19 votes

What are books that you would consider worse than their adaptation, and why?

Saying "the book was better" is nearly a tautology, but there's obviously cases where the opposite is true. I recently watched the show American Gods, and I think it's way better than the book. For example, I found Shadow in the novel dull. I understood that it was meant to portray the numbness of grief, but seeing Shadow in the show actually react to the, often insane, events around him made the show significantly more engaging.

55 comments

  1. [3]
    CALICO
    Link
    The Lord of the Rings Don't get me wrong, I love those books to death and have destroyed more than one mass-market paperback from over-reading. It's importance and contributions to the...

    The Lord of the Rings

    Don't get me wrong, I love those books to death and have destroyed more than one mass-market paperback from over-reading. It's importance and contributions to the fantasy-genre can not be overstated. They are nothing short of a treasure.
    But, Tolkien needed an editor. Everything to do with the Hobbits after Fellowship were an absolute drag to read through; it took me thrice as long to read the Hobbit bits of Towers than it did to read the rest of it. So much text was spent of inconsequential details and worldbuilding (though as a worldbuilder, I understand).

    Peter Jackson's films trimmed a lot of the fat. Sometimes too much, but overall I think the narrative was better for it. As a bit of a book-purist I was initially upset at the omission of The Scouring of the Shire in The Return of the King (2003) . However, it is quite an odd chapter. It's a very good example of the end of the Hero's Journey — Our Hero crosses the return threshold from the Special World, having changed. There, and back again. But the manner in which it was written is... strange. Tolkien said that he drew on his childhood during the end of the 19th century, and it clearly came from a very personal place. Narratively however, it doesn't quite fit. Overall I think the films improved upon the source material, even if the omission of Tom Bombadil was a veritable crime.

    20 votes
    1. RedstoneTehnik
      Link Parent
      It is true that the movies made up some parts, however, I completely agree with you that occasionally the books were waaay too long for what they were trying to describe. But in a way, exactly...

      It is true that the movies made up some parts, however, I completely agree with you that occasionally the books were waaay too long for what they were trying to describe. But in a way, exactly those parts made the books what they are, at least in my opinion.

      7 votes
    2. annadane
      Link Parent
      I find one thing with LOTR is that you can hedge a bit on the details. If you saw the movies without previously being aware of the books, you'd get - correctly - the implication that Middle Earth...

      I find one thing with LOTR is that you can hedge a bit on the details. If you saw the movies without previously being aware of the books, you'd get - correctly - the implication that Middle Earth has a very deep history and so it may not truly affect things negatively to not show absolutely everything. And for those who did read the books first the movies are not unfaithful.

      5 votes
  2. [7]
    patience_limited
    Link
    I found The Expanse TV series better than the books. In part, the first novel suffered from typical "first novel" writing problems - lack of clarity in some scenes due to background, dialogue or...

    I found The Expanse TV series better than the books.

    In part, the first novel suffered from typical "first novel" writing problems - lack of clarity in some scenes due to background, dialogue or plot fuzziness; too many characters introduced; continuity issues; insufficient or excessive explication...

    This gets cleaned up by the authors as a result of more mature writing skills by the time they're writing for the series production. I've also gotten the sense from a couple of interviews that they really wanted to be writing for a visual medium in the first place.

    Between the careful scenery building and cinematography, the series clarifies a number of things that were unclear. The books made a good effort to describe and add excitement to space travel, but the visuals of the grim, claustrophobic, clanking, fragile tin cans of the future and the horrors of war or contagion in those miniscule habitats, are very fully realized.

    The text version of Holden's character was also a deeply annoying "Mary Sue", a heroic projection of the authors' fantasy-selves, with other characters barely sketched in around him as backdrop for his exploits. The series does a far better job of realizing other characters and setting Holden in place among other actors who have personal motivations and agency. The distinctions of Belter and Martian culture from Earth are better realized as well.

    8 votes
    1. [4]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. Crespyl
        Link Parent
        I'll just add a counter-point as, while I really enjoyed the show, I tend to prefer the books, though I would still say they improve over the course of the series. The biggest difference is that...

        I'll just add a counter-point as, while I really enjoyed the show, I tend to prefer the books, though I would still say they improve over the course of the series.

        The biggest difference is that the books have so much more space to explore the setting, characters, and background. I strongly disagree that "other characters [are] barely sketched in", the books in fact spend much more time getting to know the other characters than the show can afford to. I'm thinking in particular of Amos, Miller, Melba, Bull, and Naomi, and there's even several whole novellas that go into much more depth exploring individual characters and events.

        I can see why someone might take Holden as a bit "Mary Sue"-ish in the beginning, as he is a bit of an obnoxious do-gooder hero type, but even the other characters notice this (and are bothered by it) and his character (and others) develop noticeably over the course of the series.

        One of the things I really appreciated about the books is the sense of the passage of time, and how by the last few books, the original characters are really starting to feel the weight of the 30-40 some years that the series has covered so far. Even with the Epstein Drive, things simply move much slower in the books than they have in the show, and I think the books make the most of it.

        There's certainly flaws and strengths in both versions, and I love them both, but I would still encourage you to read the first book and see if it's to your liking.

        4 votes
      2. patience_limited
        Link Parent
        I'm not recommending that you avoid the books; they get better by orders of magnitude with each successive volume. I just liked Holden's story arc somewhat better in the series; the series also...

        I'm not recommending that you avoid the books; they get better by orders of magnitude with each successive volume.

        I just liked Holden's story arc somewhat better in the series; the series also made some very different storytelling choices because it had the benefit of visuals. Each medium is its own experience, and I wouldn't be sorry to consume one before the other.

        1 vote
      3. Sunward
        Link Parent
        As regards the nature of Holden's character, I think it's important to consider how the Expanse started: first as a setting for an MMORPG, then as a tabletop RPG, and then novels after Daniel...

        As regards the nature of Holden's character, I think it's important to consider how the Expanse started: first as a setting for an MMORPG, then as a tabletop RPG, and then novels after Daniel Abraham suggested to Ty Franck that he'd built a detailed enough world to write novels in. In fact, one of them (I forget if it was Franck or Abraham though I'd assume Franck since he did all the research) ran a tabletop RPG set in the world of the Expanse (based on d20 Modern, as I recall) before he and Abraham began to write the novels, and several if not all of the main characters (Holden, Alex, Naomi, Amos, and I think Bobbie?) are based on the players' characters from that initial tabletop RPG. I believe Franck or Abraham has even said on Twitter that part of the point of Holden's character is to show "how annoying it is to have a paladin in the party".

        1 vote
    2. [3]
      spctrvl
      Link Parent
      Ah jeez, I couldn't stand Holden on the TV series and he's worse in the book? That's worrisome, but I still plan on giving it a read.

      Ah jeez, I couldn't stand Holden on the TV series and he's worse in the book? That's worrisome, but I still plan on giving it a read.

      1. [2]
        patience_limited
        Link Parent
        Matter of taste, I suppose; I'm really not fond of ubermenschen, and the Holden in the series is considerably more vulnerable to legitimate doubt.

        Matter of taste, I suppose; I'm really not fond of ubermenschen, and the Holden in the series is considerably more vulnerable to legitimate doubt.

        1. spctrvl
          Link Parent
          I just feel like his personality and character in the TV series are underdeveloped and inconsistent compared to the rest of the cast in spite of his oodles of screentime. He seems to exist just to...

          I just feel like his personality and character in the TV series are underdeveloped and inconsistent compared to the rest of the cast in spite of his oodles of screentime. He seems to exist just to move the plot forward and be the audience surrogate.

  3. [32]
    jprich
    Link
    Im going to be that guy and put the obligatory Game of Thrones in here. And yes, it is because he has written himself into a corner and taken elventeen million years to put Winds of Winter. I read...

    Im going to be that guy and put the obligatory Game of Thrones in here.
    And yes, it is because he has written himself into a corner and taken elventeen million years to put Winds of Winter.
    I read all the books so far before the show started and am overall pleased with the show and the characters.
    The books had chapters I would skip (sansa whining, catelyn being a cunt, and dany doing nothing) where as the tv show skipped most of that due to its format or just being dropped entirely (yay, no stoneheart bullshit!).

    8 votes
    1. [15]
      vitamincheme
      Link Parent
      I agree. I forget which book I was in when I quit reading the series but I couldn't stand to read another "he broke his fast with...".

      I agree. I forget which book I was in when I quit reading the series but I couldn't stand to read another "he broke his fast with...".

      3 votes
      1. [14]
        jprich
        Link Parent
        See that reminds me of the Wheel of Time. I think I stopped on book......6 or 7? Some friends kept reading and I would ask what happened. "Rand is trying to cleanse magic while being betrayed and...

        See that reminds me of the Wheel of Time.
        I think I stopped on book......6 or 7?
        Some friends kept reading and I would ask what happened.
        "Rand is trying to cleanse magic while being betrayed and the female magic users are having a civil war."
        Next book. What happened in this one?
        "Rand is betrayed while trying to cleanse magic. And they women are attacking the other women in their tower."
        Soooooo...the same shit that happened in the book before?
        "Noooo. Totally different."

        I think that went on for like three books?
        Nah, Im good.

        1. [5]
          TreeBone
          Link Parent
          When you oversimplify everything to that degree, it all sounds dull. There were a lot of complexities happening throughout most of wheel of time. I understand your point, but I feel obligated to...

          When you oversimplify everything to that degree, it all sounds dull. There were a lot of complexities happening throughout most of wheel of time. I understand your point, but I feel obligated to defend my favorite series!

          3 votes
          1. [4]
            jprich
            Link Parent
            True but subtle complexities over two or three books couldnt keep me interested. I hear it ended well, I just cant bring myself to go back to it.

            True but subtle complexities over two or three books couldnt keep me interested.
            I hear it ended well, I just cant bring myself to go back to it.

            1 vote
            1. [3]
              TreeBone
              Link Parent
              It's definitely not for everyone. I simply argue that those little intricacies are what make it great literature, even if it's not necessarily your taste. It is also over twelve thousand pages in...

              It's definitely not for everyone. I simply argue that those little intricacies are what make it great literature, even if it's not necessarily your taste. It is also over twelve thousand pages in total so you have to be prepared to slog through a little bit. I was entertained the entire time, but there are things in it that can kill a read for someone.

              1. [2]
                jprich
                Link Parent
                For real. There was one book I started at the recommendation from a friend who had similar tastes. He said this book was great. So I started it. I think I got three or so chapters in before I...

                For real. There was one book I started at the recommendation from a friend who had similar tastes.
                He said this book was great. So I started it.
                I think I got three or so chapters in before I quit.
                This dude keep describing this monastary and this fucking clock or bell tower in beyond stupid amounts of detail and would circle back around to talk about it again. Nah. DONE.
                My free time is limited so Im not gonna torture myself. lol

                1 vote
                1. TreeBone
                  Link Parent
                  I'm never afraid to quit a book if I'm not enjoying it. I've stopped several books that were supposed to be great and/or classic.

                  I'm never afraid to quit a book if I'm not enjoying it. I've stopped several books that were supposed to be great and/or classic.

        2. [8]
          delicious_grownups
          Link Parent
          I'm currently about 6 hours into the 29 hour audiobook for the eye of the world and I've got to say that I really am enjoying it so far. Never read any of them before

          I'm currently about 6 hours into the 29 hour audiobook for the eye of the world and I've got to say that I really am enjoying it so far. Never read any of them before

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            jprich
            Link Parent
            The first ones were great! I think it was around book 6 or 7 that I lost interest. I hope you can keep going.

            The first ones were great!
            I think it was around book 6 or 7 that I lost interest.
            I hope you can keep going.

            1. [3]
              delicious_grownups
              Link Parent
              I will. I don't give up on books that easily lol

              I will. I don't give up on books that easily lol

              1 vote
              1. [2]
                jprich
                Link Parent
                You are like my wife. She will keep on and keep on and keep on. More power to yall. I cant do it.

                You are like my wife. She will keep on and keep on and keep on.
                More power to yall.
                I cant do it.

                1 vote
                1. delicious_grownups
                  Link Parent
                  Some people can and some people can't, but your kindness about it is nice. You can definitely keep trying! I've given up on books. In particular, this is my third attempt to read the first wheel...

                  Some people can and some people can't, but your kindness about it is nice. You can definitely keep trying! I've given up on books. In particular, this is my third attempt to read the first wheel of Time book. I've gotten farther than before

                  1 vote
    2. [5]
      nacho
      Link Parent
      It must have been really bittersweet to essentially get a do-over with the tv series. I think you're totally right he wrote himself into a corner. I'll be extremely happily surprised to find that...

      It must have been really bittersweet to essentially get a do-over with the tv series.

      I think you're totally right he wrote himself into a corner. I'll be extremely happily surprised to find that he ever publishes another book in the series.

      1 vote
      1. [4]
        jprich
        Link Parent
        He totally did. The format he uses (characters for chapters) was cool in the beginning when everyone was around one another but it drags when theyve all separated it takes three times as long to...

        He totally did. The format he uses (characters for chapters) was cool in the beginning when everyone was around one another but it drags when theyve all separated it takes three times as long to advance his narrative.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          Prometheus720
          Link Parent
          It's GREAT for TV though. Expensive. But it's really cool to do the scene changes and parallel storytelling.

          It's GREAT for TV though. Expensive. But it's really cool to do the scene changes and parallel storytelling.

          2 votes
        2. OrangebanannaX
          Link Parent
          I think he intended for his POVs to split after the first book anyway. What I think he didn't intend is the plethora of POVs that he added. Someone did a good breakdown of the amount of new POVs...

          I think he intended for his POVs to split after the first book anyway. What I think he didn't intend is the plethora of POVs that he added. Someone did a good breakdown of the amount of new POVs added in each book. AGoT added all a bunch, of course, but ACoK and ASoS only added one or two each. AFfC added as many new POVs as the first book without cutting down the existing amount by any significant degree. That's why it's taking so goddamn long: he's got too many people to keep track of. It's a classic example of narrative bloat.

    3. Prometheus720
      Link Parent
      Yeah, I definitely remember skipping characters and going to others that I liked. And in the later books, you can totally get away with it.

      Yeah, I definitely remember skipping characters and going to others that I liked. And in the later books, you can totally get away with it.

      1 vote
    4. [10]
      delicious_grownups
      Link Parent
      For some reason people love lady Stoneheart. To me, regardless of whether it's cool, it seems like a really impossible thing he's going to have to write himself out of

      For some reason people love lady Stoneheart. To me, regardless of whether it's cool, it seems like a really impossible thing he's going to have to write himself out of

      1 vote
      1. [9]
        jprich
        Link Parent
        I was happy when he killed her off and I think I got whiplash from my eyes rolling so hard when he brought her back. UGH! I was happy the show didnt put her in. Ive just accepted that the song of...

        I was happy when he killed her off and I think I got whiplash from my eyes rolling so hard when he brought her back. UGH!

        I was happy the show didnt put her in. Ive just accepted that the song of fire and ice will end in 2019 when the show does. My wife will pick up Winds of Winter when it releases in 2025 but I have no fucks to give anymore.

        1 vote
        1. [8]
          delicious_grownups
          Link Parent
          Aww I really want the book to come out soon lol I'm a writer myself, and I've been working on a SciFi space Opera for about 8 years now, with the last two and a half years being the most focused...

          Aww I really want the book to come out soon lol I'm a writer myself, and I've been working on a SciFi space Opera for about 8 years now, with the last two and a half years being the most focused and streamlined for the story, where it's taking the shape that I ultimately think it will end with. I'm hardly even done the first draft tho.

          1 vote
          1. jprich
            Link Parent
            Keep on keeping on. Its not worth having if its easy or free.

            Keep on keeping on. Its not worth having if its easy or free.

            1 vote
          2. [6]
            jprich
            Link Parent
            Learn from his mistakes and have the end done before you publish.

            Learn from his mistakes and have the end done before you publish.

            1. [5]
              delicious_grownups
              Link Parent
              I've got the ending in mind, but I sympathize with him to a degree. I know how hard it is to juggle an entire world at your fingertips. It can and does take years. My world is not nearly as...

              I've got the ending in mind, but I sympathize with him to a degree. I know how hard it is to juggle an entire world at your fingertips. It can and does take years. My world is not nearly as expensive as his is, and although I've basically already worked out where I want it to go in my head, actually writing it will likely take me years on top of what I've already done

              1 vote
              1. [4]
                jprich
                Link Parent
                Nothing worth having is easy or free.

                Nothing worth having is easy or free.

                1. [3]
                  delicious_grownups
                  Link Parent
                  Well, it's certainly not easy. And Microsoft word ain't free

                  Well, it's certainly not easy. And Microsoft word ain't free

                  1 vote
                  1. [2]
                    jprich
                    Link Parent
                    Notepad, Notepad++, Open Office, and Google Docs/Sheets are though! I use those across my work computer, home computer, and phone to story board stuff. ^_^

                    Notepad, Notepad++, Open Office, and Google Docs/Sheets are though!
                    I use those across my work computer, home computer, and phone to story board stuff. ^_^

                    1 vote
                    1. delicious_grownups
                      Link Parent
                      True! I just stole a copy of Microsoft word

                      True! I just stole a copy of Microsoft word

                      1 vote
  4. [5]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    'The Martian' movie was better than the novel. The novel read like a series of engineering test questions, and was extremely dry reading. I loved the premise and enjoyed the plot, but I found the...

    'The Martian' movie was better than the novel.

    The novel read like a series of engineering test questions, and was extremely dry reading. I loved the premise and enjoyed the plot, but I found the technical detail a bit overwhelming. And the protagonist, Mark Watney, was a bit full of himself!

    The movie was much better. It removed the dry engineering texts, and replaced them with action. Also, Matt Damon's version of Watney was more relatable than the novel's version.

    There was one big flaw in the movie: it removed the suspense by showing us the rescue efforts too early in the narrative. In the novel, Mark Watney believed he wasn't going to be rescued and so did we readers. This raised the stakes for his efforts to keep himself alive. In the movie, we saw the rescue attempt being developed. Also, in a book, there's always the slight possibility that the protagonist can die, but that was never going to happen in the movie!

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      metal
      Link Parent
      I have to disagree, I found the technical data and calculations the best part of the story. Those things just help depict hard science fiction more so the book wins. Film was great too but in a...

      I have to disagree, I found the technical data and calculations the best part of the story. Those things just help depict hard science fiction more so the book wins. Film was great too but in a different sense.

      16 votes
    2. Cirrus
      Link Parent
      I liked the book better, for some of the reasons you described above. The book showed Watney isolated and probably going to die alone, and the readers can empathize with that. I admired how Watney...

      I liked the book better, for some of the reasons you described above. The book showed Watney isolated and probably going to die alone, and the readers can empathize with that. I admired how Watney is still able to crack jokes and make snide comments despite his hopeless situation. Call it gallows humour, but his attitude during the whole thing was respectable.

      The movie, as you said, showed the rescue plans too early, and the rest of the movie became how Watney will be saved, not if he will be saved. As a survival story, the movie significantly lowered the stakes.

      After I finished the book, I actually took a deep breath and appreciated the fact that I have air to breathe. After the movie, I similarly felt relieved, but not to the degree the book evoked in me.

      I enjoyed the technical parts, but I can imagine how someone who doesn't will find the book boring. To each their own, I guess.

      12 votes
    3. Catt
      Link Parent
      I really enjoyed the movie, but have to say, the book was better for me. I'm an eng though, so I actually really liked the "dry engineering", lol. I totally get why someone else wouldn't though.

      I really enjoyed the movie, but have to say, the book was better for me. I'm an eng though, so I actually really liked the "dry engineering", lol. I totally get why someone else wouldn't though.

      1 vote
  5. TheJorro
    Link
    Fight Club is a much better movie than book. The book's ending is strange and a bit left field deus ex machina compared to the movie's. Similarly, the Mist may work better as a movie than a book...

    Fight Club is a much better movie than book. The book's ending is strange and a bit left field deus ex machina compared to the movie's.

    Similarly, the Mist may work better as a movie than a book due to just a change in the ending—a change so good, Stephen King himself was blown away.

    6 votes
  6. Valis
    Link
    While I don't know if I would say the book is inferior, I saw 'Annihilation' recently and I thought it was a perfect example of an adaption that captured the spirit of the work while being...

    While I don't know if I would say the book is inferior, I saw 'Annihilation' recently and I thought it was a perfect example of an adaption that captured the spirit of the work while being substantially different. Many film adaptations struggle with toeing the line when it comes to being faithful to a book vs. being an adaptation. Lots of fans of the book will be upset over artistic changes while lots of producers recognize that not everything that works in a book can translate into such a visual medium. I watched the adaptation of 'The Great Gatsby' starring Robert Redford recently and that film works so hard not to stray from the novel with rather mixed results. 'Annihilation' feels more like a half-remembered adaptation of the novel that was fleshed out to make it work. As if you read it a year ago and out of the blue were asked to write a script based on what you did remember. I think all of the important conceptual points were still hit while allowing it to use the strengths of film as a medium.

    4 votes
  7. BlackLedger
    Link
    I'm probably really dating myself here, but I think Jaws is probably one of the best examples of this, especially as the movie is a classic that helped to define the summer blockbuster, while the...

    I'm probably really dating myself here, but I think Jaws is probably one of the best examples of this, especially as the movie is a classic that helped to define the summer blockbuster, while the book is probably not widely known these days. I'd say the main reason the movie surpasses the book, even setting aside the visual spectacle, is that the film spends a lot more time with the characters (particularly Brodie), makes Quint more interesting and human (adding the element of being a survivor of U.S.S. Indianapolis, removing the baby dolphin as bait element), and eliminates a number of the less interesting subplots (the Mafia angle, the Hooper/Ellen Brodie affair).

    3 votes
  8. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I find the play/movie adaptation of 'Auntie Mame' to be better than the book. The book is a collection of amusing anecdotes about the fictional Patrick Dennis's equally fictional Auntie Mame, but...

    I find the play/movie adaptation of 'Auntie Mame' to be better than the book.

    The book is a collection of amusing anecdotes about the fictional Patrick Dennis's equally fictional Auntie Mame, but it can be a bit dry at times. It's also somewhat dated, being published in the early 1950s.

    However, the play and the subsequent movie, both starring Rosalind Russell in the title role, are lively. Mame Dennis becomes a real and interesting person, rather than the two-dimensional near-caricature she is in the novel. She's alive. You really do get the sense of her as a whirlwind, dragging young Patrick and sundry others along on her quest to feast at the banquet of life.

    To fit the novel into a play, some of the drier or more dated episodes from the novel were dropped. Even though the play is set in the same periods as the novel, and was produced only a few years later, it doesn't feel as dated. Mame Dennis feels a bit more timeless.

    1 vote
  9. [3]
    Catt
    Link
    The Bridge to Terabithia for me. Though the book is amazing, something about seen it onscreen just really popped for me. I remember being sad reading the book, but was devastated when I watched...

    The Bridge to Terabithia for me. Though the book is amazing, something about seen it onscreen just really popped for me. I remember being sad reading the book, but was devastated when I watched the movie.

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      Abel
      Link Parent
      That's funny to me, because I would say the exact opposite. When I read the book as a kid in school I was absolutely heartbroken and felt that post book depression for days, the kind that makes...

      That's funny to me, because I would say the exact opposite. When I read the book as a kid in school I was absolutely heartbroken and felt that post book depression for days, the kind that makes you feel hopelessly sad. So I was super excited when I found out there was a film, and watched it with my sister, giving it a very high recommendation. We got to the end and were in total disbelief on how rubbish it was, and how it completely missed the spirt of the book. My sister wouldn't read the book because of how much she hated the film, but I'm glad sombody enjoyed it, because that film was the biggest disappointment of my childhood.

      1 vote
      1. Catt
        Link Parent
        That is interesting. I wonder if it's because when I read the book, I was really young and I don't believe I've experience a tangible death yet. I was much older when I watched the movie. I...

        That is interesting. I wonder if it's because when I read the book, I was really young and I don't believe I've experience a tangible death yet. I was much older when I watched the movie. I thought the part her dad talks about not being able to give up her dog just super sad.

  10. serenity
    Link
    How To Train Your Dragon, for sure, at least for me. In the books, the dragon which the main character Hiccup befriends, is a small wyrm-like creature small enough to sit on his shoulders. In the...

    How To Train Your Dragon, for sure, at least for me. In the books, the dragon which the main character Hiccup befriends, is a small wyrm-like creature small enough to sit on his shoulders.

    In the movie adaptation, they turned Toothless into a big, universally-feared yet loveable, cat-like stealth fighter.

    1 vote