Book Review: Gremlins (novelisation)

‘Stripe balled his short pointed fingers into something resembling fists…’

The humble movie novelisation is a curious beast. Adapting a beloved novel to the screen makes perfect sense, but adapting a screenplay to a book? There is a lingering stench of futility and cash in about the whole enterprise. And yet here we are…

We know the story by now. Billy Peltzer acquires an adorable and mysterious creature only for said creature to mutate and become something deadly and terrifying.

Writer George Gipe (sadly departed following a reaction to a bee sting) was no slouch. Aside from co-writing a pair of Steve Martin comedies in the shape of Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and The Man with Two Brains, Gipe also wrote the novelisations for beloved ’80s classics Back to the Future and Gremlins. Being a favourite from my childhood, I’ve owned the latter novelisation for many years and returning to it now as an adult only served to highlight my inexorable slide into suffocating nostalgia. Yummy.

Whilst largely remaining faithful to the source material, Gipe does add in some nonsense about Gizmo and his kind hailing from outer space. While this is mildly entertaining, it shouldn’t be considered canon. Indeed, HBO Max’s 2023 animated series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai dispensed with this element of the backstory entirely. Some elements Gipe added do work, however. Gaining a narrative insight into Gizmo’s innermost thoughts and feelings is a fascinating process, and Gipe does a good job of providing insight without demystifying the character completely. The moments in which Gizmo and Stripe trade barbs are also immensely satisfying.

The Gremlins novelisation should only be read by massive fans of the film, but if you’ve seen the movie a thousand times but fancy staying within that world for an hour or two, Gipe’s book delivers. Now, let’s see what the cartoon has to offer…