Sci-Fi Novels with Big Screen Plans

If everything goes as planned, these thrilling sci-fi tales will be coming to a theater near you.

Great sci-fi novels are often characterized by ambitious plots and visionary storytelling, leading readers to await eagerly for the film and television series adaptations as soon as the revamped books hit shelves.

Modern advancements in technology have enabled filmmakers to achieve impressive results when creating vast new worlds, such as the western-themed parks in HBO’s award-winning series “Westworld,” based on novelist Michael Crichton’s 1973 feature film debut, or the stunning dystopian Los Angeles featured in the critically acclaimed “Blade Runner 2049,” a film adaptation based on characters from Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Successful adaptations such as these set the bar for the science fiction genre and lead viewers to want more titles that challenge the limits of movie-making technology.

Despite worries about the recent lackluster box office performance of “Blade Runner 2049,” a movie that is being called a new classic, sci-fi fans can be rest assured; there are more out-of-this-world epics still slated for development, many of which are based on original literary content. Three novels in particular have incredible potential for the big screen, considering the astonishing worlds and what-if scenarios described within their pages.

These stories are haunting, far-reaching tales that begin in the familiar, but end in the surreal: four women lead an expedition into uncharted domain, a giant metal hand is discovered deep in the earth and a ghost in the machine threatens to destroy humanity. Below is a rundown of what these novels offer to readers, the latest developments concerning their planned theatrical adaptations and why moviegoers everywhere should be excited for their release.

1. “Annihilation” by Jeff VanderMeer

At only 195 pages in length, Jeff VanderMeer’s sci-fi novel “Annihilation” packs quite a gut-wrenching punch of suspense and intrigue layered with doses of awe and horror. The story begins with the descent of four female researchers into a mysterious region known as Area X, a place that led previous explorers to untimely ends.

Forbidden to take navigational instruments or electronic gadgets, the team is sparsely equipped with only a few weapons and a strange measuring device hung around each of their necks, its purpose just as mysterious as their new environment. Soon enough, the expedition encounters odd and unexplainable phenomena that none of them could have ever imagined.

Audiences who enjoyed the outer space thriller “Sunshine” or the android-versus-human mystery “Ex Machina” will be happy to hear that the screenwriter responsible for them, Alex Garland, has adapted “Annihilation” for the cinema. The movie is already completed and will be released in U.S. theaters on February 23, 2018, starring Natalie Portman as a determined biologist haunted by the secrets of an incredible discovery. Writer/director Garland explains “Annihilation” is “very weird and very beautiful.” VanderMeer, to compliment this statement, describes the film adaptation as “mind-blowing, surreal, extremely beautiful, extremely horrific.” If that isn’t enough to spark your interest, check out the most recent teaser trailer.

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2. Various Novels by Sylvain Neuvel

The fact that Canadian author Sylvain Neuvel scored a movie deal for “Sleeping Giants” before a publisher had even snatched up the book speaks volumes about the potential this story has for film adaptation. The concept is truly larger than life and takes place in the American Midwest, where a young girl literally stumbles upon a colossal steel hand buried beneath the earth’s surface. Years later, after the military fails to make sense of the mystery, more metal body parts are discovered across the globe. The finder-of-the-hand, Rose Franklin, grows up to be a physicist who leads a team to decipher the meaning of the giant hand and what implications it may have for humanity.

Sony Pictures acquired the film rights to the novel in 2014 after producer Josh Bratman found the book and presented it to the studio. Screenwriter David Koepp was set to adapt the series, titled “The Themis Files,” into cinematic form. Koepp is known for his work on “Jurassic Park” and “War of the Worlds,” among other notable science fiction gems. Considering his extensive screenwriting resume, a theatrical adaptation of “The Themis Files” is bound to be a success.

Neuvel’s upcoming third installment of the book trilogy titled “Only Human,” which is set to release on May 1, 2018, brings the trilogy to a close but might help to shed more light on what a possible movie franchise based on the series might look like. In an interview with “The Verge,” he explains that although there’s been some progress with the film, “You never really know. Fingers crossed.”

3. “Robopocalypse” by Daniel H. Wilson

There is a common scenario found in the science fiction realm of storytelling: humans make machines, machines get smart, machines kill humans. You might think this concept has been exhausted by franchises such as “The Terminator” and “The Matrix,” but believe it or not, there are still some fresh takes out there that haven’t been given the Hollywood treatment. A novel that fits this category is Daniel H. Wilson’s “Robopocalypse,” described by at least one book reviewer as “‘World War Z’ with evil robots.”

This page-turner is told in a series of interviews and transcripts that describe a nightmarish not-too-distant future where technology turns on humanity, culminating in an all-out war between survivors and robots. If you’ve ever seen what a real-life robot looks like in action, such as Boston Dynamics’ “nightmare-inducing” robot named Handle, then you can imagine how scary and convincing a movie could be about killer machines.

DreamWorks Studios bought the film rights for the book before it was even finished. Steven Spielberg was soon onboard as producer and director with Drew Goddard, known for sci-fi films such as “The Cabin in the Woods” and “World War Z,” penning the script. However, many were disappointed when production plans were first delayed and then indefinitely postponed. The project was deemed too costly, forcing the filmmakers “back to the drawing board.” Fortunately, more recent talks with Goddard have been optimistic in assuring that the movie could still happen at some point. Here’s to hoping “‘World War Z’ with evil robots” comes to a theater near you.

Benny Diaz III, Southern New Hampshire University

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Benny Diaz III

Southern New Hampshire University
Creative Writing & English

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