Sort-of-not-really-but-kinda book related blog where I will discuss my thoughts on the book to TV adaptation of the book I recently read, The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
It was hard to prevent myself from starting the show before I finished the book since the book was boring me and I had heard good things about the show. Yet I managed to wait. Within the first 3 minutes of the show I was glad I had waited. The show altered quite a lot and the first scene could potentially be spoilery for the end of the book since it hints at things that are not revealed until the end of the first book.
Throughout the entire first season many, many things were in the show that were not discussed in the book and at first I thought it was additions to the subject material to make the show more interesting, however I read the synopses of the next two books in the series and learned at the one timeline that seemed to be completely added to the show was actually present in the second book. Part of the reason I mention this is I did not know this and other readers might want to wait on the show until they read the second book. Since I was not overly impressed with the first book I don’t think knowing this beforehand would have stopped me.
Overall, there are both good aspects of the show that I liked better then the books, and aspects that either I felt didn’t work well or were done better in the book. I think for me personally I would have enjoyed the show better if I hadn’t read the book first as I kept comparing how certain events were executed to the books which was overly distracting.
One of the things I loved about the show that I think it did well was giving most of the characters more personality. The book characters had some personality, as I mentioned Quentin is more or less a Holden Caulfield, ‘whiney’ type, then Alice and Eliot had some interesting but not overly memorable bits of personality. In the show, however, Quentin was more of the quarky, Spencer Reid type that I was expecting. My personal favourite character of the show was Eliot who has a bunch of amazing one-liners and gif-able moments. He had me laughing every episode over something. Additionally, I loved the dynamic between Penny and Quentin in the show. Penny’s personality was more or less completely changed in the show, however I think it works well and adds drama. I wasn’t sold on Alice’s appearance and personality in the show as she was reduced to terrible stereotypes and quite a lot of her knowledge about key aspect was removed thus I loved book Alice more. Janet, whose name was changed to Margo for the very reason I pointed out about the books (too many J names), was great. Some characters were mostly absent (Josh) while others were added (Kady, sort-of Richard) and then Julia’s storyline was ‘added’ in that it wasn’t in the first book but is in the second, thus I was confused about it for a while. I’ll be interested to see how they deal with nixing certain character and adding others in the future of this show.
The show has the characters older which I think worked to a point at the very beginning of the first episode, but past that the choices the characters make in the show don’t reflect the fact that the characters are older or the fact they are supposed to be the smartest of the smart. Julia, in particular, is very naive in her choices and most of the characters in general have a immature quality about them that worked better in the books when they were supposed to be in their late teens, whereas it doesn’t work as mush in the show when they are supposed to be mid-twenty’s.
I have mixed feelings about Julia’s timeline since it wasn’t present in the first book I read. On one hand it was fresh and I didn’t have to constantly compare it to the novel. It started out really interesting but then it turned weird as she lost her quarky smartness after only one episode. As I mentioned, she made many naive and risky choices for reasons that are borderline understandable but not at all practical.
One of the things I think the book did better then the show was showing and explaining the magic system. Which I find funny considering I didn’t think the book did that well at all. The show did nothing to explain or show the students learning magic at all, they mostly just knew it when they conveniently needed to know for whatever task they had to tackle in that particular episode. While I loved a lot of the added parts to the show not present in the book, many interesting parts in the book were squeezed to a bare minimum that without the knowledge of the book would have left me confused. For example the Welters tournament could have been left out with no real consequence but it remained as a shadow of what it was in the books and thus would have entirely confused me if I didn’t know what was going on.
Going into some of the nitty gritty details, I disliked the episode format change for the very last episode and think it was a bad editing choice. By itself it was a good episode, but the sudden change in style didn’t work. Additionally, the end of the last episode looked like it was cut of which I know is to help garner interest for the next season, but it cliffhangered in the middle of a sentence more-or-less.
Overall, the book and the show have their own merits and I think neither is better then the other. The show for me has a bit of an edge because I cared for the characters more the I did in the book, yet it lacked consistency and the ability to really, clearly tell viewers what is happening. Yet I would recommend people watch the show for the humour alone as it was excellent. Eliot was excellent.