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Friday Debate: The book is always better

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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.

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

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