Seven Novels We Demand Be Adapted for the Screen… or Else!

Seven of us here at FSR read books, and these are the ones we’d love to see adapted into movies so the rest of the staff can enjoy them too.

Like most years, 2017 saw a fair number of movies based on novels, and while some were duds (The Dark Tower) others found massive success (IT). There were non-Stephen King adaptations too from The Circle and The Snowman to My Cousin Rachel and Call Me By Your Name, and 2018 will continue the annual trend with Annihilation, Red Sparrow, A Wrinkle in Time, Crazy Rich Asians, and many more heading to screens this year.

With that in mind, we decided to help out the powers that be in Hollywood by strongly suggesting they look into adapting the seven books below. We’ve even offered some cast/crew suggestions to help speed the process along, and while they’re not obligated to follow our talent picks they’d be well-advised to consider them. Keep reading to see what we’ve been reading, and if our pitches appeal to you click the links to start reading what we’ve been reading yourselves!

Red Dots

DarkestGuillermo del Toro — my favorite director — would make such a good film adaptation of Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest. I think Holly likes this concept too, or at least she liked a tweet I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago. This urban fantasy novel – an atypical YA book – not only has compelling, trope-smashing characters. It also has a wonderfully rich, immersive setting that would look great onscreen: in the town of Fairfold, where humans and faeries exist alongside each other. The Darkest Part of the Forest is about teenagers Hazel and Ben, and involves them chasing knighthood, magic, and unconventional heroism. Encountering changelings and horned boys along the way, the book intricately tackles questions of identity, belonging, love, and loyalty. When combined, these are things that – in one way or another – del Toro has dealt with in his films with much nuance. He also keenly loves and appreciates fairytales, while acknowledging that the best ones find a balance between the horrific and misunderstood as well as the beautiful and entrancing. In my opinion, it would sit very well alongside Pans Labyrinth and The Shape of Water. Those films seem vastly different in content, but bring such vivid, luscious worlds to life and posit striking concerns about selfhood. As for casting, I’m admittedly atrocious at putting faces to book characters, but Sophia Lillis of IT fame would actually make a really good Hazel. Black’s books are usually vivid and naturalistic, while they indulge in more fantastical elements. Basically, that would gel seamlessly with del Toro’s filmmaking style and sensibilities. – Sheryl Oh

Red Dots

ThursdayWith the way Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman works are being adapted like there’s no tomorrow, it seems like we are going through a bit of a speculative fiction adapt-a-palooza. But as much as I love Atwood and Gaiman, the one speculative fiction novel I would love to see adapted for the screen above all others is from a little bit before their time—G. K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. Published in 1908, the deceptively slim book covers the (mis)adventures of everyman hero Gabriel Syme—who we are informed is normal because his family is so insane that normality was the only thing left to rebel into—who is recruited by a secret undercover police force to infiltrate the Supreme Anarchist Council, a group consisting of seven members who use days of the week as codenames, lead by the revered enigma known as Sunday. It is a novel that is thought-provoking and wonderfully absurd. Sometimes chilling, sometimes hysterically funny, and always exciting, it features a veritable feast of incredible lines such as “Secretary, if you’d take your head home and boil it for a turnip it might be useful. I can’t say. But it might.” There’s even a chase through the streets of Edwardian London involving an elephant. What more could you want? A brain-bending riot of a novel, The Man Who Was Thursday is almost unbelievably fresh for being 110 years old, but it could use a trim here and there and a little polishing to truly shine, and what better way to do that than with a screen adaptation? Hungarian filmmaker Balázs Juszt wrote and directed a film called The Man Who Was Thursday last year, but unfortunately it was not really an adaptation so much as a film that borrowed a few themes (not even the most interesting ones!) and co-opted the title. Now, while the book is short enough it could probably be squeezed into an epic-length film, a mini-series of around four parts or so would be ideal. The most important thing would be to leave it in the hands of someone who could maintain the book’s balance of thought-provoking metaphysics and absurdity, avoiding the traps of either leaning too heavily on the former and making the narrative overly dark and brooding or focusing too much on the later and losing depth. If I could wave a magic wand, I would say a filmmaking duo Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris or the Coen brothers would be fantastic choices. And who to star? Well, twenty-year-old me still stands by the fan-casting note fifteen-year-old me scribbled in the margins of Chapter 2: Cillian Murphy. Odds are it’s probably only ever going to happen in my head, but there is still technically a non-zero chance that one day I’ll actually be able to sit in front of a screen and watch Murphy say, “You, my poor fellow, are an anarchist deprived of the help of that law and organization which is so essential to anarchy.” Hope springs eternal. – Ciara Wardlow

Red Dots

HomegoingIn today’s crowded literary scene, it’s hard to tell what books will still matter in the future, enduring beyond book clubs and year-end lists to become lasting classics. That is not at all the case with Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, an ambitious series of interconnected stories so beautifully layered and dynamic that their place in the canon should be a no-brainer. Gyasi’s book follows two branches of a family tree, beginning with a pair of half-sisters in Ghana in the 18th century. Every character, every chapter, every story is indelible and original. Though the book’s scope (scenes are set in Ghana, the American South, Harlem, and beyond) seems fit for a film adaptation, a miniseries would provide the richest version of a story that aims to tackle Black trauma, womanhood, heritage, fear, and strength. With a cast jam-packed with talented Black actors, a premium cable budget, and an episode for each character — 14 in all — the adaptation might just come close to capturing the book’s emotional power. – Valerie Ettenhofer

Red Dots

SandmanAs a bookseller, I regularly put Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim in customers’ hands. It’s a fantasy thriller, centered on the murderous revenge quest of James Stark, veteran killer. I dig that Stark reads like the kind of P.I. you’d likely find drunk behind his desk, broken by life, who only does his best when it counts. Our antihero spent eleven years condemned by people he thought were friends to literal hell, fighting demons in a gladiator pit and as an assassin indentured to the lords of hell. The book kicks off as Stark escapes back to L.A. and finds his quest for revenge thwarted by the hosts of heaven and hell. It’s brutally fun and darkly comical, and Stark appeals as a pitch black exploration of the depths of humanity. Tell me who does that better than Riley Stearns with his outstanding work Faults. Ansel Roth’s (Leland Orser) desperate quest for redemption is gloriously layered. Logan Marshall-Green, for his exploration of a man at his limit in The Invitation, might be a good fit for Stark. His recent turn as The Shocker in Spider-Man: Homecoming shows he’s got equal chops for the physical side. Studio 8 picked up the rights to the books about a year ago. Here’s hoping we get a big-screen franchise out of this work. – William Dass

Red Dots

EmbassytownMy first choice was one of China Miéville’s books, The City & the City. It’s my favorite book in the whole world, and I wanted to make a case for it despite its being completely unfilmable… until I discovered BBC Two is making it into a miniseries as we speak. Expect a dubious but excited review from me sometime next year. With any luck this adaptation will be successful, and it’ll pave the way for my second-favorite Miéville book, Embassytown. Set on a planet at the edge of the known universe and focused on a catastrophic clash of cultures between alien species, the worst thing this book could get is a straight sci-fi adaptation. Because a lot like The City & the City, Embassytown is really a philosophical treatise disguised as an excellently-written genre story — a meditation on language and consciousness that plays out through deceptively exciting action. To borrow a concept from the book, it is itself a metaphor. In other words, if Syfy picks it up and milks it for several seasons of CGI aliens who talk funny, I’ll cry. But in my imaginary course of events, the people will demand more genre miniseries that double as high-level college courses, and the BBC will follow the wild success of The City & the City with an equally true adaptation of Embassytown. They did a brilliantly faithful job with the lumbering Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell recently, so I have high hopes. My dream Lead? Jessica Henwick (Nymeria Sand from Game of Thrones) as Avice Benner Cho, explorer, human simile, and participant in a very strange culture clash. – Liz Baessler

Red Dots

SirensThe Sirens of Titan is a snarky mind-fuck space romp from Kurt Vonnegut about whether or not it matters if truth and free-will exist. We follow hapless trust fund douche Malachi Constant as he falls victim to a series of interplanetary accidents orchestrated by Winston Niles Rumfoord, a patrician dandy who developed Dr. Manhattan-like powers when he (and his dog) accidentally passed through a cosmological phenomenon. What results is something in the realm of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Memento meets Interstellar and I would very much like to see it on TV. Sirens’ IP has a fascinating lineage: Re-Animator’s Stuart Gordon mounted a stage production in the 70’s; The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia bought the film rights which in turn passed to Robert B. Weide (who adapted Mother Night in ’96), and later to James V. Hart (who wrote Contact). This summer it was announced that Dan Harmon and Evan Katz are developing a Sirens TV series with Universal Cable Productions. Harmon’s an avowed Vonnegut disciple with a nuanced grasp of the ways sci-fi can apply pressure to social bruises. If he follows through, he’ll probably do great and get a ton of folks into Vonnegut, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve always had him in mind. Personally, my day dream’d Sirens is a mini-series under the direction of someone like Bryan Fuller or Noah Hawley, two creative forces I associate with high concept, lush visuals and unwieldy storytelling. Full shade: Sirens is premium T.V. content and has no place on basic cable; it needs a home with deep pockets that’s willing to take creative risks. As far as dream-casting goes, Elijah Wood is my Malachi, Kristen Wiig is my Beatrice, and Michael Sheen is my Winston. All three straddle the tricky line between heaviness and absurdity, which is very much the fault line within which Sirens makes its home. Again, I’m cautiously optimistic about the Harmon news, but I hold fast to my dream adaption: an audacious, highly stylized, small screen space epic. – Meg Shields

Red Dots

HollowAs instigator of this shared post it’s embarrassing to discover I’m the least confident when it comes to picking the book I most want to see adapted for the screen. I just have too many fighting for the top spot. I’m still holding hope for a premium cable limited series of Stephen King & Peter Straub’s The Talisman, and there are three Dean Koontz novels (Lightning, The Good Guy, The Husband) that I think could break the curse of Koontz adaptations. I’d deem two of my absolute favorite books, Dan Simmons’ The Hollow Man and Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper as “unfilmable,” but I’d still love to see someone try. John Skipp & Craig Spector’s The Bridge would scratch my Long Weekend eco-horror itch and give f/x artist Screaming Mad George an opportunity to cut loose. Thomas H. Cook’s gut-punch mysteries, The Instruments of Night and Mortal Memory, would each make for dark, twisted, highly-satisfying entertainment. And so on, and so on. But per my own rules I can only pick one, so for the sake of honoring that guideline and finishing this post, the adaptation I’d love to see would be a deliriously R-rated film based on Robert Rankin‘s The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. Think Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but with sex, graphic violence, and the kind of language your mom warned you about, and you’ll have an idea what to expect here. The story follows young Jack (13 years old in the book, but would probably have to be bumped up for a movie) who leaves his rural home behind for the adventure of the big city. It’s a place where toys speak and beloved fairy tale characters, rich off royalties from their famous poems, are being murdered in grisly ways. Humpty Dumpty is boiled alive in his pool, Mother Goose is slit open like Christmas dinner, Little Boy Blue has his sheep-tending staff shoved up his ass and out his mouth — you get the picture — and Jack finds himself teaming up with a teddy bear turned detective named Eddie to try and stop the killer. It’s ridiculously funny, endlessly creative, and if successful could result in the sequel (The Toyminator) getting adapted too. I’d actually love to see Robert Zemeckis tackle it as feels like a wacky, dirty blend of both Roger Rabbit and Used Cars, and it should probably star Ed Oxenbould as Jack and Sam Rockwell as the voice of Eddie. Tell me this doesn’t already sound like the best movie you haven’t seen… yet. – Rob Hunter

More to Read: