Bookshelf: Land of the Giants

Land of the Giants
By Murray Leinster
First Published September 1968
Published by Pyramid Books
156 Pages

I’ve never seen Land of the Giants, although I want to. All 51 episodes have been available for free through Hulu for years but I just haven’t had the time to sit down and watch any. That’s unfortunate because Murray Leinster’s Land of the Giants appears to be based–at least in part–on the the pilot episode. The word “novelization” isn’t mentioned anywhere (the cover states that it is “based on the spectacular ABC-TV series”) but the novel chronicles the journey of the Spindrift from Los Angeles to the Land of the Giants.

Land of the Giants Front
Land of the Giants Front – Copyright 1968 Pyramid Books

Because I haven’t seen the pilot episode of Land of the Giants I can’t say how similiar the story in the novel is. The series premiered on September 22nd, 1968 and Land of the Giants was first published in September of 1968. So it must have been written some time earlier. It’s likely Leinster was working with scripts and production material when he wrote the novel so even if he was trying to stick close to the plot of the series there could easily be differences resulting from changes made during production of the series.

In any event, Land of the Giants begins by introducing the crew of the Spindrift: the pilot, Steve Burton, the co-pilot, Dan Erickson, and the stewardess, Betty Hamilton. Interestingly, the passengers, aside from young Barry and his dog Chipper, aren’t even named for quite a long time. Valerie Scott (often referred to as “the girl”) is named on page 47. The remaining two passengers — Fitzhugh and Wilson — are introduced on page 50 but never get first names. The bulk of the novel revolves around Steve Burton and Dan Erickson. That may be the way episodes of the series worked as well.

One aspect of Land of the Giants that I don’t believe was reflected in the television series was the introduction of Marjorie. She’s found caged in a shed, a captive of two giants who also capture Valerie. Steve frees Valerie and later returns with others to save Marjorie, who reveals that she was a passenger on another ship like the Spindrift (the Anne) that crashed on the Land of the Giants. The others are all dead. Marjorie returns in the second Land of the Giants novel, also written by Murray Leinster, and may be an original creation of his.

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Back
Land of the Giants Back – Copyright 1968 Pyramid Books

Perhaps once I get a chance to watch the pilot episode of Land of the Giants I’ll revisit this novel. But as someone who hasn’t seen the show, it was a fun read. Leinster does a fine job explaining the “science” that brought the Spindrift to the Land of the Giants. And he makes the giant’s society seem real. I’d be interested in what a fan of Land of the Giants thinks of the novel. Is it an interesting take on the concept of the series or are the differences frustrating?

2 Replies to “Bookshelf: Land of the Giants”

  1. As a fan of LAND OF THE GIANTS, I thought this first novelization by Murray Leinster did a fine job of capturing the spirit of the series as well as expanding on certain aspects of it. The book spends more time rationalizing the science of it all which tends to drag a bit, whereas the show got down to the basics emphasizing action and suspense. It is better to familiarize oneself with the show first which will enhance appreciation for the novel.

  2. I think the book series was written before the TV show aired. Other than the characters and setting, the stories didn’t match. Leinster does give a good reason as to why the giants were concerned about the Earthlings appearing on their world. Humans could not communicate with the giants (though there was not a cooperative attempt to do so) in the novels; originally in the show this was to also be the case but that was dropped due to difficulties with the story lines (comparable to “The Walking Dead” where one can’t communicate with the dead so story lines revolve around the living within and without the protagonist’s group but LOTG had too few humans for this to work). In the novels it was hard to picture the size of the humans when compared to the giants; in the TV show, size seemed to be variable until they settled on 5 – 6 inches as this was the size of available doll props (for example, the humans seemed to be about 2 inches tall in the pilot). Like all Irwin Allen shows it started out serious but then got silly ( though not as silly as Lost in Space). With current special effects (see “Indian in the Cupboard” for the best example), it could be rebooted, perhaps as a disaster film with a larger cast (in tribute to Allen’s disaster films), but as I understand it, the legal rights are a tangled mess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.