A long time ago, before the word lockdown had entered our everyday vocabulary, I borrowed two books from the library.
They were The Island of Adventure and The Sea of Adventure, both being novels based on the Cloud 9 TV adaptation of the Adventure Series.
Then, very recently, some 15 or so months after first borrowing the books, I finally read one.
From bad to worse
In my reviews of the Adventure Series adaptations I’m honest about thinking they’re not very good. They’re better than the Secret Series ones, but that’s not saying much. On the whole they’re moderately interesting and I suspect had they been original works, they’d have been just fine. But as Blyton adaptations they mess with them so much that they don’t always resemble the original books.
If it’s possible, the book is even worse than the TV episode. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. Normally I really enjoy reading the book version of a TV show or film I’ve already seen, regardless of which existed first. I enjoy reading the way it all played out originally in the original book, or if it’s a novelisation then I enjoy the added insights you get into the characters’ thoughts.
The book is the worst of both worlds. It takes an already dubious screenplay and then attempts to make it a novel. A film or TV show adapting a book has to make changes as things that work on the page don’t always work on screen. For example characters’ inner thoughts are hard to show on-screen unless you have a voice over, or some special effects are too difficult or expensive to pull off.
The reverse is also true, perhaps to a lesser extent.
On-screen we learn who everyone is through natural dialogue – whereas in the book (as with Blyton’s book) the characters are named in the narration. We also get some of their background early on; such as Jack and Lucy-Ann’s relationship. It wouldn’t really have worked any other way – to have “the boy” fall out of a tree and argue with “the other boy” until they get back to camp where we learn Lucy-Ann and Jack’s names as it would be cumbersome and confusing.
What doesn’t work so well are the paragraphs describing Bill as he acts suspiciously watching the gallery and so on. Obviously when watching the TV episode we don’t know who he is, and we just have to watch those short scenes where he’s in his car watching. They’re intriguing, they leave us wondering.
The first time Bill is mentioned is in the closing paragraph of chapter one:
They didn’t notice the stranger observing them from his open-topped black sports car. Even after they’d gone back inside the gallery he continued watching like a hawk.
Then half-way through chapter two, jammed in between two bits of dialogue is:
Outside, from the cliffs near the house, the stranger in the open-topped sports car was scanning the island through binoculars. Then he swung round until he got a good close-up of Craggy Tops.
At the start of chapter three:
Outside, the strange an who’d been watching Craggy Tops parked his open-topped black sports car, walked up the steps and entered the gallery.
It’s just such childish writing! It’s as if someone watched the episode and simply transcribed exactly what they saw without adding any sort of detail or background. The man isn’t described at all, not his build, colourings or expression. The descriptions of the car are annoyingly repetitive, though.
Right after the last quote, suddenly the man is referred to as Bill with no explanation, but he is also the stranger and the strange man on the next page.
Another bizarre reworking is the conversation Bill has with Sir George over the radio. In the episode we cut to Sir George and then only hear his side of the conversation. In the book is says that Philip can hear Sir George’s voice coming over the radio but we still only get his side of the conversation!
After that, on-screen Sir George mutters to himself then make a phone call, and we cut to Bill and Philip in Bill’s car arriving at the dock. The book skips the Sir George extra and woodenly describes what Bill and Philip do:
“Quick,” said Bill to Philip as soon as he’d finished his conversation. “We need to get over to that island as soon as possible.”
They raced outside, jumped into his car, drove to the jetty and boarded the Crescendo.
I’m generally quite generous when it comes to rating books, I give most things at least three stars but usually four. This got one star, however.
As I said earlier, the writer didn’t have the best material to work with, but the writing is bland and uninteresting. It’s honestly as if a child has written it – or an adult was given the script and one hour to turn it into a novel.
I didn’t do a word for word read/watch through but I did for a few scenes and I would say 80-90% of the dialogue is exactly the same but there are some unimportant changes made, for no obvious reason that I could see. One or two scenes are reorganised, perhaps to make the reading less choppy as the TV episode does occasionally alternate between scenes occurring at the same time.
In short: I do not recommend. Watch the TV show if you like, it’s not the worst way to spend a few hours but don’t waste your time on this book. It’s an affront to have Enid Blyton’s name on the front of it.