Movies may thrill us with their huge ideas and set pieces, but you always know that anything a movie did, a novel did it first... and better. If you liked these dozen recent movies, here are some books you'll love.
If you liked Star Trek... And who didn't like J.J. Abrams' breezy reinvention of the 1960s space adventure show, focusing more on the coming-of-age of Kirk and Spock, and their journey from rivals to friends? Anarcho-syndicalists, that's who.
...You'll Love Ringworld by Larry Niven. The defining "big object in space" novel, Niven sees your scary Romulan drilling platform and raises you a huge ring-shaped world orbiting a star, with "shadow squares" to provide a day/night cycle, and many weird ecosystems and cultures thriving on it. And if you enjoy that, delve into more classic space opera by Heinlein, Clarke, E.E. "Doc" Smith, David Weber and Lois McMaster Bujold.
If you liked Wolverine... Maybe you enjoyed the way the latest X-Men spinoff used the experiences of a lonely mutant to talk about the ravages of war. Maybe you just liked the purer distillations of mutant angst and feeling like an outsider in non-mutant society. Or perhaps you just liked the sexy mayhem.
...You'll love Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. The tale of a lonely mutant in a town on the U.S.-Mexico border, this novel's young female version of Wolverine named Loup blew us away. She's been genetically engineered not to feel fear, and she becomes her town's secret superhero.
If you liked The Dark Knight... Who didn't love The Dark Knight's reinvention of superhero comics' "grim and gritty" cliches in an even more noir, even more mind-blowing vein? Whether you were into the portrayal of a Gotham City that destroys the best among its citizens, or you just liked the brooding, this film was instantly iconic.
...You'll love Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey, or just about anything by Richard K. Morgan. If you love noir anti-heroes squaring off with madmen for the future of a city that doesn't deserve saving, then you'll want to spend some serious time with Sandman Slim — sure, the city in question is L.A., and that's automatically less cool than the fictional Gotham. But still, the hero who's crawled out of Hell and now fights his power-mad former friend is the best fix for your Nolan Batman addiction right now. And for more noir, check out Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels as well as his noir fantasy The Steel Remains.
If you think you'll like James Cameron's Avatar... Okay, you can't really know if you're going to like Avatar yet, since it's just a couple of trailers and one preview day so far. But a lot of us are pretty pumped up about the cool concept, of a human put into a hybrid alien body to interact with cool blue aliens... not to mention all the war-machine technology and battle scenes.
...You'll love The Color Of Distance by Amy Thomson. Why not try another take on the idea of a human who's transformed into an alien-human hybrid to live among aliens? Juna is a human who lands in the rainforests of the planet Tendu, whose pollen gives humans deadly allergies. Juna's atmosphere suit gets ruptured and she nearly dies, but the planet's elders save her by transforming her into something like one of them. She learns their skin-color-based language and grows to understand their weird culture, and accept her own half-alien self.
If you liked Hancock... Maybe you liked the look at a more flawed superhero. Maybe you liked the alienation, or the feeling of futility in spite of great power. Maybe you enjoyed the cynicism.
...You'll love Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. In any case, you should definitely check out this smarter, cooler look at what superheroes would be like in the real world. Where Hancock fobs you off with repeated gags and muddled mythology, Grossman (an io9 contributor) gives you real psychological complexity and sharp characterization.
If you liked The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button... It sure did look impressive: a love story involving a man who ages backwards, and somehow keeps finding the same woman over and over again as she ages forwards in time. Set against the backdrop of history as it was, maybe you liked the epic feeling.
...You'll love Confessions Of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer. This is definitely a case where a book did it first, and way better. (Yes, Button was nominally based on a HAITE story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.) Greer both pioneered and perfected the "backwards-aging love story" concept, without ignoring the potential creepiness of a boy who looks like an old man having a crush on a girl his own age. Heartbreaking and epic, this is the story Button should have been.
If you liked Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen... Umm... Well, you might have enjoyed the battle scenes and huge robots fighting alongside military hardware. You might have been into the love story between Shia and Megan, or Shia learning to grow up and accept responsibility. Oh, whatever. Let's assume you liked this movie for the big robots and military hardware.
...You'll love Hammer's Slammers by David Drake. This 1979 story collection, as much as Heinlein's Starship Troopers, is a landmark in the history of military science fiction. And it has the big hardware in spades — most notably the giant super-tank that the Slammers roll around in, which comes equipped with a massive 20 centimeter power gun that fires high-energy copper plasma. You might also really dig the Jon and Lobo novels by Mark Van Name, which are about a guy who makes friends with a giant artificially intelligent battlesuit, and they go off having adventures together.
If you liked Knowing... Maybe you liked the weird clues and all the numbers that secretly predicted all the disasters in the world. But most likely, you liked it for the same reason people seem to be liking 2012: for the apocalypse.
...You'll love Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. For a somewhat more light-hearted look at the end of days, you really can't beat this book. Or if you want a post-apocalyptic novel which shows how America continues after everything has collapsed and we've reverted to slavery and other nineteenth century institutions, try Liberation by Brian Francis Slattery.
If you liked Monsters vs. Aliens... With its A-list cast and zany monsters banding together to save the world, who didn't like this movie? Plus, it had a super-basic, but still welcome, message about being yourself and how it's OK to be different and all that stuff.
...You'll love Monster by A. Lee Martinez It's got the same spirit of fun, and a similar misfit cast of characters who save the day despite being weirdos. But it's maybe a little less kid-friendly, and the eponymous Monster is more of a slob who gets rid of the paranormal creatures threatening all the normal people, even though he'd rather just crash on the couch and drink beer. His paper gnome companion will definitely remind you of a cartoon character, and could easily be voiced by Hugh Laurie or Will Arnett in the movie version.
If you liked District 9... With its look at otherness, and the predicament of a human who accidentally gets infected with alien DNA and starts losing his privileged status, District 9's alien-ghetto tale was full of metaphors for the way humans treat each other.
...You'll love Mind Of My Mind by Octavia Butler. Nobody wrote about hierarchy, oppression and otherness better than Butler. And Mind Of My Mind deals with the idea of losing your humanity and becoming something unfamiliar and terrifying with incisive brilliance.
If you liked Moon... You probably got into the chilling depiction of loneliness on our only satellite and the slow madness that overtook our hero, played by Sam Rockwell. But you probably also loved the depiction of two Sam Rockwells, and the questions of identity this doppelganger story raised.
...You'll love Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley. If you want a really thought-provoking tale about cloning, you'll definitely want to check out Ophiuchi Hotline. Varley deals with a far-future society where only the dead can be cloned legally, then plunges us into a world of outlaws whose cloning goes far beyond the permissible.
If you liked Wanted... It probably wasn't for any vestigial supervillain trappings. In its movie version, this film was mostly about a man realizing he's inherited his dad's gunman powers, and getting inducted into a society of super-assassins. But more than anything, it was about becoming an ubermensch and realizing that the "little people's" rules don't apply to you.
...You'll love Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. If you really want a story of a super-assassin who has gone beyond traditional morality, you should check out the tale of Horza, a shapeshifter who has rejected the super-advanced Culture and is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Or if you just want the tale of an ubermensch who comes into his power, read Frank Herbert's Dune for the tale of Leto Atreides II.
Those are our book recommendations for the movie addicts in your life. What are your suggestions?
Thanks to Graeme, Meredith and Annalee for suggestions!