Friday Debate: The book is always better

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Bookalwaysbetter

I have been a bookworm for pretty much my whole life. I love to read, although I don’t get nearly as much time to do so as I used to. When I was growing up, my mom always advocated reading the book before a movie, which is pretty much what I’ve always done where possible. From Silence of the Lambs to Lord of the Rings, Memoirs of a Geisha to Gone Girl, I’m that horribly pretentious person who says, “Oh yeah, the movie is good but the book is better”.

Books are often the source material for films and games. The entire Witcher series is based off a series of books (that yes, I also read). I read the books after the second game came out, often forced to use really shoddy translations because they weren’t officially translated into English yet. But Andrzej Sapkowski, the books’ author, claimed that actually his books made the games popular:

The belief, widely spread by CDPR, that the games made me popular outside of Poland is completely false. I made the games popular. All of my translations in the West – including the English one – were published before the first game.

I think that’s false on all counts, right? I had never heard of the books before the games, and the translations weren’t available in English even in the build up to the release of The Witcher 3. Sapkowski even goes so far as to claim that the game lost him as many book sales as it brought in, a claim that Metro author Dmitry Glukhovsky thinks is “totally wrong”. He credits his fame outside Eastern Europe to 4A Games and the Metro series, something I can also attest to as I only read those books after the recent remaster of the Metro games. If you haven’t read either series of books, I highly recommend that you do as they are fantastic and add so much depth to those games’ universes.

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While I might crap on Kervyn for not reading American Gods even as the series is upon us, I am also guilty of not always reading source material. I don’t read comics before watching the movies or playing the games, and there are plenty of series I’ve watched only to discover later that they were based on popular books. I still think the book is generally better, but that doesn’t mean I always have the time or inclination to go back and read the book that inspired a series I’ve already lost interest in (here’s looking at you, True Blood).

Even a great series or game simply can’t capture the depth of character development and world creation possible in a book. Are comics as detailed, though? Do they count as books in this sense? Are there any books you’ve read after watching a movie or playing a game and thought were actually worse than the thing they inspired? The only examples I can think of are Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray, both of which I failed to read due to poor writing to managed to laugh at scenes from the movies for that same reason.

Do you prefer to read the book in advance because it’s better? Do you go back and read books if you’ve enjoyed a game or series? And can we all agree that the book is always better?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: May 12, 2017

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let’s get on with it!

  • No point in reading the comics as the break down and start up their own universes more than the ANC reshuffles its cabinet. Books will always win, but it’s oh-so-nice to be able to sit back and just veg watching a high production of a loved novel.

    • Original Heretic

      Agree on the comic thing. So many stories out there. All reading the comic does is give insight into the character.
      And when the movies do try to do the comic arcs, they screw them up. I’m looking at you, Iron Man 3! You messed up the Extremis arc badly!

      • It gives you insight into the character… Until they turn said character into a different gender…

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          Or tattoo his forehead?

          • Man, you speak crazy!

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            Practically deranged!

          • Leave D alone!

      • Matthew Holliday

        The extremis arc in the comic was brutal, so good.
        and the Mandarin is a pretty big deal in the comics aswell, but was just fluff in the movie…

  • Original Heretic

    99% of the time, the book is better.
    Though these days, the trend to turn a book into a series is a real winner, since you can never condense a 600 page novel in a 2 hour movie and do it justice.
    Game of Thrones showed everyone that by doing the series, you can include ALL the stuff from the book, and even throw a couple of extra things in.
    American Gods is EPIC so far.
    I have seen a couple of times that the movie was better than the book. As terrible as the Eragon movie was (gawd it was awful), the book was even worse.
    In a novel, the author has so much more freedom to give insight into a character. You can express your characters’ thoughts without any dialogue. Trying to do that in film, well, they either have to opt for the voiceover or insert some ham-fisted dialogue.

    • Well they left a whole crap load out from the Game of Thrones books. Whole family arcs were cut.

      • Original Heretic

        But they still had way more content than a movie would.

    • Matthew Holliday

      I thought the books were pretty good.
      story was pretty average, but some of the plot twists were pretty interesting and the way he writes combat, especially in book 2 and 3, was baller.

      But most of it is probably just nostalgia on my part, and he was crazy young(like fourteen or something stupid like that) when he wrote it and it wasnt really targeted at older readers.

      • Original Heretic

        After book 1, I wasn’t going to waste my time on the rest of the series.

        His writing was terrible, the plot was predictable and trite, and there were cliches everywhere.
        How many times can one character get knocked out at the end of a chapter, only to wake up beside a nice cozy fire, all safe and sound?
        Nah, sorry man, I thought it was horrible. The only reason he got published in the first place was because his parents owned the publishing company.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    The more I think about it the more I realise that I don’t actually care which is better. I can (hopefully) enjoy both on their own merits and their different takes on the same characters or stories.

    Books will always be the more in-depth version though, can’t condense them into games or movies without losing stuff.

  • Twilight. the movies were better

  • Ghost In The Rift

    Books always mostly go more in-depth and complex, the only time i ever saw something more entertaining than the book/movie/game/series combined was the end credits to 50 Shades….

  • Hammersteyn

    Ain’t got time for books

  • Hammersteyn

    Do wine lists or shooter menus count as books?

  • HvR

    As general rule yes, exception of the rule is when the author is heavily involved in the screenplay and movie production.

  • GooseZA

    I think sometimes it depends on which you see / read first as the story is essentially “spoiled” for whichever version you see 2nd. You lose those big plot points / twists / wow moments because you expect them. You’ll still enjoy it, because you enjoyed the core story / idea of the book / film, but your memories of it will most probably be biased towards the first one.

    I prefer the book for the Lord of the rings because I read it as a kid long before the movies came out. The movies were awesome (still are) but leave out some cool bits like Tom Bombadill. It was amazing to see some of my fav characters on screen and their version of middle earth but the book will always be special for me. My wife hadn’t read the books before seeing the movies. She LOVES the movies but found the books to be overly descriptive and slow. She still enjoyed them, but I think would probably say she enjoyed the movies more.

    *shrugs

    I think it could go either way for most things really. Except the Hobbit. Those movies were GARBAGE.

  • MonsterCheddar

    Books are always better.

    Disagree with me and I will fight you.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      Books are not always better.

      • As I pointed out yes

      • MonsterCheddar

        ROUND ONE…..FIGHT!!!!!

  • The only time books aren’t better is when we are talking about a Steven King book and a director who doesn’t end the movie in the same idiotic way that Steve did…

  • Andre116

    Ok…little bit late to the debate. I’m busy with the Expanse audio books at the moment. Got introduced to the books through the first series. I reckon both are excellent. The books definitely give more insight and explanation of how things work. It would feel incredibly forced if they were to try to work that into the character dialogue in the series.

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