The other night, my son asked me what my favorite book is. This is a fairly difficult question, because I’ve read a lot of books, and the best ones are great in different ways. There are books that are great because of their subject matter, there are books that are great because of the way they’re written, there are books that are great because they hit your heart, or your gut, or your head, or a combination of the three. There are books that are great simply because they are Great Literature. In fact, one’s favorite book doesn’t necessarily even have to be a Great Book. “Well,” I replied, “there are the best book I’ve ever read, and then there are my favorite book, the one that I can pick up again and again and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time I read it. My favorite book? It was written by a guy named William Brinkley, and it’s called The Last Ship.”
Now, you’ve probably never heard of The Last Ship, but you’re about to, and it will be for the entirely wrong reason. William Brinkley was a former reporter who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He wrote a few books, but is best known for two: a comic novel about WW II sailors called Don’t Go Near The Water, which was made into a popular movie in the late 50s, and The Last Ship, a decidedly unfunny novel about the crew of a U.S. Navy destroyer who seem to be the sole survivors of a global nuclear war. The crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James sails the globe looking for a safe haven, and deals with mutiny, nuclear winter, and a pretty creepy mystery which I won’t spoil for you here. Told from the point-of-view of the ship’s captain, the book reads like a mashup of Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road; the writer’s voice itself is a character of sorts, with one reviewer saying that the book reads as if the captain’s intent was to preserve the English language for future generations. It’s beautifully written, and thematically deep: man’s inability to control what he invents, the burdens of command and the morality of following orders without question, even the complex power relationships between men and women (about a quarter of the titular vessel’s crew are female, and when it appears that they are in fact the last surviving women on Earth, things get pretty interesting). There’s been a rise in highbrow genre fiction over the last few years, with literary-minded authors like McCarthy, Colson Whitehead (Zone One), and Justin Cronin (The Passage) writing about a post-nuclear apocalyptic world, zombies, and vampires respectively. But in my opinion, Brinkley’s book outshines them all.
So of course Michael Bay had to come along and fuck it up.
TNT is greenlighting a Bay-produced TV series based on The Last Ship. And when I say “based on”, I mean “borrowing the title from, and ditching pretty much everything else about”. The folks at io9.com got their hands on the script, and have revealed some details. In Bay’s version, there’s some sort of plague which looks like it might wipe out humanity, and the U.S.S. Nathan James is tasked with finding a cure, or something. It seems that the crew of the James still reports to the U.S. government, and that they’re worried about their families back home. (The reason that the book is called The Last Ship? SPOILER ALERT: because EVERYONE ELSE IS DEAD BECAUSE OF ALL OF THE EXPLODING NUCLEAR BOMBS.) The show will feature a team of Navy SEALs (why are they on a Navy destroyer? It’s a Bay production, so one must assume that the Navy SEALs are on board so that they can do a slo-mo walk towards the camera while an Aerosmith song plays in the background), and a beautiful paleomicrobiologist (why is there a beautiful paleomicrobiologist on a Navy destroyer? It’s a Bay production, so one must assume that she’s there to work on her motorcycle while a camera does a slow pan across her Daisy Duke-shorts-clad ass). The pilot will be directed by Bay-clone Jonathan Mostow, who gave us the infinitely forgettable Terminator 3, which is probably why he’s now directing a TNT pilot. So, to sum up, my favorite book, Michael Bay turns it into a show, ass shots, explosions, American flags waving while helicopters fly overhead, and lots and lots of slo-mo. Next up for Michael Bay: an adaptation of La Boheme, featuring Kevin James farting through a bugle in lieu of, you know, actual singing. And explosions.