited about, but Drew Goddard is writing the screenplay, and he’s done screenplays for The Martian and Cabin in the Woods, both of which were excellent. So I’m hopeful.

The Martian was a great book and an okay movie. Andy Weir’s second book, Artemis, is a good story and worth reading, if you can overlook the fact that the story’s female lead reads like she was written by a man. Artemis is slated to be made into a movie and released in 2021. There doesn’t yet appear to be any casting, but I for one am hoping for a great movie out of the book.

Hugh Howey’s Silo series was reportedly in development at AMC as of last year. Although more recent news is hard to come by, the IMDB page is still kicking around. I’ve read Wool and Shift, and they’re in my top tier of science fiction.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky made a big splash this year. I’ve run into three other friends who’d happened to be reading it at the same time I was, and none of us had recommended it to each other. It was optioned in 2017 and there hasn’t been much since then, but I’m hopeful that it’s still being made.

Children of Time is a story set in the far future in which a distant planet is being terraformed for human habitation. The inhabitants are intended to be apes infected with an engineered virus which will enhance and speed up their evolution, such that they’ll become pseudo-humans relatively rapidly. However, interstellar war breaks out before the generations-long process is complete, the apes are never delivered to the new world, and the virus instead takes hold in insects.

I was a massive fan of the book Ready, Player One, but as much as I’d been looking forward to the movie, I ended up not loving it. It might have been the numerous script changes, or it might have been everything that was lost in the book-to-movie translation. I’m not sure. The scene from The Shining was actually the one part I thought worked. In any event, I’m hopeful that Armada can be a better adaptation.

Armada is in many ways a retelling of The Last Starfighter. Young man’s video game skill qualifies him to battle actual aliens in an real interstellar war. The story isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s fun.

Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem is a Chinese-to-English translated science fiction novel, and it looks like it’s being made into a film in China, with mostly Chinese actors. I’m just hopeful that the result is better than the 2019 movie The Wandering Earth, which I had trouble watching to its end.

I read all three books in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series, and my take on the first book is that it was confusing, slow-paced and ended anticlimactically. The second book, The Dark Forest, was better. The third book, Death’s End, was easily the best in the series. It’s only sad that it took so long to get there. I’ve got high hopes but low expectations for this film.

Sadly, I was able to find no recent updates on a book-to-movie adaptation for Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, an outstanding book which has the potential to be a downright amazing movie, and nothing on Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, which had at one point been optioned.

With streaming services popping up nowadays like dandelions, I’m willing to bet we’ll see more science fiction books optioned as films in the days to come.

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