New films & series adapted from sci-fi & fantasy books

Fans of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel “Brave New World” will be happy to hear there’s a release date for the adaptation, a series which will air on NBC’s Peacock – on July 15, which is also the launch date of the new streaming service.

The series is set in a future society that is rigid and controlled. Bernard (Harry Lloyd) and Lenina (Jessica Brown Findlay) go to the Savage Lands where they become involved in a rebellion and meet John the Savage (Alden Ehrenreich). Hannah John-Kamen and Demi Moore also star. David Wiener is the showrunner.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m very excited about the upcoming adaptation of one of my favorite books, the post-apocalyptic novel “Station Eleven,” by Emily St. John Mandel. The miniseries is coming to HBO Max, but the premiere date still has not been announced. Mackenzie Davis and Hamish Patel will star.

Another film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” is coming in 2021. This one changes the setting from ’80s England to ’60s Alabama, and is written by Robert Zemeckis, Guillermo del Toro, and Kenya Barris. The cast includes Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Chris Rock, and Jahzir Kadeem Bruno.

Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) is also working on an adaptation of “Pinocchio” for Netflix, which will also be released in 2021. The film, a musical, will feature stop-motion animation and the voices of Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, and David Bradley.

Another miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Stand” is coming to CBS All Access. Filming was reportedly completed in March, but a release date has not yet been set. James Marsden, Amber Heard, Whoopi Goldberg, and Alexander Skarsgård will star.

The latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” will be directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”). The ensemble cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, David Dastmalchian, Chang Chen, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem. The film is scheduled to be released in U.S. theaters Dec. 18.

“The Old Guard,” July 10
Charlize Theron stars in this superhero film, based on the comic book of the same name. KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, and Chiwetel Ejiofor also star. “The Old Guard” will premiere on Netflix.

“Cursed,” July 17
The Netflix series is adapted from the illustrated fantasy novel of the same name, by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It is based on Arthurian legend, from the viewpoint of a young woman destined to become the Lady of the Lake.

“The One and Only Ivan,” Aug. 21
I love this book (by Katherine Applegate), about a gorilla who lives in a cage in a shopping mall. The film adaptation is a mix of live action and CGI and was originally going to be released in theaters, but will premiere on Disney+.

Bryan Cranston, Ramon Rodriguez, and Ariana Greenblatt star, and the voice cast includes Sam Rockwell, Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Helen Mirren, Chaka Khan, Mike White, Brooklynn Prince, Ron Funches, and Phillipa Soo.

“The Boys,” Sept. 4
The subversive superhero series, based on the comic book, will return to Amazon Prime for Season 2.

All release dates subject to change.

Top photo: “Brave New World,” NBC Universal.

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My top 10 favorite sci-fi & fantasy books of the decade

I’ve been so busy getting caught up on all my TV viewing (see my two previous blog posts) that I haven’t really had time to get started on my decade faves, but better late than never, I always say! Here are my top 10 favorite books of the decade. (I will post my favorite movie and TV series lists soon.)

51-qQ2TbIPL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_1. “Station Eleven,”  the award-winning, post-apocalyptic novel by Emily St. John Mandel, made me feel grateful for everything I have, in a “well-at-least-everyone-I-love-hasn’t-been-killed-by-a-superbug-and-everything-hasn’t-turned-to-complete-shit” sort of way. It’s reportedly being adapted for TV, as a 10-episode miniseries on HBO Max, and will star Mackenzie Davis and Hamish Patel. You can read my review of the novel here: Award winner ‘Station Eleven’ is a haunting, addictive novel

ready-player-one-book-cover2. Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One,” the novel on which the 2018 film is based, is about a teenage gamer named Wade who escapes from his crappy reality by pluggging into an online, virtual reality where anything is possible. He enters a 1980s themed contest, so as you can imagine, there are tons of fun ’80s pop culture references.

3. “All the Birds in the Sky,” by Charlie Jane Anders, is the Printstory of a girl named Patricia who discovers she can understand what the birds are saying. As someone who’s always wanted to talk to animals, the premise sucked me into this apocalyptic adventure that blends magic and technology when Patricia becomes friends with a computer genius kid named Lawrence. I also enjoyed Anders’ book of short stories, and her other novel, “The City in the Middle of the Night,” which has been optioned for series development by Sony Pictures Television.  

250px-Saga1coverByFionaStaples4. “Saga,” written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, is the best comic book series in the past 10 years, and I’m guessing it made lots of people’s best-of lists. Its central characters are Marko and Alana, lovers from warring planets, and their daughter, Hazel. The family is chased across the galaxy by an assassin whose sidekick is a giant, hairless, lie-detecting cat; a TV-faced robot prince; and Marko’s ex-girlfriend. See my review of the comic here: ‘Saga’ leaves you wanting more but you’ll have to wait

5. “Circe,” by Madeline Miller, was a treat for me because I largeenjoyed reading “The Odyssey” in college, so I was familiar with a lot of the characters already, but you don’t need to have any prior knowledge of Odysseus, or even Greek mythology, in order to enjoy the book. You might want to know that it reminds me of Maleficent in that it’s told from the villain’s side of the story. Circe is a sorceress who turns men into pigs in “The Odyssey,” but here, we find out why. I loved it and I’m hoping it will be adapted to the big screen.

image16. “Monstress,” a comic by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda,  was introduced to me recently by a family member so I’m not even caught up yet, but what I’ve read so far, I love. And it’s adorable; it’s about a teenage girl who is possessed by a demon. Oh wait, that’s not the part that’s cute – it also has a little girl and a talking cat.

7. “Rat Queens,” a comic by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by512+UBiq1HL Tess Fowler (see note below), is a medieval fantasy about four women mercenaries who go on always-exciting (and sometimes raunchy) adventures. By the way, all three of the comic books on this list are published by Image Comics (and also are not for kids).

8. “Salt Slow” is a collection of feminist fairy tales and ghost stories by Julia Armfield. The characters evoke the spirits of old-fashioned monsters from Greek mythology, Grimm’s fairy tales, and classic horror movies, but with an original and modern twist.

9781476733951_custom-77e5513ca3d99086fbaa65d783932017b7a41600-s6-c309. “Wool,” by Hugh Howey, is the first book of “Silo,” a post-apocalyptic series. It takes place in the Silo, a city that goes 144 stories under the surface of the Earth. The series is reportedly being adapted to telesvision, as is another of Howey’s series, “Beacon 23.”

10. “How to Stop Time,” by Matt Haig, is a sort of time-traveling tale, but our protagonist is not using a time machine – heimg_0276 (1) is 400 years old. His body ages more slowly than the rest of us so he only looks like he’s in his 40s. I know, you’re wondering if they are making this into a film and the answer is yes! It has been reported that Benedict Cumberbatch will play the main character.

Note: Ryan Ferrier took over “Rat Queens” in 2019, and Priscilla Petraites is now the artist. Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic, and Owen Gieni have also illustrated the series.

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Award winner ‘Station Eleven’ is a haunting, addictive novel

I read “Station Eleven,” Emily St. John Mandel’s fourth novel, in just a couple of days. It’s one of those books you can’t put down. I have a thing for post-apocalyptic tales, and I love novels like this one, in which the narrative takes the reader back and forth through time. This one connects the events from the pre-collapse past with those in the desolate place the world has become 20 years after the “Georgia Flu” pandemic wipes out most of the planet’s population.

I hear you saying “Another disease-wipes-out-most-of-humanity story?” You think you have heard this story before, but you haven’t.

A traveling symphony/Shakespearean troupe caravans through what is left of the Midwest – tiny communities that have formed in the wake of the pandemic. (Replace bands of marauding Indians with religious cults, and covered wagons with old pickup trucks, and it’s almost the Wild West.)

The lead caravan has written on it the words “Survival is insufficient” (taken from an episode of Star Trek: Voyager). And indeed, survival is not enough, which is why the troupe brings music and Shakespeare to the survivors of the apocalypse.

The Star Trek quote is also tattooed on one of the actor’s arms. Kirsten, who was a child when the flu hit, is mocked for having among her few belongings a glass paperweight. But she treasures it for its beauty. Also among her prized possessions are two issues of a rare graphic novel called “Station Eleven,” about a scientist living aboard a space station.

The story of Station Eleven parallels the main narrative, reminiscent of Tales of the Black Freighter, the comic within the comic book “Watchmen.” It’s interesting to see the comic book tale unfold, and how it relates to the plot.

Kirsten is my favorite character, sort of a tough, Katniss-like heroine, but Kirsten is only one of five  main characters. My one complaint is that I wish the book were longer, so that there would be more time to get to know the interesting characters whose stories are woven together in this carefully crafted, plot-driven story.

Mandel is a gifted writer. This is one of those books that I love but also hate because I will never be able to write something as beautiful as this haunting story about what it means to be part of the human race: “We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie … it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt.”

It’s true we don’t realize how much we take for granted until it’s gone – things like running water, electricity, antibiotics, but also family, familiarity, the simple pleasures of art, music, and good food.

“What would you miss?” the inside cover of the paperback asks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was reading this novel late into the night, grateful for my sleeping family, for the electricity that made it possible for me to read in the darkness, and for every little thing that is part of our daily lives that we often don’t give a second thought.

“Station Eleven” was a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Pen/Faulkner Award, and won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015. A film adaptation is being developed.

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“Station Eleven”
By Emily St. John Mandel
Trade paper
Vintage, June 2015