by Lori Kendall, Assistant Editor
Let’s get one thing straight: I’ve never read a novel based on a movie. It may have to do with that time as a tween when I thought I bought a Star Wars book, because it had Jedi Ewan McGregor on the cover, but it really just turned out to be a fan book based on his career, which was way too weird for tween-me to handle. Whenever you think you’re in for more adventures with Obi Wan and you end up with an extended interview and explanation of The Pillow Book, it may put you off grabbing anything like that in the future. Thankfully, I outgrew my Phantom Menace phase shortly after.
My instinctual aversion to a novel based on a movie may also be because I’m a total “the book is better than the movie” person and I figure the reverse must be true as well (a fair assumption, in my opinion). There’s also a part of me that just can’t grasp what the audience could be for an Interstellar movie novelization. Extended adventures using the same characters, fan fiction, prequels, sequels – those all make sense to me. Sometimes you watch a story and you don’t want it to end; print media makes for a less expensive way to expand and play with an established universe and its inhabitants. But a blow-by-blow novel chronicling the exact same events that someone just spent 169 minutes watching on a gigantic screen? That left me a bit miffed.
Either way, since I hadn’t seen Interstellar the movie yet, I decided to give this novel the fairest fight I could and opted to avoid seeing the film until after I finished it. Knowing my proclivity towards judging interpretations of original work, I thought this was the safest way to avoid a snarky, hipsterish breakdown of each and every way the two works differed and how one was obviously superior to the other, because yes, I am that person.
So in case you’ve been living in a deep, dark, movie-theater-avoidance hole (otherwise known as the comforting world of Netflix reruns and cheap snack food) like me, the premise of Interstellar goes a little bit like this:
In the near future, mankind’s survival is threatened by a crop blight that brings society back to the days of The Dust Bowl. Food is in short supply, dust storms are a debilitating and frustrating norm, and the advancement of technology and education has been stunted by the need for more farmers to till the ever-eroding soil. It is within this agrarian society that we find our protagonist, Cooper, a frustrated former pilot/engineer that feels caged in by the limitations of this desperate, earth-bound society.
Cooper lives on a farm with his two children, Murph and Tom, who couldn’t be more disparate. Tom, the elder son, is stoic and practical with a flare for farming and an appreciation for the status quo. Murph, the younger daughter, is fiery and imaginative, bucking the system at every turn and insisting that a poltergeist in her room is sending her messages in Morse code.
It is one of these suspicious, poltergeisty messages that sends Cooper to a set of coordinates that changes the course of his life. What follows is a race to outer space to save mankind interspersed with the daily struggles of a family and humanity that feels largely left behind.
My apologies for the vaguery, but far be it from me to Spoiler Alert, even if I’m one of the few that haven’t experienced Interstellar in its entirety. Also, please remember I’m working this synopsis out based purely on the book, so if it sounds a bit wonky to movie viewers I can only tell you what I read.
Overall, I found the novel to be enjoyable. Written by author Greg Keyes (who coincidentally has also written several Star Wars novels), the navigation of different timelines, points-of-view and vastly different settings is handled with ease. Keyes does a great job of putting readers in the mindset of the characters and manages to create vibrant visuals and tense moments of action that play out in a very movie-esque fashion.
The novel is a quick read, taking me a few hours after a long workday to finish, and the pace of the writing pulls you through the story from beginning to end. There are a few glaring typos/errors, more so near the end of the novel, but nothing that disrupts the flow of the story too much or smacks of anything other than oversight.
Obviously, if you enjoyed the movie then you’ll enjoy the story within the book, although you may not find anything new. Amazon reviewers found the story to be a pretty solid scene-by-scene adaptation. Some readers found the novel helpful in clearing up dialogue that sounded muddled in the theater and in explaining character motivation and plot points that may have been missed during viewing.
If you’re coming at it raw, like I did, I think you’ll find it to be a short, enjoyable sci-fi story that will pique your interest in the movie itself.
Ever read a movie novelization and found it titillating, amazing or just plain weird? Let us know in the comments.
ComicsOnline gives Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization 4 out of 5 Matthew McConaugheys