Have you ever enjoyed reading a book and immediately wondered why nobody has thought to make a movie version? Often, one or more attempts have been made, but the project falls apart for one reason or another. It’s still a wonder, though, that novels like these haven’t (yet) made the leap from page to screen:
A Fire Upon the Deep
I despair that no filmmaker will ever dare to tackle this densely layered science fiction classic from 1993, but at least give it a try as a TV miniseries, someone. Vernor Vinge’s hyperepic tale of hysteria-induced interstellar genocide also drills down to the personal, as two orphaned children marooned on a planet inhabited by sentient wolflike creatures with collective pack minds-themselves in turmoil thanks to a fanatic faction-unknowingly may hold the key to restoring galactic equilibrium. It’s a busy, heady story, but there’s plenty of space opera action and accessible intrigue.
The Book of Three
This first book in a five-part series published in 1964, based on characters and events from Welsh mythology, is a natural for the big screen, even though it was written long before novelists schemed for crossover appeal. Lloyd Alexander’s tale of a simple youth caught up in a struggle between Arawn, lord of the dread realm of Annuvin, and the Sons of Don, a race of heroic demigods, was written for the juvenile market but has appeal for all ages. A disappointing animated adaptation of the second book, The Black Cauldron, by Disney in 1985 may have soured Hollywood on the series, but this title and its four sequels has great potential for a live-action franchise brimming with rousing adventure and interspersed with humor and horror alike.
The Crook Factory
This 1999 novel by Dan Simmons, best known for the Hyperion Cantos, a brain-bursting science fiction series, is based on a real-life World War II spy ring in Cuba coordinated by none other than Ernest Hemingway. This magnificent mash-up of fact and fiction centers around an FBI agent sent by J. Edgar Hoover to get a line on the eccentric author’s seemingly inept counterespionage operations. It’s thrilling and funny alike, and it’s astounding that a Warner Bros. collaboration with Johnny Depp’s production company, to star Depp and with a script by Nicholas Meyer, seems to be in limbo.
The High House
When young Carter Anderson returns to Evenmere, his childhood home, he finds that his father, Master of the massive and enigmatic High House, is missing. Not only that, but the Bobby, a malevolent force that takes the form of a British policeman with a featureless face, threatens to unleash chaos. To thwart him, Carter must undertake a quest through the labyrinthine mansion in which he encounters civilized tigers, carnivorous furniture, and many other marvels. This 1998 novel by James Stoddard, followed by the sequel The False House, is drenched in Victorian atmosphere, features memorable characters, and boasts wonders around each corner and perils down every corridor.
House of the Scorpion
Nancy Farmer writes for young readers, and it’s unfortunate that her sharp, sophisticated novels stay under the radars of most adults (and too many kids). In House of the Scorpion, written in 2002, Farmer creates a near future in which a young boy growing up in a sovereign opium-growing state carved out of land formerly belonging to United States and Mexico learns the unsettling truth about his identity and sets out to control his own destiny. The characters and the setting are vividly realized, and the story is often grim but ultimately uplifting. Filmdom has no excuse for letting this astonishing story remain unadapted.