I decided a week or so ago that I wanted to read the original “Frankenstein” (I was in a Halloween frame of mind). I’d read that there were two main versions of the book – the 1818 original, and the standard 1836 revised version. Supposedly the earlier one has a bit more bite and humor to it, so I was eager to find that version, but after checking in a few bookstores and not finding it, I decided to just go ahead with the standard text. I’m still only a couple of chapters into it, but it’s pretty good – mostly a long love letter so far, but hints of interesting things to come.
I was in a used bookstore today ($0.50 for paperbacks!) and saw a copy of “Frankenstein” in the classics section. I picked it up thinking maybe I’d finally found the 1818 version; it was a paperback tie-in with the 1994 movie version, and I couldn’t find any indication which edition it was. I started reading it, and immediately could tell that it was way different from the version I bought. The writing style, among other things, was completely different. I looked more closely and – here comes the lame part – discovered that what I was holding was actually an ADAPTATION OF THE MOVIE SCREENPLAY. The cover said “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” in big letters (that was officially the title of the movie), and in tiny print at the bottom it said “a novelisation by <Joe Hack> of the screenplay by <Joe Hollywood> based on the book by Mary Shelley.” I was holding an adaptation…of an adaptation. And it wasn’t aimed at kids either, ala the Great Illustrated Classics series – it appeared to be aimed at unsuspecting adults. I actually laughed out loud in disbelief and went over and told the old lady manning the cash box, though I don’t think she understood what I was talking about.
Friar Ted beat me to it – I was just reading that edition at Halloween. His 1976 edition is called “TYhe Annotated Frankenstein”, and is a photo of the original 1818 edition, with lots of photos and pictures. He’s re-released it twice recently as “The Essential Frankenstein”, which is updated, but not a photoreproduction of the original, and has no pictures or photos in it.
I hate this trend of releasing novelizations of movies based on novels instead of simpl releasing the original work. They did it with “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (back when they released the Burt Lancaster/Michael York film) and “The Thing” (novelization of the movie by the omnipresent Alan Dean Foster) as well. At least when the released the novelization of the James Bond film “Moonraker” it made some sense (since the book and the movie had almost nothing to do with each other), although up until Diamonds are Forever they simply released the Ian Fleming novel as a tie-in, whether the movie closely followed the book or not.
The problem is that the people who read movie novelizations want them to match the movie, and don’t like changes. That’s one reason why they did a novelization of Total Recall": the original story was much different from the movie, and people read novelizations to duplicate the movie experience (in addition, it wasn’t novel length).
It’s so expected that when they rerelased “**Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, ** they had a little disclaimer that it was a book and was different from Blade Runner and that movies often made such changes.
I guess it can be jarring. I noticed, for instance, that one Dr. Who novelization left out one of my favorite Tom Baker lines*. I realized that Baker had ad libbed it and so it wasn’t in the novelization. It didn’t bother me once I understood, but I was specifically looking for that line in the novelization.
*Roughly: “I don’t work at anything. I’m just having fun.”
I own a copy of the 1977 “The Island of Doctor Moreau” novelization that ** CalMeacham ** mentions. Admittedly you wouldn’t necessarily know that it’s a novelization from the front cover or the spine, which feature only the title; there’s no author listed at all, Wells or otherwise, so you have to consult either the title page or the fine print on the back cover to learn that this version was penned by Joseph Silva. Admittedly he takes an interesting approach; the overall plot is that of the movie, but Silva also incorporates passages from Wells’ original novel at odd points, so you get the best of both worlds, I guess, sort of, in a way. Additionally, the novelization retains the movie script’s original ending, which is different from that of either the Wells novel or the final theatrical release. And if none of that bakes your beans, then there’s still some nice pictures of Barbara Carrera fondling a serval to look at.
I found the hb Island of Dr M novelization just a couple months ago at a used book sale, but with a detail that hasn’t yet been mentioned. It has both the novelization AND the original Wells novel! Yippee!
Jumping off the novelization theme, the worst book I’ve recently read was Smashed: Story Of A Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas. There was a lot of hype about this book, but I couldn’t finish it. The author is so friggin’ in love with her flowery “literary prose” and every other sentance has an awful, unnecessary metaphor shoehorned in (Bobby entered my life like a brick in a birdbath). There was a mildly interesting story, though Koren still seems to be blaming the people around her for her drinking, but this book is in serious need of a good heavy edit. Just because it came out of your head doesn’t mean it’s all gold!
Granted, the original book isn’t that great either(though I’m going to try again, just to see if I’m wrong). But a novelization? Christ, the books in the public domain, if I’m not mistaken. THere’s no way it could be cheaper to hire some idiot to pound out a prose version of the film then to slap a modern cover on the dickens text.
What is funny is that TPTB offered Phil Dick a lot of money to write a novelization of the movie. He turned it down, which is good, because man that would have been confusing. But that probably would have been a good novelization because it would have written by PKD himself.
Not a novelization, but I think the worst book I’ve read this year has been John Brunner’s Children of the Thunder. Brunner wrote some pretty awesome books, but man, that one was terrible. No attempt at characterization, the most obvious red herring ever… I think it’s put me off Brunner, which is a shame because I haven’t even read Stand on Zanzibar yet, and that book is supposed to be wonderful. I guess he was senile when he wrote it or something; it was one of his last books.
Yeah, the 1836 edition was actually a novelization of Joseph Plateau’s phenakistoscope adaptation of Frankenstein:
“(…) I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. I also designed it to run in place constantly, to make it easier to keep track of.”
In the 1838 sequel, the creature finally learns to juggle.