Amazon Developing ‘Consider Phlebas’ as a Fantasy Drama Series

Announced today:

‘Amazon Studios is developing a fantasy drama series based on the novels about an interstellar utopian society by Scottish author Iain M. Banks.

The digital giant has acquired worldwide rights to “Consider Phlebas,” the first novel in the series about a world known as “the Culture.” Dennis Kelly (“Matilda”) is on board to adapt the book for Amazon Studios and Plan B Entertainment.

“The story of the Culture is so rich and captivating that for years Hollywood has been trying to bring this utopian society to life on the screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, head of scripted series at Amazon Studios. “We are honored that we have been chosen, along with Dennis Kelly and Plan B Entertainment, to make ‘Consider Phlebas’ into a television series we think will be loved by fans for years to come.”

Published in 1987, “Consider Phlebas” revolves around a war that erupts between the Culture, a highly advanced and progressive society, and the Idirans, a deeply religious, war-like race intent on dominating the galaxy.

“Iain Banks has long been a hero of mine, and his innate warmth, humor and humanism shines through these novels,” said Kelly. “Far from being the dystopian nightmares that we are used to, Banks creates a kind of flawed paradise, a society truly worth fighting for — rather than a warning from the future, his books are a beckoning.”

The Banks estate is on board as an executive producer with Plan B and Kelly.

“Consider Phlebas” is in keeping with the kind of epic fantasy fare that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has sought for the entertainment arm of his empire. Amazon Studios is in the midst of an executive transition following the appointment earlier this month of NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke as its new leader.’

Iain M. Banks’ Culture series is one of my favourite science fiction series of all time. The breadth and scope of Banks’ writing is stunning. His imagination and creativity were second to none. The Culture, as a television series, will be extremely difficult to translate.

While I applaud Amazon’s effort in attempting what is perhaps the most difficult novel in the Culture series (being the very first), I do wonder if Dennis Kelly understands the series well enough to do it justice. The Culture requires, I believe, a touch of madness in order to capture the depth and feel that this universe requires. Straight forward adaptations will simply be stiff and wooden. And if they rely on CGI to dazzle viewers instead of presenting the story, warts and all, the way Banks intended, this show will be a failure.

I’m excited by the news that Amazon Studios are developing Consider Phlebas. I’m also going to keep my expectations low. I hope they do a wonderful job, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

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