I have always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy novels, since I was a little boy. More than any other book, in any other genre, Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels were able to access and unlock my imagination in a way that kept me coming back for more. I read every novel I could get my hands on, and I taught myself to read pretty fast, like a speed reader would. By the fifth grade, I had read authors like Raymond E. Feist, J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Arthur C. Clark, Piers Anthony, and Isaac Asimov, among numerous others.
Fast forward to the mid '90s, where I found myself working for Crown Books in Customer Service and Inventory, dealing with back orders, special orders and back room stocking. I was additionally leading two weekly reading groups (Poetry & Fiction, and Sci-Fi/Fantasy) as well as just generally being an all around film buff.
During one of my weekly Sci-Fi/Fantasy groups, a reader brought in a novel called The Baker's Boy, the debut of J. V. Jones, and read passages from it. I was mesmerized, and soon thereafter, purchased the novel, and its sequels, A Man Betrayed and Master & Fool. The story eventually became the trilogy known as The Book of Words, an epic and sweeping tale set across a strange continent, against a backdrop of political intrigue, ancient magic and quests of honor, seemed to me acutely cinematic and relatively simple to adapt. In addition, Jones' characters seemed taken directly from life, written in such a way as to leap from the page right into your head.
In the 18 years since I first read The Baker's Boy, well known Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels have received many different treatments, of varying degrees of success, on film and television. On film, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy is a prime example of a successful treatment, as is his prequel follow-up Hobbit trilogy. These two trilogies were game-changers for those considering the epic book-to-movie treatment, and serve as textbook examples of successfully bringing the imagery of the book(s) to life on screen. J.R.R. Tolkien's epic universe, already popular prior to Peter Jackson's movies, became infinitely more accessible through the medium of film, and I have no doubt that scores of library and bookstore Sci-Fi/Fantasy sections have been raided, by existing and budding filmmakers, studio wonks and newbies alike, to determine the next epic film moneymaker.
On television, the Alan Taylor-helmed Game of Thrones on HBO, which, as it enters its 4th season, has made George R. R. Martin considerably more popular, and is showing filmmakers a different route to adapting novels for the screen. I believe this, and Netflix and the like, is the most interesting way to bring epic stories to the masses.
There is another way, which has not seemed to gain as much traction until very recently, and that is to tell your story across multiple platforms such as film, TV and live streaming. This road is relatively untested. Ron Howard has been shopping Stephen King's Gunslinger series as movie and tv, with little success, for example. On the other hand, I give you the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now showing on film and tv, with live streaming to follow.
Clearly, there are definitive ways to bring Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels to life. But is Jones' Trilogy really worth that trouble? I think so.