The Reverse Novelization

Tuesday , 1, July 2014 5 Comments

Motion pictures have a long history of capitalizing on marketing by issuing a novelization. Traditionally, the vast majority of these books are simple work-for-hire contracts and had their heyday in the 1970s, prior to the advent of home video. Following the theatrical run of a movie, the only way to enjoy its experience again was to read the novelization. Other than that, novelizations were considered a low-cost add-on for additional revenue.

There have been some interesting exceptions to the stereotypical “souvenir” novelization in the past:

Thunderball was Ian Fleming’s first novelization (not first novel) of James Bond. He based it off a script he wrote with others that did not originally result in a film being made.*

Clarke’s classic was a twist on the novelization: a lot of people bought the book to figure out what was going on in the movie.
















Today, of course, a fan devoted to a particular movie can just, you know, watch the movie again. On his phone. Underwater, if he really wants to. But that doesn’t mean the novelization is dead. The things are now called “media tie-ins” and they expand on the various “universes” of different video game, movie or television settings.

Gordon Williams’ The Micronauts is a rarity: it is a published novelization for a movie that was never released.

But there is another version of tie-in that is uniquely suited to independent production. The Essence of Humanity is an independent prequel novel to the not-yet-produced space opera webseries Starfall. It appears that the author, J.E. Ellis, is using the novel to drum up interest and investment in the video production. Despite the pedestrian cover, the story itself starts out with an interesting hook and a likeable and roguish – and second-rate in the skills department – hero to kick things off.

Now, I have no idea if the reverse novelization is going to work in this instance. But if the idea of doing this results in successful books, I really don’t care if it results in a single motion picture being made to capitalize on the novel’s advance popularity.


Essence of Humanity: The Reverse Novelization

*NOTE: Incidentally, the novelization process is likely why two later films (the released version of Thunderball and the much later Never Say Never Again.) were made instead of just the one.

  • The CronoLink says:

    Is there any novelization you consider superior to its film counterpart?

  • Daniel Eness says:

    Wild Wild West, of course. Aside from that, there are a couple of other traditional ones that do stand out:

    Total Recall was weird. The movie was based on PKD’s “We Can Remember It for you Wholesale” but they novelized it anyhow. I never saw the movie, but the novelization was pretty good. I can’t say if it was better than the movie or not. It was actually one of my favorites by Piers Anthony.

    Uhm…Jaws by Peter Benchley was a terrible book, but of course it wasn’t a novelization anyhow. I’m wandering now…

    Let’s see. I know two people who swear that the first Mortal Combat book was really good. That was a novelization of the video game, I think, though, not the later movie, but I could be mixing up the chronology.

    2001 is not better than the movie, per se, but the bits about the Soviet Arms race and the reason for the star baby and the symbolism of the tools (in the book) helps the viewer make better sense of Kubrick’s movie.

    Alan Dean Foster is a really good novelizer, but his best ones (that I’ve read) are for even better movies. As a kid I was confused by “George Lucas” (actually Foster ghostwriting the thing) in his book, because it had a bunch of stuff not in the movie. But I read it again in adulthood, and it really holds up on its own. His novel of Alien is interesting if you have seen the movie. The director (Ridley Scott) cut a ton of interesting clues from the movie that are in the book.

    But man…a novelization that is definitely better than the movie? Orson Scott Card’s second best book is the Abyss, and I personally did not love that movie.

    Also, Blade Runner was based on a great book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and in my opinion improved a few things while also straying far afield from some of PKD’s core ideas. The interesting thing is that even though they just “repackaged” Do Androids Dream for the release of Blade Runner (i.e. NOT a novelization)…the Blade Runner movie inspired a trilogy of sequels that were not tied to PKD’s books, but were sequels to a movie novelization that didn’t exist! And those weren’t half bad.

    I remember loving the Black Hole and it seemed like every boy in 5th grade read Clash of the Titans…but I never saw those movies and never read the books again as an adult. My guess is that unless you are a 5th grader, you might not miss out by skipping them.

    And I remember liking the Micronauts book as a kid, but I really have no idea if it is good now.

    Boy. That was a long winded way to answer your question. The answer is “No.”

  • Daniel Eness says:

    There are two possibilities, neither of which I have read: Fantastic Voyage is a cheesy movie with some real dopey bits, but Asimov (or whoever he passed the job to) probably did a good enough job with the novelization to beat the movie. Then again, he may have just cashed a check and gotten his secretary to type something up.

    Another one that I remember having some cache on its own is Buckaroo Banzai, but I never read it.

    The heyday novelizations of the 1970s tended to be slaves to the script: if the movie sucked, the author’s hands were tied. If the movie was great, the book would never be considered as spectacular…so it is unsung work, for sure.

  • The CronoLink says:

    That was a long winded way to answer your question

    That was cool.

    Wild Wild West, of course


    It was actually one of my favorites by Piers Anthony.

    I liked the film, so I’ll check it out. The only other one I’ve heard good things was the Dragonheart novelization.

  • A Anderson says:

    Two novelizations I love and really think are superior to their film counterparts are DragonHeart by Charles Edward Pogue, and Batman Forever by Peter David.

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