Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes

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Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes

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Buy Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The novel written after the fact of the film – while it seems to copy both the sins and the script of the original it still has some merit of its own.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 9781783293698

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The Earth is dying – dust storms are ravaging the world and blight killing off all useful crops, meaning farmers are vital to keep the few people to have survived recent wars fed, even if they need to go further and use less arable lands to do so. Cooper is one such man, despite a history in a completely different career; he lives with the father of his deceased wife and their two children in amongst the corn. But when some mysterious happenings keep occurring in the bedroom that was his wife's as a young girl and is now their daughter's, a most unlikely chain of events leads him to find clues that could revive his past – that in fact of a highly trained astronaut, with the one last potential mission – that of a shortcut to the stars in the trails of prior manned probes to detect new habitable planets for what's left of mankind…

I did umm and ahh about watching the movie before reading this book. Certainly if the book was what the film was based on I would have preferred it that way round, but this is definitely not the case – this is as a result of adapting the screenplay. In the end I saved my pennies, stuck to the Book side of The Bookbag and just considered this item as a paperback entity – although not before I had compromised and read the making of volume. That went a long way towards hiding the plot spoilers, and giving little away of how the story ends up, but also iterated what I then gained from this novel – the intent and scope of the narrative.

And I think that comes across very well – the fact the film creators were trying to marry the homely, heart-warming emotion of family, the evolution of humanity and the instinctive human drive for survival as well as progress, with hard sci-fi and some cutting-edge effects. Certainly the human side of the plot is strong here – hence my concentrating on the earthbound situation more than the space-based quest in my resume, unlike that of those reviewing the film. I didn't expect the narrative to jump so frequently from one to the other – I knew the characters left behind were important to Cooper, but not to us as witnesses.

What else comes across well here? Well, the science for one – for every criticism I have read or heard of the cinematic exposition and on-screen physics lessons, there seems to be a gentler way for the book to convey the hard science, even if none of it seems particularly revolutionary, or much beyond the later Star Trek TV series. But that's not to say that aspects here are not clunky, for they are. Again I can't compare with the film, but I found the ending risible, the 'twist' predictable eighty pages off, and therefore only the actions of two characters were at all a surprise.

Before then I was left with the uneasy feel that the book was slavishly sticking to the screenplay. I know the book is designed to be a literary adaptation, without deviating from the plot or narrative, and merely transposing the cinematic image into a mental one, but the book read like a huge cut and paste job on the screenplay. It does take more time than the film does to watch (albeit not by much, it has to be said), and it's not just a rote 'he said, she said' style – far from it, but it did seem too simplified and too easy a version.

Still, for being modern sci-fi it has a heart – and in keeping with the source material it's unusual to find that ethos in such a blockbuster. There is emotion on the page, and drama in the events – and it is fun to have the mind fill in the gaps and act as director of your own version of Interstellar the movie. I dare say this version does not match the $160 million feel the film's budget supplied, and is a lot more basic and simplistic at times, but it did hit on some good story beats, perhaps more often than not. As a souvenir of the film for those who have seen it, I really doubt it'll add anything – it is just a record of it in a different form until the download or home viewing disc is released. But for those coming to it solely as a book, it's an energetic, easy read with some nice character, and I suppose even with the fact it has to slavishly copy the flaws of someone else's work, it is worth considering.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The best stand-alone sci-fi we've seen recently for real, like, human characters, is Descent by Ken MacLeod.

Buy Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes at Amazon.com.

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