by Matt Clemens
For millennia, humankind has contemplated the meaning of life – a notion so significant that it remains in the top three most important questions of the decade, standing alongside such ponderings as “are we alone in the Universe?” and “what the hell am I going to do when Game of Thrones finishes??!!”.
Taking this most important question head on, it’s truly hard to believe that GOT is reaching its conclusion, this being a show that began whilst I was still watching mid-afternoon episodes of the Jeremy Kyle in my underpants at University. Oh, how times have changed!
Although the end of George R. R. Martin’s source material means we’ve seen this coming for some time, it’s still hard to imagine a TV landscape that doesn’t have GOT in it and viewers all over the world are hungry to know what’s next. This fact is undoubtedly something HBO wants to exploit given it commissioned a collection of screenwriters in May 2017 to come up with five potential GOT spinoff series.
But as history has taught us time and time again, spinoffs don’t always go to plan. Just think of Caprica, (follow up to 2004’s Battlestar Galactica), Joey (the misguide F.R.I.E.N.D.S spinoff) and The Carrie Diaries (the prequel to Sex and the City), to name a few.
Rather than churning out a Game Of Thrones replica, I’d rather see HBO turn its head at other source material to create a new TV show, similar to what Netflix is doing with The Witcher Saga, Hulu with Throne of Glass and Lionsgate with The Kingkiller Chronicle.
Let’s face it, there is no shortage of fantasy novels that could make great longstanding and very successful TV shows. Here are a few I’d like to see make the leap from page to small screen. Let us know your picks in the comments below.
THE INHERITANCE CYCLE
Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon, book one in the Inheritance trilogy in 1983 when he was a teenager. And although it took another two decades before it was published, that is some unbelievable achievement.
Heavily influenced by Beowulf, Lord of the Rings and other young adult fantasy writers like Philip Pullman and Garth Nix, Eragon is about a farm boy of the same name who finds a mysterious stone in the mountains. After a few chapters of character development, something mythical hatches out of the stone (spoiler alert): it’s a dragon! Following this, Eragon is taught the ways of the dragon riders by a mysterious old hermit named Brom.
Although it borrows themes from other fantasy sagas the likes of Star Wars and Earthsea and features some of the most ridiculous character names of all time (I’m looking at you King Galbatorix), Eragon is one of the finest fantasy trilogies available on the bookshelf, one that placed on the New York Times Children’s Books Best Seller list for 121 weeks. But don’t let the children’s book stamp fool you – this easily appeals to a wider demographic and contains considerable adult themes.
Unfortunately, in 2006, Eragon was butchered by a horrific adapted film of the same name. My first thought after watching, aside from the horrible miscasting, questionable CGI and Razzie grade acting, was how streamlined the narrative was. Quite simply, the Inheritance Cycle isn’t a story that could be wrapped up in three movies. There are too many character, too much mythology, too much detail that would be overlooked. This is why it is the perfect source material for HBO’s next award-winning TV show.
With tyrannical kings, an expansive world, feuding realms and dragons (that’s right DRAGONS), this could easily be the next Game of Thrones. Come on HBO, make my dreams come true!
THE LORIEN LEGACIES
I Am Number Four is a celebrated young adult fiction novel written by James Frey and Jobie Hughes, and book one of the Lorien Legacies series. It follows a young teenager named John Smith, on the run from a tyrannical alien race who hunts him and his fellow Garde (all from the planet Lorien).
To some level, I Am Number Four is shameless popcorn reading, full of suspense-filled moments and face paced storytelling, not to mention teenage romance. Over time though, the Lorien Legacies series has become a rich and diverse universe full of twists and turns, intriguing characters and plot lines.
If the Lorien Legacies were to be compared with another book franchise that is impossible to put down, it would be the Hunger Games trilogy. But where the Hunger Games could be captured in three films, the sheer catalogue of books in the Lorien Legacies (which is comprised of seven books and five prequel novels) easily lends itself to TV.
Like Eragon, I Am Number Four was adapted to screen in 2011. And like Eragon the movie, I Am Number Four underwhelmed audiences, although it arguably wasn’t quite as big a let-down as Eragon. Regardless, with so much source material to work with, the big-screen adaptation of the Lorien Legacies was always going to struggle. But where the big-screen failed this excellent series, perhaps the small screen could soar. Only time will tell.
Gone is a best-selling series by Michael Grant about a town in Southern California, in which every human under 15 years old suddenly vanishes. The towns in surrounding areas become encased within an impenetrable barrier, with many inhabitants gradually developing super natural powers.
Again, it’s a teenage fiction series that focuses on a group of young protagonists, but the themes and actions of the characters are incredibly dark and thought-provoking, shockingly so in fact. And in many senses, some of the depictions are every bit as brutal as those depicted in Game Of Thrones – just think of a 14 year old being eaten alive by mutated worms. Honestly, this is just one of the scenes to give you nightmares, no matter what your age.
What’s really interesting about Gone is that it is essentially a reimaging of Lord of the Flies, but on steroids, depicting a world where teenagers are forced to re-shape society whilst dealing with the supernatural. And like Lord of the Flies, Michael Grant does an incredible job of showing the animalistic side of human nature when faced with adversity. For an adult fiction series, it really is vicious AF.
There are seven novels in the Gone series and more than enough source material to adapt to the small screen. And to back this up, as Dinah Hall of the Daily Telegraph said in her review, “While it’s never going to make it on to the GCSE syllabus, it definitely has the addictive pull of a cult television series… I would sell my soul for the next instalment.” I’m not sure I’d sell my soul for anything, but I quite agree with Dinah that Gone would make a great television show. An opportunity for HBO perhaps?
THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE
Nevernight is a classic revenge meets Robin Hood story, about a girl that witnesses the killing of her family who seeks her vengeance by training with a secret guild of assassins.
Set in a world with three suns that barely ever set, Nevernight is certainly no spiritual successor of GOT when it comes to themes of cold and winter. But in terms of mythology, plotting, violence and intrigue, Nevernight is certainly on par with GOT.
There is a gripping sense of mysticism about Nevernight, with the bloody secrets of the protagonist (Mia’s) past and the mysteriousness of the Red Church (the guild of assassins she joins). And exploring the potential history of the Red Church is definitely a powerful trope for any potential TV adaptation, much like the upcoming John Wick spin-off, The Continental.
Game of Thrones has several strong female characters, many of which are arguably the leading characters of the series. Nevernight is similarly rich with intriguing female protagonists, ones that have been shaped by a harsh and cruel world. Having such a strong female character as the lead could breed great potential for the likes of HBO and it would certainly appeal to a GOT audience.
THE DARK STAR TRILOGY
The Dark Star Trilogy is a difficult series to talk about at great length, and this is because it hasn’t even been released yet, but it already holds substantial promise.
Dark Star is an upcoming African fantasy trilogy from Marlon James, the 2015 Booker prize winner of A Brief History of Seven Killers. The first of the series will be Black Leopard, Red Wolfe, which is set to appear in Autumn 2018. Although details are limited, in an interview with the Guardian, James revealed that the series would be set in a Tolkienesque fictional world, inspired by ancient African mythology.
Given James’ pedigree and the demand for more culturally diverse storytelling (hello Black Panther) this could be one for a big TV conglomerate to snap up and start adapting early. We’ll see how things develop, but you heard it here first. This could be one to watch.