It’s not often that a book crawls out of the pages of a hardback, or an e-reader, and smacks you in the face with how wonderful it is. You’re lucky to get a proper wowzer every few years. All preferences are subjective, of course, which explains the success of 50 Shades, but there are some modern literary hits which gain worldwide approval such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Game Of Thrones. In a capitalist world of golden opportunities, these series are adapted into whatever will make the most money - and even splitting the finale into two films can’t guarantee the financial return of a never-ending television epic. So what’s next? In a world of book-to-film blockbusters, what could possibly be worth paying attention to?
Introducing WOOL, the first part of three books penned by Hugh Howey and originally self-published in novellas on Amazon, this sci-fi epic is the latest to be picked up by the movie industry. With Ridley Scott set to direct the adaptation, it’s going to get a whole lot of attention. When the series was first published in hardcopy form, it was posited as the ‘next Hunger Games’, and there are striking similarities. WOOL follows a civilisation that lives solely within an enormous, self-sufficient silo. Starting out as a detective-mystery of sorts, this dystopian future starts with the death of the silo’s sheriff, who, after feeling disillusioned with their insular, secretive way of life, opts for ‘cleaning’ - death by being sent from the silo into the toxic atmosphere.
It sounds weird, but I promise it’s worth the read. Unputdownable isn’t an overstatement. So, when I was sunning myself on a beach in southern Spain, whose faces floated before me as the characters took shape in my mind? Whose phone do I think Ridley Scott should be ringing off the hook?
Let’s start with the ‘main’ character. She doesn’t turn up for a few chapters, and is often compared to Sigourney Weaver’s Eleanor Ripley. This could be because they’re the only two capable, well-written women in sci-fi that most can bother to remember, but I’ll admit their characters share similar story arcs - mainly loneliness and grief, to be honest.
So who should step into this enormous role? She’s a mechanic, living in the ‘down deep’ of the silo. She’s aloof, hard-working and largely sensible. The one and only Nicole Beharie couldn’t be more perfect. Her performance as Lt. Abbie Mills in Sleepy Hollow tells you all you need to know. She’s fierce, brave and a kick-ass all-rounder. We have a few other options; Doctor Who alumni Gugu Mbatha-Raw, star of this year’s historical drama Belle, and Zoe Saldana, who has been in everything from ballet epic Center Stage to upcoming blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d happily watch any of these three pootle around the screen, being all mysterious and revolutionary.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a blockbuster without a cameo or two, so why not put the aforementioned Weaver in as Mayor Jahns? She’s our main character to start with, and it’s through her that we learn the ins-and-outs of silo life. Jahns is a character with plenty of life experience and energy, plus it would be neat to have her choose a successor to the ‘Top Woman Of Sci-Fi’ title.
There’s a plethora of other characters that need choosing, too - and this is just the first book. Juliette’s love interest Lukas is a stargazer, recruited into the upper levels of bureaucracy after being separated from the object of his affections. We need someone who you could trust to be honest, who could believably act out a moral quandary. Who other than Star Trek’s John Cho, aka Sulu? He’s done his fair share of sci-fi and fantasy, including a recurring role in Sleepy Hollow, but isn’t too A-list to overshadow the ensemble.
Juliette’s own paternal presence appears as the mechanic Walker. It’s typecasting, but Edward James Olmos would be perfect. BattleStar Galactica’s own Commander Adama has credits ranging from Blade Runner to The Road to El Dorado and has just the right mix of protective friendliness and ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude.
Of course, we have villains to cast as well. Principally, Bernard, head of the silo’s IT department and general symbol of awfulness. There’s a couple of candidates for this prestigious role, and first on my list is the one and only Anthony Stuart Head. A household name thanks to his long-term portrayal of father-figure Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Head played the villainous Mr Finch in an episode of Doctor Who. He’s capable of being slimy, but he’s liked enough to make the performance complex.
This is just the tip of the iceberg - Hugh Howey’s series has two other books, as well as dozen of other characters to adapt for the big screen. I don’t have any doubts about Ridley’s directorial ability - he did Alien, after all - but Hollywood’s predictable preference for casting white characters, as well as minimising the roles of women in their own stories, might throw a spanner in the works. So, Mr Scott; heed my advice, and send me some free tickets for the premiere as a thanks.