The planet Mars has been in the news lately: Water discovered on Mars! Matt Damon stranded on Mars! Some stories are true and some are fiction, but with discoveries and blockbusters comes hope for a new dawn for space-related books-to-film. That’s excellent for dreamers who look at a starry, starry night and imagine all the possibilities of travel, inhabitance, and fiction.
Space literature is not a new frontier, nor is the premise of man left behind to survive. On Earth, you get stranded on islands (Juana Maria) or on a small boat (Captain Bligh) or in an ice flow (Shackleton) or high in the inhospitable Andes mountains (soccer team).
In literature, Jules Verne sent a group of escaped Civil War prisoners–by hot air balloon–to a mysterious island inhabited by mutant animals. The boys of Lord of the Flies were not mutants physically, but morally? I think I’d choose alone on Mars rather than a tropical island with that bunch. Edgar Rice Burroughs explored the bond between man and animals with Tarzan, who might have been a feral child reared by apes, but his humanity remained intact. Evelyn Waugh sent hapless Tony Last to the Brazilian jungle and, well, let’s just say it is indeed possible to love Dickens too much. Gary Paulsen crashed a small aircraft to leave a boy alone in the Canadian forest with only a hatchet.
Preceding all of these was Robinson Crusoe, whose adventures here and there were so beautifully presented by Daniel Defoe, people thought the stories were true travelogues.
Calling on your wits, subsisting on what’s at hand, holding onto your humanity—these themes span time and location, and never get old.
But back to space because, hey, even Robinson Crusoe when to Mars.
I’d love to see another golden age of space-related writing. Below are 13 books that became 13 movies or TV series set in outer space. I am halfway through The Martian—because my personal rule is, I can’t see the movie until I’ve finished the book—but I have read the twelve classics that follow and recommend every one:
- The Martian by Andy Weir
- Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
- The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
- The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
- The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
- 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
- Cosmos by Carl Sagan
- October Sky by Homer Hickam
- Capricorn One by Ron Goulart
- Marooned by Brad Strickland
- War of the Worlds by HG Wells
- Marooned by Martin Caidin
- Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
Have you read these? Seen the films? Do you have a rule about reading a book before seeing a film based on it?