Popular hard science novels that have been turned into great TV shows

18 February 2024
Adapting hard science fiction novels into television shows offers a unique opportunity to explore complex scientific concepts and speculative scenarios over an extended narrative arc. This format allows for a deeper dive into character development, thematic exploration, and the gradual unveiling of intricate plot points, providing a rich and immersive viewing experience. 

Below, we discuss several notable adaptations of hard science fiction novels into television series, highlighting how these shows have expanded upon the source material to capture the imagination of audiences worldwide.

"The Expanse" (2015-2021)

Originally a novel series by James S.A. Corey (the pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), "The Expanse" is a critically acclaimed television series that explores the political tensions and societal changes in a future where humanity has colonized the solar system. The show is lauded for its accurate depiction of space physics, complex characters, and intricate plot that weaves together themes of power, inequality, and survival. 

Its detailed portrayal of life in space, including the effects of gravity (or the lack thereof) on the human body and the logistics of interplanetary travel, sets a new standard for scientific realism in television.

the expanse space ship

"Altered Carbon" (2018-2020)

Based on the novel by Richard K. Morgan, "Altered Carbon" delves into themes of identity, morality, and society in a future where consciousness can be transferred to different bodies. This cyberpunk thriller explores the implications of immortality and the commodification of human existence in a visually stunning and thought-provoking manner. While incorporating elements of hard science fiction through its exploration of future technologies and their impact on society, the show raises profound questions about the essence of the soul and the limits of human innovation.

"Foundation" (2021-)

Adapting Isaac Asimov's seminal "Foundation" series, this television show tackles the monumental task of visualizing Asimov's vision of a galaxy-spanning empire facing inevitable decline. The narrative centers around the mathematical science of psychohistory, which can predict the future on a large scale. The adaptation expands on Asimov's work, introducing new characters and storylines to explore the themes of free will, destiny, and the cyclical nature of history. "Foundation" stands out for its ambitious scope, complex storytelling, and the philosophical questions it poses about power, knowledge, and the possibility of altering the course of future events.

"Childhood's End" (2015)

Arthur C. Clarke's classic novel "Childhood's End" was adapted into a miniseries that captures the book's exploration of transcendence, alien intervention, and the evolution of humanity. The story follows the peaceful invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords, who bring an era of utopia at the cost of human identity and culture. The adaptation stays true to Clarke's original themes, questioning the paths of human progress and the ultimate destiny of mankind in the cosmos. The miniseries format allows for a focused exploration of these themes, presenting a visually stunning and emotionally resonant narrative.

"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" (2014) and "Cosmos: Possible Worlds" (2020)

While not a direct adaptation of a single novel, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" and its sequel series "Cosmos: Possible Worlds," inspired by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter's works, deserve mention for their profound impact on popularizing science through television. These series blend hard science facts with speculative scenarios, exploring the universe's wonders and the potential futures of humanity. They stand as a testament to the power of television to educate, inspire, and provoke thought on a wide scale, making complex scientific concepts accessible and engaging to a global audience.

"The Man in the High Castle" (2015-2019)

Based on Philip K. Dick's novel of the same name, "The Man in the High Castle" presents an alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War II and divided the United States into the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States. The series explores the complexities of life under totalitarian rule, resistance movements, and the nature of reality itself, themes that are prevalent in Dick's work. 

The adaptation expands on the novel's premise by developing its characters and plotlines over four seasons, offering a rich and thought-provoking narrative that delves into the consequences of history gone awry.

Honorable mentions:

"Brave New World" (2020)

Based on Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel, this series explores a seemingly perfect future society that has achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family, and history itself. The adaptation updates Huxley's vision for a modern audience, examining themes of freedom, happiness, and the human spirit.

"11.22.63" (2016)

Based on the novel by Stephen King, this miniseries blends science fiction with historical events, following an English teacher who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While not strictly hard science fiction, the series delves into the implications of time travel and the moral dilemmas associated with changing history.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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