Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
I couldn’t go into slowdown without finishing this book since we’re on the last chapter. I don’t want a repeat of Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire.
Remember how we got here: Isaac Asimov didn’t like the science presented in the Fantastic Voyage movie and yet he was approached to do the novelization. I’m not sure why whomever was responsible for getting the novelization out insisted on Asimov beyond his standing in science fiction. So Asimov tweaked the science a bit, and it benefits the story. Then he tweaked the characters and for the most part it doesn’t. Also for some reason the girl seems to be singled out and I’m really hoping this doesn’t end with a potential romance between Grant and Peterson. The movie didn’t do that and not every story has to. Even at this point that was a bit cliché, wasn’t it?
So as we join our miniaturized crew one final time (minus one) it’s a race to get out before they return to normal size. How will they possibly get out in time? Well, the title for chapter 18 gives that away but this was one of the moments Asimov wanted to “fix” according to my short research so let’s see how he alters the end of the movie. If you came from the homepage I’ll put the title after the jump.
Chapter 18: Eye
See, I told you it was a spoiler. That’s why it’s past the jump.
And that’s how our heroes get out of Benes in time, through the eye. While the movie just assumed the white blood cell would destroy the ship entirely and it wouldn’t be a problem Asimov’s take on miniaturization changed things. In his eyes (no pun intended) the miniaturized atoms would reform and still cause Benes problems even if the ship was otherwise disintegrated. So we get one final action scene where Grant tries to get the white blood cell to follow him out of the eye. I’m no medical expert but I’m not sure this would actually work. I can’t say it hurt the story but I was willing to accept Michaels’ body and the Proteus were no longer an issue. But Asimov is a stickler for details, which is what earned him his well deserved fanbase.
When I review a novelization (Total Recall and Transformers: War For Cybertron are the other ones I’ve done so far) it’s with an understanding that they’re usually based on early drafts of the script, the latest they could hold out for if they want the novel to come out with the movie. I looked back at the Wikipedia entry on the movie and Asimov did work on an early version of the script, which included an epilogue. And now I’m starting to wonder if hinting at Grant and Peterson dating was part of the movie originally but dropped either for time or because it didn’t fit. Whatever the case, we get exactly that. At the end Grant and Peterson are an item and this still bothers me. The movie was better off for it not being there and the book shows this. Like I said, it’s too cliché, but now I wonder if this was Asimov’s addition or from the screenplay he read.
Also according to that entry I’m not the only one to praise the science but question the story. Fellow sci-fi writer Harry Harrison apparently said the same thing in a review for the magazine Impulse. “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”.(Critique, Impulse, September 1966, p. 159.)” The movie itself didn’t have an epilogue, whether for time or some other reason. It simply ends with the survivors getting out and regaining their normal size just as the end credits come up.
This shows in the epilogues’ attempt to make Michaels out to be sympathetic as he was simply a man disagreeing with military usage willing to kill Benes is a byproduct of the medicine versus military faction split this story shoved in. Michaels isn’t a traitor from the Other Side but a doctor who didn’t want miniaturization to be used for non-peaceful purposes like this surgery. The movie took the simpler approach of “he’s a traitor trying to stop Benes”, but that may be more up to personal preference than anything wrong. Asimov also tries to make this sound like a mystery as Grant tries to explain to the generals why he ended up suspecting Michaels but still was dumb enough to check on Duval even though he couldn’t have stopped him at that point. I’m just not buying it. Had there been a sense of mystery involved it might have been interesting but I’d sooner believe nobody expected anyone of being a traitor until all the accidents piled up a bit much even for a first-time, quickly setup operation.
And with that another book comes to a close. For my wrap-up check out this Sunday’s installment of The Clutter Reports (I’ll link to it in Sunday’s post here at the Spotlight, which will hopefully be the next Jake & Leon strip). The short version is: the science is good but except for Benes & Owens the characterization and addition of a debate between the two sides of the CMDF felt unnecessary. Overall I did like it but you’ll have to wait for the Clutter Reports review to see if I liked it enough to read again. And in two weeks I’ll reveal the next Chapter By Chapter book review. It’s another novelization because I feel like reading it now in light of a comic miniseries I just finished reading. There’s your hint.