When a TV show or movie is based on a book, there’s always the debate of which is better and why. Issues like if the actors look the way the characters are described, scenes that may be left out or added in, and other issues of fidelity to the story are discussed. But something I never really thought about until recently is how a TV show or movie can complement the book it’s based on and actually enhance a reader’s/viewer’s experience.
That has been my experience with the Song of Ice and Fire series and the TV show based on it, Game of Thrones. I had not planned on reading the series, mostly because it’s fantasy (I’ve never really been into reading fantasy) and they’re really, really long (I may have a problem with commitment). The TV show premiered in 2011, but I didn’t get around to watching it until January of this year. For reasons I’ve not yet analyzed, I love fantasy/sci-fi TV shows (Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Fringe, Quantum Leap, Torchwood, the list goes on), but don’t normally read any fantasy/sci-fi books other than the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (I checked my Goodreads account and the only fantasy/sci-fi books I have rated other than the Dresden Files books and the Song of Ice and Fire books are To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.).
I liked the show and watched two seasons pretty quickly. Even then, I still had no real desire to read the books. But I had two friends pushing them on me. “Read them!” they said. “The books are better than the TV show!” “If you’re concerned about the length, each chapter is from a different character’s perspective so you can skip ones you don’t want to read!” “READ THEM!” I broke down and checked out A Game of Thrones at the beginning of June, started the second book, A Clash of Kings, in mid-June, and just started the third, A Storm of Swords. I obviously enjoy them.
If I absolutely had to decide which I liked better, the books or the TV show, I’d probably say the books, but I would say it with reservations since I don’t think I would have read and enjoyed the books had I not watched the TV show first. I tend to be more visual. I’ll remember your face long before I remember your name. Being able to see the characters on the TV show has helped me put faces to names while I’m reading the books. Had I not seen the TV show and for some reason, decided to read the books, I probably would have frequently used the appendices Martin puts in the backs of the books to remember who is Tywin and who is Tyrion, who is Varys and who is Viserys. I also think that listening to their voices and seeing their faces has given me an emotional foundation for reading the books. I feel more invested in the characters than I might have been with just reading the books.
I am interested in how this might work for other books made into TV series. Justified is based on a character in Elmore Leonard‘s books, Riding the Rap and Pronto, and a short story, Fire in the Hole. The Vampire Diaries is based on the series of the same name by L.J. Smith. Rizzoli and Isles is based on the Tess Gerritsen series. I enjoy all those TV shows so would having the knowledge of the TV shows enhance my enjoyment of the books? I don’t know. I may give it a try.
How about you? Have you ever had a TV show or movie enhance your enjoyment of the book it’s based on? Do you usually find yourself liking one more than the other?
-Aisha, very close to starting to panic that the sixth book isn’t out yet