Analyst: G.N. Jacobs © 2016

Title: Dead Witch Walking

Written by: Kim Harrison

Format: Book____X Screenplay_____ Play_____ Article_____ Movie_____ Verbal Pitch_____ Short Story_________________

Grade:   Recommend_____ Maybe/Rewrite____X Pass_____

Logline: A young witch/bounty hunter frustrated with working for the magical creatures police quits en masse in the company of a living vampire. In order to survive through the week amid death threats from her former employer, she begins investigating one of Cincinnati’s most elite citizens for a variety of crimes, including illegal biotechnology.


Rachel Morgan has been on a losing streak with assigned cases for the Inderland Security agency that frankly a kindergartener should pull off blindfolded. Tonight, that means waiting out a leprechaun on a completely boring tax matter in a bar somewhere deep in the Northern Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati, known locally as the Hollows. Curiously or fortuitously, someone from the office happens to be sitting at the bar, three seats down: Ivy Tamwood.

The events of the evening, though successful, induce Rachel to turn in her badge, essentially breaking an ironclad blood oath contract to the Inderland Security agency. Considering that her supervisor prefers she leave, the actual risk of assassins seems low…until Ivy Tamwood, a living vampire, joins her new friend in the walkout.

Rachel, Ivy and Jenks, a pixie, move into an abandoned church deep in the Hollows suburb, where Cincinnati’s supernatural creatures cluster together. The church seems perfect for an enterprising witch out to start making money as a bounty hunter and witch enforcing the separation between humans and Inderlanders, the slang for supernatural creatures. Yes, the church may have bodies in the yard, but there is a witch’s garden there too, made more potent for the old bodies.

Thus begins a week and a half of various assassins sent by the I.S. trying to kill Rachel. Her things have been cursed to kill her. Faeries shoot splat balls across the wall intercepted by Jenks and his many pixie children. It seems that everyone in the greater Cincinnati area has a bet on how long Rachel might last.

Rachel shakes off the rust of her witch skills mixing ingredients from the garden to rebuild her standard charms that she can’t use due to the I.S. cursing her possessions. In the meantime, she also has to figure out Ivy Tamwood’s intent and needs as a vampiric roommate leading to being given a dating book to avoid certain behaviors. Rachel decides to investigate Trent Kalamack, Cincinnati’s richest citizen because of longstanding suspicions that the wealthy man might be backing production, distribution and sale of the drug Brimstone.

On two occasions, Rachel drinks a transmutation potion turning her into a mink in order to sneak into the Kalamack estate for evidence. The second time she is captured and cruelly tossed into illegal rat fights. A rat with whom she fought also turns out to be a magically transformed person and they plot their escape.

Rachel brings her evidence of Trent Kalamack’s involvement with bio drugs, outlawed since a DNA experiment resulted in deadly tomatoes, to the Federal Inderlander Bureau, a human-run rival police agency to Inderlander Security. A corrupt officer at Inderlander Security is arrested during the big raid and offers to testify against Trent Kalamack, only to be killed during a prisoner transfer.

With FIB backing, Rachel earns her freedom from the I.S. assassins, but Trent Kalamack goes free…


I see the Rachel Morgan/Hollows Series as a TV show, mostly because the dramatic problem of trying to distract assassins by providing something else of greater value seems like a TV pilot problem, not something on which to hang $200,000,000 movie budgets. With 12 other books to read, the wealth of material also suggests some kind of TV show in the style of The Dresden Files.

As a read, I did root for Rachel Morgan, but I found myself more interested in the world building where Dr. Watson and company’s pioneering work on DNA led to a virus attaching to tomatoes (Yes, we’ve all seem ‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes’) that killed enough humans to allow the supernatural creatures to appear openly after centuries in hiding.

Like any flawed dude, I found the implied almost pornography between Rachel and Ivy as the ladies learn the necessary boundaries between vampires and everybody else fascinating at the level of pornography. A part of me didn’t want the cliché pullback at the last minute, as figuring out how the ladies get along after a good supernatural lesbian screw might have been more interesting to read.

As you may see reading between the lines in the above paragraphs, I changed my initial opinion from Recommend this as the pilot of a TV show to Maybe this is a pilot. In part, this is because I’m spending too much time talking about the world in which Rachel Morgan moves than about Rachel herself. Learning about how her Earth witchcraft, demonology and other supernatural magic works ultimately proved more enlightening than Rachel Morgan’s need to feed the police a really bad person to get free of the bad feelings caused by her walkout with Ivy.

I think my ambivalence for Rachel comes from the essential truth that it seems absolutely crazy that she would choose to pick a fight with Trent Kalamack in order to throw him under the bus in her place. Mr. Kalamack at the time of her decision hadn’t, to paraphrase the late Muhammad Ali, called Rachel the witch equivalent of the N-Word. He hadn’t killed or mistreated a sister nor other family member. He hadn’t stiffed her for alimony nor squished her favorite cat under his limousine.

This leads reasonable people to question characters who without any kind of police authority decide to go after big fish like the being ensconced in the center of Cincinnati’s society and business circles. In the real world, we like to talk big about resisting various extremely wealthy people, but beyond a reflexive vote against their positions come election time, we tend to think along the lines of ‘I don’t bother them, they don’t bother me.’

I’m pretty sure that this is a backhanded way of suggesting that Rachel Morgan had other targets in her quest for freedom from the contract put out on her by Inderland Security. She could go after the supervisor that wants her killed. Surely, this guy has the kind of skeletons that can lead to a scene of blackmail poker where she doles out what she’s learned bit by bit to twist the knife for the benefit of the reader? This hypothetical revised plot might save Trent Kalamack as the surprise villain at the end, as well.

Regardless of the slight weakness of Trent Kalamack’s structural relationship to Rachel Morgan, I did find him to be a well drawn villain with an appropriate level of cruelty that he drove the scenes in which he appeared. His matter of fact demeanor while he has Rachel as a mink in a cage on his desk hyped up my interest in seeing Rachel figure out how to escape. Wow!

For the purposes of the series, Trent Kalamack with his wealth, power and bruised ego from almost getting arrested at Rachel’s behest very clearly fills the function of a Blofeld or a Moriarty: the recurring villain sure to come back. The pixie, Jenks, can’t sniff out if the man is human, Inderlander or something else, surely a setup for a big reveal in a later book. It’s a pity that we’re introduced to him by means of a heroine that just seemingly randomly picks an evil rich billionaire to investigate rather than go out seeking justice through other means.

I suppose the real question about Rachel Morgan is whether enough exists on the page to risk green lighting a series based on her adventures. I do think the right TV writer will look at this book and next few in the series and will find the hooks to make her interesting for TV. Let’s see, her father, also an operative for Inderlander Security, died under suspicious circumstances. She hangs out with vampires in a Northern Kentucky ghetto for supernatural creatures. Luckily, there are more stories to read to see how the series picks up over time.

To recap, I MIGHT wish to see Rachel Morgan on the small screen if the TV writer attached does a really good job giving this woman a better reason to do things. MAYBE/REWRITE.

Analyst: G.N. Jacobs © 2016

Title: Dragonflight

Written by: Anne McCaffrey

Format: Book____X Screenplay_____ Play_____ Article_____ Movie_____ Verbal Pitch_____ Short Story_________________

Grade:   Recommend___X Maybe/Rewrite_____ Pass_____

Logline: A young woman survives the murder of her family and uses her strong telepathy skills to plot revenge using an influential dragon rider as her tool; when she succeeds she is invited to vie for the position of rider upon the soon to hatch dragon queen.


The book begins with an expository prologue about how and why the human colonists of Pern have formed an imperfect symbiosis with the telepathic dragons found on the planet. Dragons exist to play a version of Missile Command where guided by their human riders they use their fire to burn the dreaded Thread, extra-planetary ribbons of life killing spores. The Threadfall occurs on predictable cycles based on the orbital mechanics of the star system, in some centuries this occurs every few decades followed by long intervals that can last up to four hundred years. It is the end of a long interval and the people of Pern have forgotten why they need dragons and their riders. The Lords of the various defensible settlements have begun to resent the tithing established by long custom that supports dragons and the riders. Worse they have begun to conquer other settlements despite long tradition against warfare…

Lessa of Ruatha, a recently conquered settlement in the High Reaches section of Pern, resists the conqueror Fax. She uses her considerable telepathy to hide as a kitchen drudge and disrupt the economic output of her city to drive out the invader. She largely succeeds for several years getting Fax to replace several city managers in a style of which the Queen of Hearts would approve – “Off with their heads!”

Into this brewing storm, F’lar and the six other bonded dragon-rider pairs in his command fly into Fax’s territory. The dragon men search for special women who might have the talent to ride the as yet unhatched dragon queen, the only reproductive female dragon in a dragon lair. F’Lar senses a lot of unrestrained power in the Hold of Ruatha. Lessa uses her arts to set in motion a duel between F’lar. However, Fax has included in his entourage his pregnant wife, Lady Gemma. The birth of Fax’s son occurring simultaneously to F’lar’s successful duel with Fax contrives to send Lessa off to the dragon Weyr to vie with other ladies for the honor of riding Rathom, the unhatched queen egg.

Thus begins an exploration of the telepathic dragon-rider bond as Lessa and Rathom have a soulmate reaction from the minute the dragon queen hatches. The dragons and their riders are few in number after centuries of neglect due to no recent Threadfalls. F’lar takes Lessa to his bed because tradition says that the rider of the bronze dragon that mates the queen takes the Weyrwoman. It is against the backdrop of this fractious relationship that F’lar and Lessa must learn the secrets buried in the ancient records of the dragon riders to marshal enough dragons and riders to defend Pern against the next Threadfall…


To date, I’ve never had a harder positive “somebody please buy this franchise” commentary to write. Usually, it’s just a matter of gushingly relating the scene or scenes that tipped me over into wanting to see a book become a movie. And the first entry in Anne McCaffrey’s long running Dragonriders of Pern series does have the highly visual moments that someone armed with the sales numbers of quite a few franchises that feature dragons will want to buy. But, if Dragonflight didn’t kick off a well-known franchise that might become the next Game of Thrones I’m not sure I would’ve recommended this book.

The core of the book, apart from the usage of dragons to fly around the skies of Pern and vaporize the dreaded Thread in mid-air (decades before the invention of the Space Invaders, Centipede, Galaxian, Galaga and Missile Command video games), concerns the budding relationship between Lessa and F’lar that due to the telepathic connection between a rider and his or her dragon happens in parallel to the dragons’ mating. The problem (likely to get beaten out of the movie script by the very expensive screenwriter assigned) is that the relationship itself didn’t really grab me the way good cinematic relationships should.

The relationship between the humans fell very quickly into a bare bones pro forma mini Battle of the Sexes where the man tries to keep the woman out of danger and the woman, like Lucy Ricardo, wants her equal time in Ricky’s show. At least when Billy Jean King smeared Bobby Riggs all across the tennis court, there was some halfway interesting tennis to look at (for a few minutes maybe). Yes, Ms. McCaffrey did play fair with why that ingrained sexism might develop in that the Dragonriders only had one queen dragon and you can’t use up the last one in just any battle. But, the writing of this relationship didn’t rise up very well.

Science fiction fans all over who want to see good properties get made into movies are probably warming up the hate mail for my temerity in thinking that a Hugo-winning book is anything less than perfect. But, it’s my opinion that awards in science fiction are more likely given out because of a brilliant concept like dragons and their human riders fly around the skies of a faraway planet preventing ecological disaster from space and that the human relationship in the foreground that could theoretically work against that goal might be overlooked.

However like many books in the amorphous category of In Between, Dragonflight has the seeds of a self-fix, ready when a screenwriter warms up his or her smoking word processor. This becomes very important when looking at the production status of the series (as of 2014 Warner Brothers has the franchise and has paid someone to write the first installment). What follows are my humble suggestions for using what Ms. McCaffrey already has on the page for making the movie great…

One way to distract from a blah relationship in an otherwise winning franchise is to inject external dramatic issues that on the page were hinted at and in one case resolved way too early. My first suggestion in this category: don’t kill off the tyrant conquering settlements too soon.

Killing off the tyrant, Fax, at the turn into the second act instead of having him linger as a possible distraction/hindrance to the drive to unify the various settlements of Pern really seemed like an inefficient use of dramatic story beats. Fax drumming up anti-support against the riders based on the fact that there hasn’t been a Threadfall for an unusually long time (copiously noted as possible in the various astronomical records of Pern) sounds like it could’ve been used to keep me on the edge of my seat. It helps to have a they could fail element to a story.

Fax could also have served to draw out the qualities of F’lar and Lessa well into the late second act. If the heroes have an uninformed ambitious foe that opposes them, imagine the possibilities if, say, F’lar decides to assassinate Fax for being too troublesome. Does F’lar relent from the killing because deep down he doesn’t kill people in cold blood? Does Fax see the light and join the program at the last minute because a Hold Lord doesn’t get to be lord if everybody’s dead?

Either of these solutions would make the otherwise prosaic and boring relationship between F’lar and Lessa seem deeper and more dramatically interesting. Something for the screenwriter to work on (we hope).

Another suggestion might be to simply write a real fractious relationship that matters due to the fact that if F’lar and Lessa can’t work it out, Pern basically dies. In the book, Lessa is aware of F’lar catting around with another of the candidates for being the dragon-queen’s rider. F’lar justifies this based on Lessa being very young and inexperienced can’t articulate her desires that he wishes to be honorable and not impose himself on a woman he cares for deeply.

The solution to this triangle proved brilliant: send the rival off with the very next queen egg to the southern continent to get reinforcements ready when Thread falls again. However, punching up the middle parts of the romantic dilemma with anything, even the cheap theatrics of thrown plates and a lot of yelling might give the reader/viewer the sense of real stakes. I hope the screenwriter sees this in time before real production money is put up in escrow.

Part of why I make these suggestions to bulk up the relationship of the two leads is that this book and franchise shows the pitfall with having a mindless antagonist force. Thread is a fascinating concept. However, once the various characters use their primitive astronomical tools to discover the orbital mechanics governing Threadfall the drama in the book is already over. The reader only stays with the story to see the results of the war preparations. I’m hoping for more when I finally see Dragonflight as a movie.

Otherwise, hack screenwriters will feel tempted to go really far afield to liven up a story with amazing Hugo-winning world building that has a boring story in the foreground. In the hands of these mythical hacks, Thread could be intelligent. Imagine Thread changing tactics in the middle of the bombardment? Or perhaps one of these intoxicated screenwriters might steal from the work of Fred Saberhagen and create a Berserker-style force of evil robots or starfaring aliens who wish to kill off the humans on Pern to facilitate conquest?

Have no fear, I do not actually advocate these last two suggestions. They clearly go into the category of being so far completely outside of what Anne McCaffrey and her continuation author, son Todd McCaffrey, intended for the franchise. I might reject any hate mail for saying that Dragonflight is imperfect because story threads weren’t fully realized on the page, but adding in evil robots would, in this case, be completely indefensible. My earlier suggestions have the virtue of being concepts that are already suggested on the page and just need shaping and sculpting to bring out. A huge difference.

I have always liked to make sure that I highlight something unreservedly good about the property under review. Dragonflight has it in spades what with the CGI visuals of dragons flying around playing Missile Command to save the planet of Pern. It is in those visuals that I recommend this book while expressing my hope that a screenwriter can make the movie be about more than just dragons flying around burning things.

Additionally, I did like the tricksy-tricksy usage of time travel defining the third act that can’t be talked about until after we all see the movie. It’s the ending and I don’t give away endings.

My last suggestion: I’m not sure that I see the franchise as a series of movies, but rather a TV series for HBO or Showtime. I think my go to for any property that has as much narrative built in over a nearly five decade publishing run like Pern is premium TV. However, the story analyst doesn’t always get what he wants.

So to sum up, we have a brilliant concept with a lot of thought given to the supporting science of ecological niches. We have a presently boring relationship that hints at the real drama possible in this future movie if the screenwriter feels brave enough to go there. We also have a view of dragons to provide a good counterpoint to Smaug in The Hobbit. Thus, I will tentatively RECOMMEND this book and the franchise of the Dragonriders of Pern, based on making Lessa and F’lar interesting to watch as a couple.

Fated by Benedict Jacka

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

Analyst: G.N. Jacobs © 2015

Title: Fated

Written by: Benedict Jacka

Format: Book____x Screenplay_____ Play_____ Article_____ Movie_____ Verbal Pitch_____ Short Story_________________

Grade:   Recommend_____ Maybe/Rewrite____x Pass_____

Logline: A mage specializing in divination magic must undergo a quest to secure an ancient magical artifact in the hopes of quelling conflict brewing between Britain’s Light and Dark Mages.


Alex Verus runs his shop, Arcana Emporeum, in the Camden Town section of north London. A refugee from a troubled past filled with people from very deep and black places in the human psyche, he likes the quiet that comes from selling tarot decks to the tourists and…specialty items to the few customers who know what they’re getting when they walk in the door. Alex sells Magic of the kind legends are built around (no one thought to ask if there might be a certain ring in the back intended “to rule them all”).

One day, Alex reads a book and uses his future telling divination for such prosaic things as shooing customers who are taking too long buying a crystal ball out of the store before said customer’s bicycle gets ticketed by the cops. And then a lot of unwelcome people and one welcome person pop by or otherwise insert themselves into Alex’s life.

It begins with Lyle, a former friend dropping by to hire Alex on the QT for a magical archeology gig that needs a diviner. Or trouble could come from Luna, the current holder of an ancient Sicilian curse that causes bad luck for those around her who has found yet another interesting bit of magic for Alex’s store. And we haven’t even gotten to the Dark Mages, yet.

Thus, begins a mostly breakneck journey through nighttime London where Alex and Luna stay ahead of the Dark Mages intent on opening an ancient statue of a long dead Light Mage to get at weapons no one, Light or Dark, knows how to make these days. Even the Light Mages want the fateweaver, the plutonium McGuffin of this magical tale, and aren’t too shy about hurting inconvenient people that get in their way.

Fueled by Alex’s ability to see the right course of action most of the time, Luna and he run around London and other nearby hotspots in the gloom of modern Britain where most people don’t believe in Magic. The other diviners took a powder seeing this conflict coming, while Alex hadn’t bothered to look thinking himself safe from both the Light Council and the temporary association of Dark Mages.

The highlights of this chase, include a visit to Arachne the Giant Spider for clothes to help out at a wizard party held on the closed off top floor of the tallest building in Britain. The wizard party and a whole lot of flying trips courtesy of Alex’s friend Starbreeze, an air elemental. Naturally, the roadshow visits the British Museum several times and manages to blow up key pieces in the collection. All leading to a conclusion that forces Alex to come to terms with his past as a former apprentice to a particularly nasty Dark Mage…


As is, I really don’t feel any burning need to see ‘Fated’ as a movie. But, I want to make it clear that there is enough here that the right screenwriter will be able to turn this book into a passable movie adventure. Similarly, I never thought ‘Casino Royale’ would turn out as well as it did based on my least favorite Bond book. If the rest of the books in the Alex Verus series prove better for the movies, then the entity buying the rights may want to pick them up in a package deal for the whole series.

Mr. Jacka does a workman-like job building a world just beneath the surface. Yes, I would like to visit Hempstead Heath to see if Arachne might fit me for a new suit. And I’m rarely opposed to the occasional literary pipe bomb in a museum. However, I found the book to be mostly predictable in terms of plot.

For instance, at nearly the exact center of the book Alex makes a decision to stand up for himself according to the storytelling dicta detailed in many screenwriting manuals. And very little of what I liked about this book serves to disguise the plot formula that is readily apparent in the stripped down (300-ish page) version of the story.

Believe it or not, I’m actually advocating for a longer book in this case possibly to the tune of 100 pages or so. One way to disguise the formula laid bare by gutting this book to the bone is to add in more scenes that reveal Alex’s character and his interaction with Luna. The Midpoint Decision, the Inciting Incident and so forth will still happen in the same places because storytelling theory says these concepts are psychologically immutable. But, the extra character moments would serve to disguise the formula with the illusion of the lumpiness of real life that in just the right doses makes good plots seem real.

I wanted these nonexistent 100 pages because when you have someone as interesting and human as Alex Verus, take the Ferrari out for a spin, Man! First off at the level of plot, stretch out the second act with more ambushes in deep dark woods where Alex hides with Luna and whispers a joke to her to get her mind off her fear. Maybe these extra second act scenes needed an anti-divination Mage who when he’s in line of sight clouds Alex’s ability to see and he has to improvise. Maybe, in a slow moment, Alex should get the mostly unrevealed Luna talking about herself over coffee. Any of these tricks would do the most important thing for the benefit of the screenwriter, director and actors assigned to adapt this book…give more clues to these characters.

As is I feel sorry for the actress who would have to play Luna, because other than her one-note of – “keep away, I hurt people who get too close!” – I don’t see what kind of hooks exist in the book to inform any sort of performance. The screenwriter will have to build them and hope the actress and later the audience will come.

As a book, I didn’t waste my time with ‘Fated’, but I feel the story was gutted too close to the bone by, I hope, the editor. From the point of view of a reader, the longer book costs the same as a shorter book until the page count gets way up in the phone book range. From the point of view of a potential moviegoer, we don’t know enough about the world and any characters not named Alex Verus to enjoy ourselves. So let’s hope somebody good gets this franchise and builds in these apparently extraneous character moments only to trim them out for the movie.

The Mote in God’s Eye

Posted: February 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

Analyst: G.N. Jacobs © 2014

Title: The Mote in God’s Eye

Written by: Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Format:  Book____X Screenplay_____ Play_____ Article_____ Movie_____ Verbal Pitch_____

Grade:   Recommend____X Maybe/Rewrite_____ Pass_____

Logline: A human starship captain leads the first-ever first contact expedition and faces a tough moral decision about the aliens.


The story follows the newly appointed Captain of the Imperial Ship MacArthur, Commander Rodrick Harold, Lord Blaine, that begins after his first assignment: putting down a planetary rebellion. The Human Empire simply refuses to let humans be independent of its authority. Blaine’s victory comes quickly and he transports a variety of passengers to the nearest port, including some who are suspected of financing the revolt.

Meanwhile in a far reach of space known as the Trans-Coal Sack sector, a planetary governor supervises the boarding of a light sailing ship approaching on an interstellar vector from a nearby star. The mission discovers a furry three-armed alien dead in its freezer tube. Blaine and the MacArthur get the call because they are the closest ship to the area and coincidentally have an anthropologist, Lady Sally Fowler, a niece of an Imperial Senator aboard as a result of the rebellion.

The trajectory of the alien ship is quickly calculated to come from a nearby dwarf star that lies between the observing planet and a red giant star known as Murcheson’s Eye. Humans named the dwarf star The Mote because it looks like an occlusion in the Eye. Various astrogators calculate that the only jump point to The Mote lies in the photosphere of Murcheson’s Eye, possibly explaining why the aliens never developed jump engines.

Captain Blaine waits just long enough for the larger Imperial Ship Lenin with an Admiral in command before jumping to The Mote. The human ships have Black Globe shields that provide perfect protection until they overload and detonate the ship. The shields protect the ships in the red giant’s photosphere long enough to make the second jump to The Mote. The Admiral makes it clear that the Lenin was ordered to the clambake to prevent jump engine and Black Globe technology from falling into the aliens’ hands.

The humans find what appears to be a nice and friendly species of large three-armed teddy bears. From the first ship crewed by a member of the Engineer caste, the aliens are eager to learn as much about humans as the vice versa. Much of the early plot is taken up with cultural exchanges conducted by everyone being on their best diplomatic behavior.

The Moties, as the humans take to calling the aliens, are biologically separated into castes: Rulers, Negotiators, Engineers and Soldiers. They have one large arm for strength tasks and two smaller arm on the other side of the body for fine motor tasks. But, these seemingly friendly beings have a dark secret: explosive population growth. With the exception of the Negotiator caste who are sterile mules between Rulers and Engineers, Moties are born female, get pregnant while still very young and then spontaneously change to male and then impregnate other females before becoming female again. The human expedition does pick up clues to the Moties’ population problem, but the failure to analyze the pieces in a more timely fashion defines the story.

Clue One: the Engineer encountered when the human squadron first arrives bags up a male and female of a subspecies referred to as ‘Watchmaker’ in an airtight bag and vents her ship to vacuum before doing an EVA over to the MacArthur. Once aboard, the Watchmakers spread out, mate incessantly and tinker with everything. The mating cycle amuses the crew.

Clue Two: On visits to the planet, the humans discover that the most highly defended buildings are the ‘libraries’ and not the palaces of the Rulers as the humans expect. The fortifications go far beyond anything a human would do to the tune of twenty-foot thick walls and gates more at home at the Cheyenne Mountain complex.

Clue Three: In anthropological discussions with Lady Fowler, the Negotiators assigned to her ask her about human reproduction with special emphasis on controlling the human birth rate. She answers honestly about condoms, the Pill and the preferred abstinence (at least for upper class women). The reciprocal answers are intentionally vague.

Needless to say, this plot setup results in quite a lot of surprise violence in the third act including the loss of the MacArthur to a runaway infestation of Watchmakers. When confronted with the knowledge of the population issue, the Negotiators aboard the Lenin explain the final piece of the puzzle: they kill each other in civil wars that cull the herd. The libraries preserve knowledge so that the Moties won’t revert to the Stone Age with each cycle. The Negotiators tell the humans that the aliens will be jealous of humans and ‘we are coming, you must kill us all.’ Captain Blaine faces a decision between wiping out the planet and some other course of action that protects the human empire from the Moties…


Cards on the table, I have really wanted to see The Mote in God’s Eye as a movie for almost twenty years now. However, I do agree that up until now this book has been a tough adaptation, so tough that no one has tried.

Until The Lord of the Rings taught us what motion capture (Gollum) could do for the filmmaker, you would never even think about rendering large three-armed teddy bears in a live-action movie. Even today, I anticipate that based on the costs associated with similar projects like John Carter of Mars that many producers and directors will freak out and tell their agents to get them on the next Marvel or DC superhero movie. It will be expensive, less so with each passing year.

The screenwriter will also have to pay special attention towards punching up the script and the characters therein. I consider the characters to be more serviceable than memorable, except where they are memorable for being easy to drop. There are also too many characters to do justice to in a movie, so combining many is in order.

One character in particular, Horace Bury, the scheming Arab suspected of financing the rebellion must go for being an awful stereotype that contributes nothing to the plot except to fix the wardroom’s coffee machine and declare the Moties “Evil.” Because there are characters, which function only to deal with Bury we get to lose them, too.

Another thing the screenwriter will need to do is invent plot devices for the first and second acts where the action is slower due to the book essentially being a story about cultural anthropology and other science. Audiences for literary sci-fi have more tolerance for the science and discovery; film audiences do not, just ask the people behind Michael Crichton’s Sphere. I would suggest crewmembers that go missing when they discover the Moties’ secret.

However, the third act saves the book and will save the script. The hard vacuum spacesuit evacuation of the MacArthur is just too powerful not to put on screen. The crew must get out because the Watchmakers have run amok and then the Lenin blows up the other ship. Gave me chills.

Also, there is a key subplot involving three midshipmen that crash on the planet when the shooting starts. It is very poignant to see them sacrifice themselves by asking their assigned Negotiators to kill them to prevent the leak of the Black Globe. The right screenwriter will turn this into an awesome movie. BUY IT ALREADY!