2017 is the year of the book-to-television adaptation. The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu and American Gods on Starz are among the popular novel adaptations that hit the small screen this year. If you haven’t checked out these series yet, here’s what to expect:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, adapted for Hulu by Bruce Miller
In this near-future dystopia, the United States has fallen and been replaced by the Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian regime where women have no rights and their ability to bear children define their worth to society. We experience this nightmarish new reality through the eyes of Offred, the handmaid to an important government official and his barren wife. As a handmaid, Offred’s sole purpose is to have a child for The Commander and his wife. Despite her grim new way of life, Offred, previously known as June, remembers a time before Gilead, when she had a husband and daughter who were taken from her by the regime. In a time of extreme suspicion, when government agents known as “Eyes” roam the streets in black vans, Offred does not know who she can trust and where she can turn for news of her family or hope of escape from her forced service as a handmaid.
While the series generally follows the plot of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, it has been updated to reflect a more current time period. In flashbacks, Offred and her friends are seen calling Ubers, using cell phones, and discussing terrorist attacks. This show is pretty graphic, so if you’re sensitive about violence, language, or scenes involving sex, skip this show and book. If you enjoy speculative fiction (like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451), this might be a good book and/or show for you!
American Gods by Neil Gaiman, adapted for Starz by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green
If you’ve never picked up a book by Neil Gaiman, this might not be the place to start. Neil Gaiman is weird, and American Gods, written in 2001, is really weird. Set in present-day America, American Gods follows the life of Shadow Moon, a recently-released-from-prison convict who finds himself in the employ of Mr. Wednesday, a strange con-man who has a hidden agenda. As Shadow and Mr. Wednesday travel across America, they meet with other equally strange people, and Shadow begins to understand that these figures are actually incarnations of old mythological dieties. It is not until he is threatened by a “toad-skin-vaping” teenager in a high-tech limousine that Shadow realizes that Mr. Wednesday and his old-world friends might be in danger of being replaced by “new gods.” In the Starz series, each episode opens with a “Coming to America” scene, in which the audience is introduced to an old god and his or her transference to America from their fatherland. In the second episode, for example, the African trickster god Anansi is brought to the new world in the bowels of a Dutch slave ship headed for America.
Only two episodes have aired so far, but the series is shaping up to be just as weird as Gaiman’s novel. Again, if you have an aversion to violence, strong language, or sex, skip this show (and the book). If you like mythology, epic road trips, and dark humor, pick up American Gods in the library or check out the show!
Other book-to-television adaptations that you can check out include:
13 Reasons Why and A Series of Unfortunate Events, both on Netflix.