Good TV sci-fi comes and goes. Here’s what just ‘sploded inside your outside-world microwave, the brand new & bitchin’ TV sci-fi from books . . .
I’m counting comic books as sci-fi books here, just so I can include Jessica Jones. She’s a Marvel character with super-strength and an affiliation with the Avengers, Daredevil, Luke Cage and – ah, who are we kidding – everyone is affiliated with everyone in comic books. She started in the early 2000s. Her broad “What-if?” is “What does someone with superpowers do if the superhero career isn’t working out?” In her case, become a PI.
The brand-new Netflix show Jessica Jones is so gritty you’ll wanna scratch your eyeballs. It’s harder than Daredevil, but makes a nice companion to it, while leaving all the DC television offerings and Agents of Shield at the kiddie table. When she pulls a dude’s head off and drops it on a cop’s desk… I don’t even know what to say about that. It’s as good as the book, maybe better.
James S. A. Corey, turns out, is not a writer – he’s two writers. Cuz anything is possible in science fiction. Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham are the two-bodied space blob creature that writes a relatively new book series called The Expanse. The first book was Leviathan Wakes and includes several other novels and novellas – all since 2011. In the “hard sci-fi” mode (meaning, more or less accurate science), it’s about Jim Holden and the crew of his small ship against the background of inter-solar-system conflict: Earth -vs- Mars -vs- The Other Planets.
BAM – 4 years later and it’s straight to screen. Every novelist’s dream: you know both Corey’s heads are grinning ear-to-ear, the more so because they/he/it is writing and exec’ing the production. The scuttlebutt is that it’s been done right, great production quality but a focus on storytelling & character, not effects – like Battlestar Galactica in those not-so-long-ago halcyon days, but you can check it out for yourself on SyFy. iO9 visited and got the backstage tour.
And then…. the classic: Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. This novel posits an alternate end to World War II, where the Axis powers won, and North America was divided between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Of course, this is Mr Dick, and nothing is so straight-forward. There’s an alternate history inside this alternate history, plus space travel.
The show seems not to eschew any of the complexity of the novel, the way most screen adaptations do, to preserve that oh-so-important visual storytelling arc ([nasal] It’s a different medium – ACK we know shut up). Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is really creating an entire world to explore and retaining all the sprawl of the book. You’ll be able to follow Shelby Fero over at AV Club as she watches and reacts to each episode. Seriously, seeing those swastikas on the American flag is pretty jarring, like sitting down on a public toilet and it’s wet.
If these 3 properties do as well as they look like they will, then hopefully we’ll get more high quality productions of high quality books and less schlock from the automatic show machines.