Picture Books Writ Larger

A couple of days ago I finished Caliban’s War, the second book of James. S. A. Corey’s The Expanse series, an event  duly noted and then reported by Goodreads. Without my input. Sheesh. If they know when I finish a book, I guess I’d better not rob a bank.

Ordinarily I would not discuss a series unless I was (a) finished with it, like John Sanford’s Prey series, or (b) impressed with it, like Daniel Suarez’ Daemon series.

In the Expanse’s case, it’s (b), but also for another reason I’ve mentioned in other posts: the difference between book and movie…er, TV series. Because you can’t discuss the Expanse without giving tacit nod towards its rather extraordinary dramatization; at least, not with any completeness. So let me get the comparison out of the way: they’re both great. And different from each other. Thank God.

There is a strong school of thought that original material must be adhered to slavishly, or it’s a sellout, abomination, bastardization, travesty, crime against humanity, pick your judgment. I once adhered to the same school, watching series or movies made from my favorite novels/stories/comics whatever with a critical eye for any deviation from text…Aha! Look! Matthias isn’t a vampire!

He’s just a nut! There’s a certain smug satisfaction from noting such deviations because we readers are better people. Sniff. We haven’t needed pretty pictures in our books since kindergarten…except in our comic books, er, graphic novels. Sniff.

Over the years, though, my moral superiority has eroded. It started with Doctor Zhivago,

believe it or not, which I saw when I was about ten or eleven and just loved. Yeah, seriously, I did, although I didn’t understand half of it so, decades later, I tried to read the book.

Tried. Couldna make hide nor hair.

But the stake through my non-revisionist heart was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings,

which Jackson valiantly tried to take verbatim from the books but couldn’t because, Holy Hannah, each movie would be a week long so he had to deviate. Horrors! But they were very good, so I sniffily re-read the series with an eye towards looking down nose at that reprobate Jackson and, ya know? Tolkien is turgid.

Just is. The movies are actually better.

Yes, you can now revoke my library card.

Conclusion: it’s not a sign of superiority to demand the rigid correlation of book and movie. Why? Because text and film are such radically different mediums, and one does not mesh perfectly with the other. Ten pages of Tolkien can be ten seconds of the movie. Vivid lush description is a delight to read on the page but boring as hell on the screen. How much of a Bergman movie can you actually stomach? So trying to literally reproduce one into the other isn’t always a good idea. Por ejemplo, 2001 Space Odyssey. Great movie, great visuals, still not sure what it’s about. The subsequent novel? Reads like a script of the movie, the only positive is at the end of the book where you get a bit more clarification of Space Baby.

A bit.

Face it, book and movie are two separate but equal entities, but that’s okay because you get two, two, two joys in one.

One plot, that is.

Presented for your re-consideration, then, the Expanse novels and TV series. I can tell you straight up that they are so different from each other that you can enjoy one without spoiling the other. Indeed, I don’t think I would have continued reading the novels if I had not seen the series first because the first book, Leviathan Wakes, has a very murky opening. Yes, so does the series, but not enough to puzzle you completely, like the first one does. Soooo, since I knew from the series what was going on, I could cut through the novel’s murkiness and continue without running into any spoilers because, different from each other. You don’t even meet Secretary Avasarala (played by Shoreh Agdashloo,

to whom I pledge undying love) in the novels until Caliban’s War, but she’s right there from episode one of the series. Thank you, just thank you. And Caliban’s War ends with an event that I have been anticipating  since the end of Season 2. Not a spoiler, an anticipation.

So, yes, I will continue reading the series and begin Season 3 with nary a concern one will cross centerline and smack head-on to the other. And if it does? Eh.

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