Five Space Movies That Started as Must-Read Novels

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Many of Our Favorite Space Movies Started as Novels

Hollywood has long looked to the novel for inspiration. Usually, they bastardize the source material. Hence the cliche “The book is always better than the movie.” Even though I’m a word nerd, however, I appreciate film as a separate art form. You’ll not often find me bitching about how the movie is worse than the novel. Notable exceptions include Peter Jackson’s tragic slaughter of The Hobbit and Ron Howard’s rape of The Dark Tower.  The former attempted to make three double-length installments of a book that was only two thirds the size of Fellowship of the Ring. The latter tried to condense or augment Stephen King’s magnum opus that took seven large novels to tell into one feature-length movie. My own personal grudges aside, though, I came up with five great space movies that started out as great novels. If you liked the movies, you’ll probably really love the books.

Read: More Movie Reviews

1. The Martian

Andy Weir’s novel captured my heart a few years ago, and I read it before I saw the film. It came on my radar because of the way it was published, one chapter at a time. Weir originally began posting a chapter at a time for free on his website, then put the final draft into a Kindle edition that sold over 35,000 copies. Publishers took notice, bought the rights (which almost never happens for stories that have already been put online for free). A couple of years later, Matt Damon’s on all of our screens growing potatoes on Mars. 

You can find the novel here, or at your local library (those exist, by the way, and they’re AWESOME!)

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Okay, so the movie wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been either.  Douglas Adams’ novel, however, along with the accompanying sequels, should never be missed by anyone. Ever. This novel, like The Martian started out in different formats. Adams, while he was alive, made a TV-series, a text-based video game, and a radio show all loosely based around the same plot. These novels are some of my favorite of all time. They’re brilliantly funny, wonderfully descriptive, and just a hell of a fun ride through the galaxy of Douglas Adams’ imagination.

You can read about Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect here. Or, again, for free at the library.

3. Contact

Before Jodie Foster stole my heart in 1997, Carl Sagan wrote a novel about what it might be like to meet an intelligent civilization from beyond the heavens. I loved the movie when it came out. Of course, as Sagan’s novel version was actually born out of an early version of a screenplay, it’s not hard to imagine why. While you can get the gist of the story by watching the movie, Carl Sagan was a hell of a writer, and his words jump off the page and paint nebulae, galaxy clusters, and other celestial wonders in colors no other writer could.  

You can find the novel here, or just smile nicely and ask a librarian for a copy. They don’t bite – mostly. 

4. Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep)

With all of the damn hype about which cut of the film Blade Runner is the best version of the story, the original story gets lost. Because of the differences in titles, many viewers of the film may not be aware that  Blade Runner was an adaptation of a Phillip K. Dick story called, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I won’t spoil the novel for you, but I will say that all versions of  Blade Runner were “loosely” based on the novel, so while the characters and themes may be the same, the novel’s plot differs enough from the movie to make it feel fresh and new. 

Find Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep here if you like paying extra for stuff your taxes have already bought at the library.

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s classic – one of the best space movies ever – started out as a short story from Arthur C. Clarke called “The Sentinel.” Clarke and Kubrick developed the screenplay that would eventually become the classic film, and concurrently wrote a novel version of the story. “The Sentinel” deals with the discovery of the monolith on the moon that we see in the movie, but the novel is much more detailed and allows for more insight into the story’s characters. 

Just go to the damn library and find either an Arthur C. Clarke anthology or the novel version. Okay, fine. You can buy it here, too.

I Know I Missed Some Space Movies — Let Me Hear About It!

We love to hear from you, so if you think I missed a big one or even multiple big ones, please let me know in the comments.  Thanks!


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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