After making through the torment that was our ninth review, it’s back to one article per chapter and one chapter a week. We return to the world of fiction for the tenth book in the Chapter By Chapter review format. Remember that each book is reviewed one chapter at a time, and I beg you not to spoil anything that happens further in the book since I haven’t read this one yet…although I have reviewed the movie this book is based on. Yes, it’s time for another novelization, the last one being Total Recall, our third book in this series. Originally this would have been the eight book until I learned it was an adaptation and not the source material, so I put it aside for Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire until I could see the actual movie because I know the comparison was unavoidable. Then 2016 and Seduction Of The Innocent happened until I lucked out and saw the movie on TV in time to make this the tenth book.
Novelizations are fascinating for fans of multiple media. They are usually based on an earlier draft of the script, and the writer has to fill out the book while giving information that was in the movie only through visuals. You get more into the heads of the characters and get events probably only showing up in the character bible if that which time didn’t allow to show. Showing unnecessary information bogs a story down, but having it informs the writer of potential scenes and the nuances of the characters. Remember the differences between the bible for Batman: The Animated Series versus what was in the actual show. Even that changes over time.
What makes this extra surprising is the author, a legend of science fiction on his own who doesn’t need to be doing adaptations, but still found this movie worth doing when he was approached. So without any further adieu let us reveal the tenth book to be reviewed in Chapter By Chapter….
by Issac Asimov, based on the screenplay by Harry Kleiner, adapted by David Duncan, based on a story by Otto Klement and Jay Lewis Bixby
Wait, I thought the author WAS the guy doing the adaptation. Now I’m confused.
If you want to know my thoughts on the movie, I already wrote that review as the premier installment of Finally Watched. I wanted to see the movie because it holds such a strong place in science fiction, as I went over in that article. I’m glad I saw it and I did enjoy it, but it’s not one of those movies I’d watch again due to an overactive imagination and a weak stomach, although I’m not as bad as I used to be. I do encourage anyone who calls themselves a science fiction fan to at least watch it at the earliest opportunity.
So I waited until I saw the movie before reading the novelization. I don’t have the movie still available to me, but that didn’t stop me from reviewing Total Recall. The book was sitting at my maternal grandparents’ house for years. When my grandfather passed (on both sides I lost my grandmother before my grandfather) and we were going through things I picked up this book before it got lost. I always wanted to ask if I could borrow it even before seeing Asimov’s name on it but never got the chance or forgot. And then it sat in my library for years. It’s another book I’ve been wanting to check off, like the movie itself due to the effect the movie has had on science fiction. Otto Klemmet, one of the creators of the initial story, writes the introduction:
This story has several authors, all of whom have contributed to its present form in many different ways. For all of us, it was a long and arduous task and a great challenge, but also one of deep satisfaction and, I may say, of great delight. When Bixby and I wrote our original story, we started with not much more than an idea and an abundance of curiosity. Little did we know where it would lead to, or what would become of it in the hands of men of great imagination and superb artistry. Saul David, the film’s producer, Richard Fleischer, the director and inspired conjurer of fancy, Harry Kleiner who wrote the screenplay, Dale Hennesy, the art director and an artist in his own right, and the doctors and scientists who gave unselfishly so much of their time and their thinking. And finally, Isaac Asimov, who lent his pen and great talent to give this phantasmagoria of facts and fancy form and reality.
But why did Asimov, a man know for the three laws of robotics and the Foundation series among many great other works, “lower” himself to adapting someone else’s work? Ask Wikipedia and question the source:
Isaac Asimov, asked to write the novelization from the script, declared that the script was full of plot holes, and received permission to write the book the way he wanted. The novel came out first because he wrote quickly and because of delays in filming.
Well, that told us nothing. Oh wait, there’s more:
After acquiring the film’s paperback novelization rights, Bantam Books approached Isaac Asimov to write the novelization, offering him a flat sum of $5,000 with no royalties involved. In his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, Asimov writes, “I turned down the proposal out of hand. Hackwork, I said. Beneath my dignity. However, Bantam Books persisted, and at a meeting with Marc Jaffe and Marcia Nassiter on April 21, 1965, Asimov agreed to read the screenplay.
In the novelization’s introduction, Asimov states that he was rather reluctant to write the book because he believed that the miniaturization of matter was physically impossible. But he decided that it was still good fodder for story-telling and that it could still make for some intelligent reading.
Was this dropped for the paperback, because all I see is the Klement paragraph I quoted earlier.
In addition, 20th Century Fox was known to want someone with some science-fiction clout to help promote the film. To his credit, aside from the initial “impossibility” of the shrinking machine, Asimov made extensive use of his background in hard science and went to great lengths to portray with great accuracy what it would actually be like to be shrunk to that scale, such as the lights on the sub being highly penetrating to normal matter, time distortion, and other side effects that are completely ignored in the movie.
Asimov was bothered by the way the Proteus was left in Benes, and in a subsequent meeting with Jaffe he insisted that he would have to change the ending so that the submarine was brought out. Asimov also felt the need to gain permission from his usual science fiction publisher, Doubleday, to write the novel. Doubleday did not object, and had suggested his name to Bantam in the first place. Asimov began work on the novel on May 31, and completed it on July 23.
Asimov did not want any of his books, even a film novelization, to appear only in paperback, so in August he persuaded Austin Olney of Houghton Mifflin to publish a hardcover edition, assuring him that the book would sell at least eight thousand copies, which it did. However, since the rights to the story were held by Otto Klement, who had co-written the original story treatment, Asimov would not be entitled to any royalties. By the time the hardcover edition was published in March 1966, Houghton Mifflin had persuaded Klement to allow Asimov to have a quarter of the royalties. Klement also negotiated for The Saturday Evening Post to serialize an abridged version of the novel, and he agreed to give Asimov half the payment for it. Fantastic Voyage appeared in the February 26 and March 12, 1966 issues of the Post.
Bantam Books released the paperback edition of the novel in September 1966 to coincide with the release of the film.
Harry Harrison, reviewing the Asimov novelization, called it a “Jerry-built monstrosity”, praising the descriptions of science-fiction events as “Asimov at his best” while condemning the narrative framework as “inane drivel”.
So this should be interesting. Does this rank with Asimov’s other works? Actually I wouldn’t know. I hate to admit it, but outside of a few Robot City novels based on his concepts and the I-Bots comic he co-created with Howard Chaykin before he passed (and I’ve reviewed as part of “Yesterday’s” Comic) I’m not personally familiar with his work outside of a short story in a textbook that I can barely remember because it’s been so long. How does the book open?
MISSION INTO THE BODY OF MAN
Attention! This is the last message you will receive until your mission is completed. You have sixty minutes once miniaturization is complete. You must be out of Benes’ body before then. If not, you will return to normal size and kill Benes regardless of the success of the surgery.
Unlike our last book I don’t expect to be doing a lot of quoting in this review set, which is fine by me. That took up most of the word count. So how does this book compare to the movie, and was Asimov the right choice for this? Join me next week as we being our 18 chapter trip through the human body.
Next Time: Plane