Recently, HBO’s Game of Thrones—based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series—has proven that there is a large audience out there, hungry for television adaptations of mammoth fantasy epics. In the past, genre fans met film versions of their favorite books with a mix of excitement and trepidation, eager to see how the stories would be translated to the screen but wary about how much plot would have to be cut to fit them into a standard film running time. Even years after each new Harry Potter movie opened, fans still hold debates over the various editing choices the filmmakers made in abridging J. K. Rowling’s massive tomes.
Now, however, the financial and creative success of Game of Thrones will likely pave the way for other fantasy book series to make their way to the screen, albeit the small one, without having to sacrifice scope or depth. Here are a small number of sci-fi and fantasy books that could make fantastic TV shows.
David Eddings’ The Belgariad and The Malloreon
Like A Song of Ice and Fire, Eddings’ 10-book series is a sweeping fantasy epic that involves a huge cast of characters and is set across a broad landscape of numerous countries and societies. A film could never bring justice to the amount of rich detail in the world of Eddings’ books. There are simply too many characters to cover and adventures to depict. The television series format, however, would give this story about a boy destined to be king, his band of compatriots, and the magical, immortal sorcerers who raise him the room to breathe that it so desperately needs. Eddings’ famous sense of humor, which permeates his work and often keeps it from descending into darkness, could also play beautifully on screen, the epic events juxtaposed with lighter moments of comedy from a cast of very distinctive characters.
James Clemens’ The Banned and the Banished
What makes James Clemens’ 5-book series so thrilling is that it often feels like you’re reading 5 or 6 series at once. Clemens is a master at splitting up his parties of adventurers into smaller groups and sending each one off into completely different places with vastly divergent landscapes, cultures, and mythologies. A film could never capture even a quarter of this enormous tale, but, as a television show, it could work much as Game of Thrones does, cutting back and forth between all of the various characters and plots. It could arguably be even more exciting. One scene, we’d be watching a horror story with gigantic, terrifying spider creatures, then a fantasy quest in an enchanted forest, and then a tale set at sea, involving mermaids. All of the pieces, however, would eventually come together into one satisfying whole, which could lend itself to phenomenal serialized television storytelling.
Roger Z. Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber
A glorious mix of science fiction and fantasy, this 10-book series is exactly the sort of story that could thrive on a large-budgeted pay-cable station such as HBO. Like all of the earlier stories, it’s set in many different places at once. Unlike the others, however, these places represent various dimensions and times. Therefore, it would likely appeal to fans of mind-bending sci-fi series such as Fringe. Meanwhile, like Game of Thrones, it revolves around a complex battle for a throne among various rivals, along with all of the ensuing court intrigue, backstabbing, and politics that one would come to expect from this sort of epic story.
Gail Carriger’s The Parasol Protectorate
Unlike the aforementioned stories, Gail Carriger’s comedic, supernatural, steampunk, mystery series isn’t epic fantasy. Regardless, this so-called “urbane fantasy,” as Carriger calls it, would make an absolutely smashing television show. Filled with all sorts of outlandish characters and chock full of adventure, it could make for a show as funny as it is suspenseful. An even better mash-up of Jane Austen and horror than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Parasol Protectorate is set in an alternate version of Victorian London where vampires and werewolves have been completely assimilated into society. It also features an unusual mythology that flips the usual vampire and werewolf legends on their heads in that people don’t lose their souls upon becoming one or the other. People who become vampires and werewolves actually have more soul, which is how they are able to live on after death or dismemberment. The series’ strong heroine, Alexia Tarrabotti, on the other hand, is a human being born with no soul, her special power being the ablity to revert vampires and werewolves back to their original, human forms when she touches them. This could make a fun, fresh, hilarious show, particularly if the series’ world can be depicted with as much love and meticulous detail as it is in the books.
These are only four of the hundreds of series out there just ripe for a television adaptation. As great as Game of Thrones is, perhaps its greatest legacy will ultimately be opening the door for other novels to eventually make their way to our TV screens. What are some books that you think would make it as a successful TV series?
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