the Little Red Reviewer

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Novelization) by Steven Spielberg

Posted on: January 18, 2015

close encounters bookClose Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg

published in 1977

where I got it: purchased used

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Raise your hand if you saw that blog post title and immediately heard five musical notes.

 

Novelizations are tricky beasts to review, because for the most part the author isn’t in control of the plot or characters. It’s hard to judge it as a story, because it’s based on something that hadn’t originally been meant to be presented as words on a page. Something that looks fan-freaking-tastic on the big screen might not translate so well to the page, you know? My attitude towards novelizations is do they add to my enjoyment of a movie? If it’s a movie I’ve never seen, does reading the novelization make me want to see the movie? (That actually happened. Read a very enjoyable novelization in early 2014, liked it so much I bought a movie ticket. and the movie was awful!)

 

Reading the novelization of Close Encounters of The Third Kind was absolute pure nostalgic fun.  The movie was a huge part of my child and young adulthood, and reading the novelization was a fun way to experience the movie in a different way. The book is a direct line for line, scene for scene novelization of the movie, but I was happily surprised by the deeper characterization and smoother pacing (I always felt the middle of the movie where Roy is figuring his shit out gets really slow and draggy). Or maybe I liked the pacing better in the book because I could control being able to linger in my favorite scenes, and zip through the less interesting ones.  That’s a nice thing about novelizations: the reader controls the pace.

So, did the book add to my enjoyment of the movie? Unequivocally and unabashedly YES.  I saw the joy and wonder in everyone’s faces, I was hearing their voice, I laughed when Ronnie assumes Roy is going through a mid-life crisis and then my heart broke a little when she finally loses patience with him.  As soon as we got to the scene where Jillian “loses” Barry, I knew how the scene to end and that made it even harder to get through, because I knew what it would do to her.

 

Something that had me laughing out loud near the beginning of the book is the UFO chase scene.  Roy Neary is out checking electrical lines while the police are chasing a UFO.  Roy lives north of Indianapolis, and the chase scene takes the cops and Roy as far north as the 80/90 Tollway in northern Indiana.  But this scene was filmed in southern California, offering plenty of opportunities for hairpin turns, vistas, and roads built into the sides of rolling hills which are faithfully recounted in the book. There are no hairpin turns or vistas in northern Indiana, the landscape is flat as a pancake. Recounting a scene that was filmed in California and taking advantage of California environs, but trying to tell me we’re in a dramatized Indiana? I thought it was hysterical.

 

Of course, you’ll want to know how the big famous scene at the end wad one in the book.  I was visualizing it in my head as I was reading it, so for me it was just as glorious and huge on the page as it was on the screen. I could practically hear the piano player going crazy on the synthesizer, I could practically see the display light up with different colors, and when the ship answers back with that deep reverberating tuba, I felt it in my bones.  I loved it, and I wanted this scene to never end (and yes, it ends the way the original theatrical release ends, not the extended  Director’s Cut ending that even Spielberg didn’t like).

 

So, okay, you got me. This blog post is less review and more love letter to one of my favorite childhood science fiction movies and the joy the novelization brought me.

 

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Your turn: Did you love the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  Have you had a great experience with a movie novelization?

 

15 Responses to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Novelization) by Steven Spielberg"

Yes! Orson Scott Card’s novelization of “The Abyss” gave background and depth to the characters, which is the element of every story that either pulls me in or doesn’t. I started reading a fast-paced spy novel last fall that had arson and car chases and globe-trotting, but the protagonist’s flat character and puzzling lack of concern for his hospitalized wife were so annoying I still haven’t finished the book. Different strokes, I guess; some people want a rip-roaring plot and don’t care about “all that domestic crap,” as my father once said of Ken Follet’s “The Pillars of the Earth”!

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Ha! well, Pillars of the Earth is a total soap opera.😉 And now i gotta track down The Abyss novelization because I freakin’ LOVE that movie!

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Thanks for this, Andrea. You know, I was not even aware Spielberg wrote a novel… For me it has always been the movie, one impossible to forget!

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do you wonder if this was ghost written though? because I do.

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Probably by Alan Dean Foster if I had to make a guess. Personally I don’t read novelizations. I figure the only motivation for writing one is money which kind of turns me off.

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It makes sense…interesting question indeed.

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I love the movie, it’s definitely on the list of movies that I try to rewatch, usually every time it comes on TV. I didn’t even know there was a novelization, and for some reason I didn’t know this was an original screeplay. It sounds like a lot of fun, if I ever ran across the book, I would get it for sure!

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I haven’t seen this movie since I was a kid and I thought it was woefully boring at the time. But your review of the novelization makes me want to try it as an adult and see how I like it.

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i always thought the middle was awfully boring. Even now, i can only get through the draggy middle because i know what’s coming later.

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Years ago I picked up a copy of Event Horizon (the novelization), and by the time I was done with it, began to wonder if the movie was based on the book. The characters were well fleshed out, the backstory with regard to “where the Event Horizon went” was expanded upon, and overall, the novel did not have that “adaptation” feel. Much superior to the film.

As to Close Encounters, what’s not to love?!

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Ahh, Event Horizon. my favorite hate to love it/love to hate it movie. Who did the novelization?

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I actually had to look it up. Steven Mcdonald. Last book written in 2004 and it was a tie-in with Kevin Sorbo’s Andromeda. Zoinks.

It’s a shame he’s not more prolific, based on what I read (mind you, this was a long time ago). Event Horizon (the novel) is something you should flip through next time you see it at a used book store. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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This is a great movie – so glad you enjoyed the book. And I had no idea that the movie had been novelised! Or Event Horizon or The Abyss – look, it’s difficult to keep abreast of all these things when you live under a rock! Oh well, this is why you all are here to keep me in the know. Lol.
Thanks
Lynn😀

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Weird,..I just finished reading this and was doing research on who actually ghost-wrote the book to find this blog was written in the last month. What’re the odds of two people reading the same obscure adaptation and asking the same questions at the same time? Incidentally, the novel was written by Leslie Waller.

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with nerds like us, the chances are actually pretty good!🙂

btw, how were you able to discover it had really been written by Leslie Waller?

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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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