Any of you who enjoyed Game of Thrones earlier this summer has probably seen a promo for HBO's The Leftovers. (That show with this James Blake song and the people dressed in white)
Recently, the show just wrapped up it's first season and is greenlit for a second. Like Game of Thrones, The Leftovers is also based on a bestselling novel, this one written by a man named Tom Perrotta.
However, while George RR Martin's television adaptation is more or less the same as the books (if only consolidated into a more manageable length), HBO's The Leftovers only bares a passing resemblance to the novel it is based off of.
The premise in both works is the same: A Rapture-like event has occurred on October 14th, causing roughly 2% of the world's population to disappear into thin air without even leaving their clothes behind. Both works focus on the Garvey family, who struggle to function in a post-Sudden Departure society. Both the show and the novel focus on how the world has been changed by an event that science can't readily explain and delves into people's various coping mechanisms, including sex, drugs, alcohol, violence, and the emergence of new religions and cults.
The biggest difference between the book and the show is the tone that these coping mechanisms are presented in. The book takes a more subdued and melancholy approach, presenting a world of depressed and rejected people. HBO's version has a lot more tension and suspense, depicting a society that is on the verge of combustion and violence.
When you think about it, it makes sense why these changes were made. Books allow readers to get into the heads of the characters, even when they're going through the trivialities of life. When watching something on a screen, viewers aren't afforded that subjectivity and can quickly lose interest when all the characters are doing are riding their bike for several hours (as the book's version of Nora Durst does).
Television affords the opportunity for excitement. Nobody wants to watch Kevin Garvey sort through his mail as mayor of Mapleton. But Kevin Garvey the chief of police, rolling around in his cruiser and breaking up protests and riots? Yeah, that sounds pretty great. Television in general is a medium of suspense. We want to see what happens. The written word, on the other hand, is more about how the characters feel about what happens.
I enjoyed reading the book and I enjoyed watching the show, but I would say that they are two different experiences. I'm definitely looking forward to the second season of The Leftovers after reading the book. I have a feeling that it's going to take things in a different direction, as a majority of the book's events are covered in the first season, so there won't be any smug book readers smirking with the knowledge of what's to come.
If you're looking for something to read or watch, I definitely recommend both adaptations of The Leftovers. Check it out!