The Top 6 Sci-Fi Books Hollywood Should Turn Into Movies
When Hollywood needs inspiration, where better to look than sci-fi's best books?
Whether you're Netflix investing in content like the GDP of a third-world country, or a major studio looking to make the next Ex Machina, for some of the most innovative storytelling, look no further than sci-fi.
Here's our 6 top picks for the best sci-fi books Hollywood should adapt into movies next.
6) The Hall of Singing Caryatids by Victor Pelevin
Anything that can be described as a post-modern Kafka by way of David Cronenberg is screaming for a film adaptation. Russian author Victor Pelevin's novella The Hall of Singing Caryatids is so head-spinningly bizarre it's mesmerizing.
Focussing on a secret underground pleasure palace that serves Russia's most elite oligarchs, Pelevin skewers capitalism, pop culture, communism, the media, status climbing, and our obsession with perfection and beauty—and that's all before the main character starts transforming into a praying mantis.
It's an absurd premise, but like some of sci-fi's best authors—Harlan Ellison and Kurt Vonnegut specifically come to mind—Pelevin's subject isn't just meant to shock us; it's an insightful social commentary and psychedelic head-trip all rolled into one. Give $10 million to Denis Villeneuve or Jonathan Glazer and I'm sure we'd get a mind-bending classic somewhere between A Clockwork Orange and American Psycho.
Or if not a film, maybe Fargo/Legion creator Noah Hawley could take a stab at turning it into a limited series. Word is he's currently adapting Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle; this might be right up his alley.
5) I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Right off the bat, you're probably saying "Wait, this already has a movie adaptation!" But you're wrong-the 2007 Will Smith movie isn't so much an adaptation as a completely new story with Matheson's title slapped on it. This is a pretty established trend in Hollywood-strip the name off of something with a fan following, slap it on a generic summer blockbuster script, and put Will Smith in it.
The real I Am Legend was a book about a man sitting in his barricaded house for years, slowly going insane from isolation while vampires stood outside, trying to trick him to come out. During the day, he trawls around his neighborhood, seeking out said vampires and murdering them while they sleep. Back in his house, he's haunted by the memory of his family and the world that used to be, as well as the living nightmare he now has to endure alone. It's a great exploration of insanity, loneliness, and what it means to be the Last Man on Earth.
If you're thinking that doesn't sound like a very riveting premise, check out the movie Nightingale, a psychological thriller that never shows another living character besides the protagonist. Reality starts to unravel very quickly when you're all alone.
4) I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Second verse, same as the first. The 2004 I, Robot was almost completely unrelated to Asimov's groundbreaking robot stories, which played off his famous Three Laws to create interesting logic and philosophy problems, like what constitutes harm to humans. In an age where artificial intelligence is becoming more and more powerful and ubiquitous, Asimov's Three Laws (and their loopholes) have never been more relevant.
One of the stand-out stories from the I, Robot collection was "Liar!", in which U.S. Robots accidentally creates a robot that has the ability to read people's minds, nicknamed "Herbie." Over the course of the story, the scientists, including Dr. Susan Calvin, try to isolate the part of Herbie's construction that gives him his telepathy, but the problem seems insoluble without Herbie's help. Along the way, Herbie reveals to Calvin that one of her coworkers is in love with her.
All of this comes crashing down when Calvin realizes that Herbie's interpretation of the Three Laws includes a prohibition against hurting the feelings of his human compatriots-while he is telepathic, he has been lying to each of them in subtle ways to keep them from becoming hurt, including the information to Calvin about her supposed admirer. In a heartbreaking climax, Calvin forces Herbie to admit he has hurt everyone by lying to them, which forces him into a coma.
If Denis Villeneuve can turn Arrival into a hit sci-fi film, there shouldn't be a problem with a real I, Robot movie.
3) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
According to Collider, Paramount is resurrecting the Snow Crash movie with a new director, but movie buffs will know that the film has had several false starts in the past. In any case, it's a story that needs the right mindset—the whole book oscillates between being irreverent and incredibly cerebral.
The protagonist of Snow Crash, named "Hiro Protagonist," is a delivery guy for a dystopian pizza chain that kills any employee who fails to fulfill their Dominos-style "30 minutes or less" delivery guarantee, but the majority of the book is a meditation on linguistics, with special emphasis on treating language as a virus. Snow Crash is also the book that introduced the concept of an internet avatar, and its vision of the VR-like Metaverse has been credited with one of the best portrayals of what the internet (or at least Second Life) could be.
Snow Crash shares the same flaws as most of Stephenson's works, however. Despite introducing incredibly interesting concepts and applying them in fascinating ways, Stephenson (and Snow Crash) has trouble with weaving it all into a coherent plot. Stephenson's stories are more like a series of thought-provoking digressions than arcs, and they're one of the few sci-fi classics that could benefit from Hollywood's burning need to simplify, trim, and condense.
2) World War Z by Max Brooks
This is the last one of these on this list, but boy, is it the worst offender. The original World War Z was an anthology of oral stories from dozens of survivors scattered across the world in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, taking the reader from the Catacombs beneath Paris to the frozen wastes of Canada. The movie version was essentially I Am Legend again, but with Brad Pitt and a lot more globetrotting.
There's so much raw potential in World War Z. Even as a straight-faced documentary, the potential mix of poignant interviews and mock footage of events like the Battle of Yonkers, which shows the failure of the US military's advanced technology in the face of the zombie horde, would make it one of the best visions of a zombie apocalypse ever put on screen. Brooks' in-depth research in global politics, geography, military tactics, and history give the stories in World War Z unparalleled realism, and the fact that the interviewees are a mix of normal citizens, government officials, and military officers means you have to piece together who's telling the truth and who's covering their asses.
One of the most memorable interviews of the book is with initially unnamed person who describes Paul Redeker, creator of the Redeker Plan. Redeker is described as being a coldly logical, utilitarian monster whose plan trapped citizens in fortified towns in order to use them as living zombie bait. At the end of the interview, it's revealed that the speaker was Redeker himself, apparently suffering a dissociative mental break.
1) Neuromancer by William Gibson
Like Snow Crash, plans for a Neuromancer movie have emerged once again from development Hell, this time with Deadpool director Tim Miller.
Whether or not it will actually go anywhere is still unknown—two versions have already fallen through in the past.
Like Snow Crash, adapting the cyberpunk classic is not going to be an easy task—Gibson's worldbuilding is so dense and his plot so mind-bending that a writer is going to need to convey volumes of info in every scene…or boil it all down to its basics.
At heart, Neuromancer is a story about a hacker named Case who gets back into the game when he's recruited for a heist by a mysterious man named Armitage and his street-samurai retainer, Molly. To aid in the job, Case picks up the digitally recorded mind of his former associate, McCoy Pauley, and a psychopathic, cybernetic illusionist named Peter Riviera.
The sheer imagination of Neuromancer, along with the attention to detail and neo-noir aesthetics, singlehandedly founded the cyberpunk genre. We've seen a number of cyberpunk movies come out recently, including Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner 2049, but Neuromancer promises a world and a story that can punch consoles with the best of them, ending in a climax that's half dream-sequence, half techno-orgasm. If any sci-fi book deserves a good movie adaptation, it's Neuromancer.