Books with a great screen adaptation

As book lovers the news that an adaptaion of a book or series we really love is bbeing made is both exciting and worrying. Will the characters look like we imagined? Is the casting right? How faithfully will the story be re-told?

Personally I find that I can often watch an adaptation and then enjoy the book but I find it much harder the other way round. Sometimes though the adaptation manages to capture the feel of the book beautifully even if not everything is a completely faithful representation. Here are some of my favourite book to screen adaptations.

The Martian by Andy Wier

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills — and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit — he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

The book is a delight to read and the film perfectly captured Mark Watney’s ‘can do’ attitude and humour. Great casting and a pretty faithful re-telling of the story.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

People have been predicting the end of the world almost from its very beginning, so it’s only natural to be sceptical when a new date is set for Judgement Day. But what if, for once, the predictions are right, and the apocalypse really is due to arrive next Saturday, just after tea?

You could spend the time left drowning your sorrows, giving away all your possessions in preparation for the rapture, or laughing it off as (hopefully) just another hoax. Or you could just try to do something about it.

It’s a predicament that Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a fast-living demon now finds themselves in. They’ve been living amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and, truth be told, have grown rather fond of the lifestyle and, in all honesty, are not actually looking forward to the coming Apocalypse.

And then there’s the small matter that someone appears to have misplaced the Antichrist…

No list of great book to screen adaptations could be complete without this making an appearance. Both book and series are a delight from start to finish and I don’t think I have seen any other adaptation that stuck so faithfully to it’s original material. Superb.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

While not as faithful to the book, and really it would have been impossible to capture all the side action and references on film, nevertheless I really enjoyed this high action adaptation.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin

Set in England in the early 19th century, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr. Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr. Darcy, have moved into their neighborhood.

When Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Darcy she is repelled by his overbearing pride, and prejudice towards her family. But the Bennet girls are in need of financial security in the shape of husbands, so when Darcy’s friend, the affable Mr. Bingley, forms an attachment to Jane, Darcy becomes increasingly hard to avoid. Polite society will be turned upside down in this witty drama of friendship, rivalry, and love.

Another adaptation that almost had to appear on the list. The 90’s BBC adaptation of this is one of the greatest period drama’s ever filmed.

Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid

Across the country, dozens of teenage girls have vanished. Authorities are convinced they’re runaways with just the bad luck of the draw to connect them. It’s the job of criminal profilers Dr. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan to look for a pattern. They’ve spent years exploring the psyches of madmen. But sane men kill, too. And when they hide in plain sight, they can be difficult to find…

He’s handsome and talented, rich and famous – a notorious charmer with the power to seduce …and the will to destroy. No-one can believe what he’s capable of. No-one can imagine what he’s already done. And no one can fathom what he’s about to do next. Until one of Hill’s students is murdered – the first move in a sick and violent game for three players. Now, of all the killers Hill and Jordan have hunted, none has been so ruthless, so terrifyingly clever, and so brilliantly elusive as the killer who’s hunting them…

Certainly the first series of Wire in the Blood that adapted McDermid’s books straight up were excellent. I enjoyed some of the ‘new’ stories the series provided as well, but the main stars here were Hermione Norris and Robson Green who (for me) perfectly captured Carol and Tony in their performances.

Book synopses taken from Goodreads.