Continuing our coverage of excellent novels that have somehow been overlooked for Hollywood feature adaptations, today we’ll visit the first book in a Gothic urban fantasy trilogy. Before you scoff, this isn’t another “young teen girl is revealed to have supernatural abilities but is torn between two equally-attractive and powerful guys.” This story pits assassins against heathens and angels against gods, all taking place in a city of chains suspended over a bottomless abyss. That’s something you don’t see every day. Want to know more? Then hit the jump! Hollywood! Adapt this: Alan Campbell’s Scar Night.
The first book in what’s known as the Deepgate Codex, Scar Night takes place in the fictional city of Deepgate. Campbell’s depiction of the city itself might be the strongest visual image throughout the entire book and it’s a great introduction to his cinematic style of storytelling. Deepgate is Gothic architecture gone wild, a city supported by massive anchoring chains drawn across a yawning abyss that supposedly houses the outcast angel-God, Ulcis. Built upon this web of chains – which vary in all sizes from the massive foundation links to small roped-together sections susceptible to collapse from fraying knots – the city sags under its own weight. At its center, the Temple of Ulcis, where townsfolk come to sacrifice their dead to the god of resurrection far below. But the temple houses other secrets…
As a symbol of their power and devotion, the priests of the temple keep a young angel named Dill at the center of their stronghold. Naive and relatively weak compared to more experienced angel warriors, Dill is paraded in front of the townsfolk as a reminder of Ulcis’ word and the temple’s power. The church also wields two military arms: an army of military warships and soldiers who have the chemical weapons of the poisoner Devon at their disposal, and a private sect of assassins known as the Spine. One such assassin, a troubled teenage named Rachel, is assigned to train Dill.
Complicating matters in the war between the followers of Ulcis and the heathen worshipers of Ayen who populate the surrounding desert is a rogue angel-warrior named Carnival. Once a month, the scarred angel haunts the skies over Deepgate, hunting for a living body to drain of blood in order to consume their soul. The agents of the Spine attempt to prevent this, but Carnival foils them each and every time on that month’s Scar Night.
A bit of mystery is added to the story as the Spine assassins noticed that more bodies are piling up than can be accounted for by Carnival’s single victim. They begin to suspect that someone is concocting Angelwine, a potent and madness-inducing distillation of souls that grants immortality.
As you can probably tell from the above synopsis, Scar Night could prove to be a bit complicated for a single feature film. On the other hand, I feel like it lacks the depth to be stretched into a series. While it would be much more fitting for Campbell’s visual style to be showcased on the big screen with a big budget, it could also be interesting to further develop the cast – and castes – of characters present in Scar Night. There are even more supporting players than mentioned above that I would like to see, including Mr. Nettle, an amiable father who descends into vengeful madness when his daughter is killed.
As long as I get to see Deepgate, the city of chains, I’m happy. It might be the coolest bit of world building since Philip Reeve’s Traction Cities in Mortal Engines and the Hungry City Chronicles.
The Final Word:
Scar Night, and the complex follow-ups Iron Angel and God of Clocks, might actually be better off left in their novel forms. I certainly think there’s more than enough material here for someone to craft a scripted television series or a movie screenplay from, but the plot might be a bit too out there for the casual audience. It’s doubtful that any major studio would be willing to back this project financially and that’s a shame. Audiences will be missing out on some of the most imaginative writing out there in recent years. Perhaps Campbell’s connections in the video game world – he previously helped design games for Rockstar – will bridge the divide some day. Either way, check out Campbell’s Deepgate Codex, starting with Scar Night, and keep an eye on him for future writings.
Next week on Hollywood! Adapt This, we’ll head back to the relatively untapped market of live-action anime adaptations. I know a lot of you are strongly opposed to these suggestions. All I can say is, maybe you should put a bounty on my head. Sixty-billion double-dollars should just about do it.