Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is the Book Always Better?

I am one of those people who believes that when a book is turned into a movie or show, Hollywood is not capable of fully representing the greatness of the book. In fact, if I see a trailer for a film based on a book that I think I would enjoy, I will make a point to go and read the book before I see the movie so that I know what it was "supposed to be". Case in point, when I saw the trailer for The Time Traveler's Wife, I went out and got the book and finished reading it before I allowed myself to see the film. And? I wouldn't have cared about the characters in the film nearly as much if I didn't know their extended background from the book (but you should still see it... AFTER you read the book).

I don't know why this happens. Maybe it's unreasonable to expect Hollywood to compress hundreds of pages of information into a couple hours of film. Where am I going with this?

Last year, I got really into the HBO series True Blood. I love the characters and the storyline - although I sometimes feel they push the sex to a point where it doesn't help the story's progression, but hey - it's late night HBO. So obviously if I like the show so much, I must love the books it's based off, right? Because the books are always better, right?

warning: Mild spoilers to follow.

So I pick up the first three books in the Sookie Stackhouse Series thinking that they will give me an even deeper idea of the motivations of the characters and an increased depth of plot line. I've gotten through the first two so far, and I was so wrong! The detail given in the books is like a mild skimming of the information given in the show. The characters are far less developed and the storyline is simplified - even rushed at times. The show also changes a few details from the books, which I often don't like when this is done, but these actually made the story better in my opinion.

I'm serious, some small spoilers start here, so if you don't want to know: STOP READING!

In the show, one of my favorite sub-plots is the relationship Tara has with Sookie and the issues she goes through in her relationship with her mom. This relationship also gives Sookie more depth because it shows her relationships beyond the one with Bill. Well, guess what? Tara isn't in the books. Well, actually she is, but she is only briefly mentioned and she's just another person in the town - not friends with Sookie - and she is in a relationship with a man named Benedict (Eggs), but that's the depth of their tie to the the show version. I'm hoping she'll play a larger part in later books.

I also really love Lafayette in the show. Well, if you've seen the show, you know the body hanging out of the sheriff's car at the end of season 1 where you couldn't see the face, but you could tell it might be him, but he turns out to be fine in season 2? In the books that really is Lafayette and he really is dead. Even when he's still alive, he's still a very peripheral character who isn't given much attention - he's just background filler.

And Jessica? Not there at all.

End of spoilers.

There are many other changes, but these were the ones that really bugged me. As I read through the books, I actually wondered if Charlaine Harris (the author) watches the show and ever has a slap-to-the-forehead moment where she wishes she'd thought of that.

Now I'm certainly not saying that you shouldn't read the books. It's just that they're not what I expected and hoped for. Harris' writing style is quite simplistic (but by the way, the overuse of sex is not the fault of HBO - they do follow the book on that). It definitely works as an easy summer read - especially good for those who are hoping for an adult version of Twilight.

With the new season of True Blood beginning in a couple of weeks (June 13), I've moved on to the third book in the series. I'm hoping that I'll be able to enjoy the book more if I don't have the show version to compare it to. We'll see. I'm certain I'll read through the entire series, they just won't become the favorites I had thought they'd be.

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