Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” is a short story about Gregor Samsa, a salesman who wakes up one day to find himself turned into a large insect. It is a grim tale of social alienation that is frequently considered one of the most depressing short stories ever written. How could any writer possibly expand such a profoundly melancholy text into a novel-length adaptation? Quirk Classics, the specialty publisher behind such “revised” versions of classic texts as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Android Karenina, has attempted this with The Meowmorphosis, an adaptation of “The Metamorphosis” that has Gregor turning into a human-sized kitten rather than a bug. Although perhaps still too grim for some tastes, The Meowmorphosis does provide an interesting take on social alienation and a clever satire on Kafka’s writing technique.
It has been over a decade since the first of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptations, The Fellowship of the Ring, was released. This film was greeted with both critical and audience acclaim upon its debut, and became a definitive cinematic event of the early 21st Century. On December 14, 2012, Jackson’s long-awaited adaptation of the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, will be released. Jackson’s films have become regarded as classics to the point that many fans may become unhappy with anyone other than Peter Jackson making a cinematic Tolkien adaptation, and it may come as a surprise to them that some film adaptations of Tolkien’s mythic cycle had already been made prior to Jackson’s! While waiting for the release of the first film in Jackson’s Hobbit adaptation, let’s take a look back at some prior cinematic versions of Tolkien’s works, and at Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Isn’t that how an article about derivative works is supposed to begin? We only ask because there are probably other articles out there on this topic that begin the same way. Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, 100% true originality in the case of media like books, film, music and games is practically unheard of. That’s not a bad thing; works that build on one another can be some of the richest experiences imaginable. On the other hand, some people are just lazy and rip-off other, greater works.
One of the earliest adventure novels detailing the journey of a group of explorers from the surface world through a subterranean civilization, Abraham Merritt’s The Moon Pool is also one of the best examples of the genre. With an exciting narrative full of thrilling action sequences, memorable characters, and a fascinating civilization of bizarre wonders, The Moon Pool is a great adventure novel that will thrill fans of classic science fiction. For fans of shorter novels, it is also a fast-paced read. Edited together from two novellas titled “The Moon Pool” and “Conquest of the Moon Pool,” it is under 300 pages in length and can be completed by most readers in about 3-5 days. For those seeking to discover the roots of sci-fi adventure stories in the early twentieth century, The Moon Pool is an excellent trip back in time.
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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinarylife, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew. (catalog summary)
If you enjoyed this book's real-world fantasy setting and morally ambiguous characters, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
A cursed book. A missing professor. Some nefarious men in gray suits. And a dreamworld called the Troposphere? Ariel Manto has a fascination with nineteenth-century scientists—especially Thomas Lumas and The End of Mr. Y, a book no one alive has read. When she mysteriously uncovers a copy at a used bookstore, Ariel is launched into an adventure of science and faith, consciousness and death, space and time, and everything in between. Seeking answers, Ariel follows in Mr. Y's footsteps: she swallows a tincture, stares into a black dot, and is transported into the Troposphere—a wonderland where she can travel through time and space using the thoughts of others. There she begins to understand all the mysteries surrounding the book, herself, and the universe. Or is it all just a hallucination? (catalog summary)
Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
The twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the twenty-first century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse--and none too happy about it. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning...[and] a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world? (catalog summary)
Having been around ever since Dr. No was released in 1962, the James Bond series is one of the oldest film franchises that has continued to the present day. Over its 50-year history, the Bond films have seen six different actors play 007 and have had many stylistic changes over time to adapt to changing tastes. With the long-awaited release of a new Bond movie, Skyfall, this month, let’s go back and take a look at some pivotal points in the history of the series.
Despite being thought of primarily as an author of adult-oriented literature, Neil Gaiman has published several young adult titles over his career, including MirrorMask, M Is for Magic, and The Books of Magic. One of his best loved YA titles was Coraline, published in 2002. Coraline’s imaginative plot, memorable characters and evocative illustrations by Dave McKean made it a modern classic of YA literature, and an excellent film adaptation was released in 2009. Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book follows in the footsteps of Coraline and presents another vivid journey into a richly imaginative fantasy world.
It can be difficult for some modern audiences to remember at what point in American history science fiction began to be taken seriously as a subgenre. Many works are credited as early classics of “serious” science fiction, from Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, but they are all predated by A.E. Van Vogt’s thriller Slan, originally published in 1940.
Free. Everybody likes free. I mean, what’s not to like about free? It’s free! Free, free, free - use the word often enough, however, and it begins to lose its meaning. “Free special offer (some rules and restrictions apply)!” “Free entree (with purchase of equal or greater value entree)!” “Free ski trip (after we badger you into investing in a timeshare over the course of an eight-hour 'seminar')!” Free just isn’t what it used to be, and nowhere is this more evident than the world of electronic games. Users are steeped in phrases like “free-to-play” and “freemium” to a degree that free really does start to sound like a four-letter-word. Free they say? Nonsense, we say. Let’s take a look.
The Yugo was a small car made in the former nation of Yugoslavia that survives in the American consciousness as the ultimate automotive failure. Poorly engineered, ugly, and cheap, it survived much longer as a punch line for comedians than it did as a vehicle on the roads. The story of how this particular car became the most hated vehicle in the U.S. is a comedy of errors detailed in Jason Vuic’s book, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History. A bewildering array of capitalist hucksters and impoverished communists desperate for revenue collaborated to create the Yugo, and what could have been a great international relations victory of the Cold War was ruined the moment consumers and auto critics actually got to drive it. Vuic examines the many failures of the Yugo venture and the people involved with a keen journalistic eye and a razor-sharp wit, making this a great read for anyone interested in automotive history or 1980s nostalgia.