Book Versus Film … Or TV Series!
In 2019, I read a romance/thriller with a sci-fi element. Romance and thriller are separately two of my favorite genres. Since I pick novels according to the plot, the concept of John Marrs’ bestseller The One (published in 2016) fascinated me.
I was thrilled that Netflix adapted this novel into a series. Having binged the 8 episodes in 2 days, I’m here to give a book vs. series comparison.
It’s also impossible to do the analysis without giving some spoilers. Bear in mind I’ll be spoiling the series and the novel separately because they differ in their twists.
You’ve been warned.
The Book: Romance/Thriller
The One is set in the near future, 20 years after scientists have discovered DNA matching. A quick swab into your mouth, and you’ll find the love of your life, aka The One.
It’s in your genes to fall and stay in love with this person.
Expectedly, this has caused a major spike in breakups and divorces of couples who got together prior to this breakthrough, which has gained founder/scientist/CEO Ellie enemies as well as fans.
The book follows Ellie, as well as four other main characters who have either willingly matched or been tricked into matching with The One. We see how their relationships go, and the impact of this match on the other aspects of their lives.
Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger, and the next chapter is about another character. We are always on our toes, no matter whose story we are reading. And because one of the five protagonists is a serial killer, this is a book anything can happen.
Ellie is a tough workaholic. Men she has dated were disappointing one way or the other, but she can’t resist when she matches with a modest, witty, and disarming guy named Timothy. Initially, she hides her identity and wealth for a better relationship. When Timothy finds out the truth, he understands and accepts her reasons. But that’s only because he has bigger secrets of his own.
Christopher is a serial killer. He is a psychopath and has decided to become the most-talked-about serial killer in history. He’ll achieve this by killing 30 women and stopping after – without getting caught. He’s achieving his goals until he meets his match: the smart police officer Amy. At first, he finds it thrilling to be leading a double life and dating a cop. But the more time he spends with her, the more he falls in love. Killing becomes increasingly more difficult.
Nick is happily engaged to Sally, but their married friends Deepak and Sumaira are married and “matched,” and swear by the DNA test. Nick finally gives into Sally’s curiosity, and while she says she didn’t get a match, they are both shocked to find Nick’s match is a man named Alexander.
Jade’s been talking to her match farmer Kevin on the phone as he doesn’t use Skype and the like. She’s upset he is located in Australia. When she visits him, she gets the shock of her life: Kevin’s dying of cancer. Not only that, the fireworks and explosions are caused by his brother Mark.
Mandy can’t wait to meet her match Richard, but she soon learns that he is dead and meets his family at a memorial service. She quickly bonds with his sister and mom. She feels that she already loves him, and after some thought, she agrees to carry his baby. (He had donated his sperm after a bout with cancer when he was young.)
All five characters get more twists and turns with each chapter.
The Series: Romance/Thriller/Crime
The series is set two years after the technological breakthrough, as opposed to twenty in the book. Like the book, the series takes place in the UK.
While the series changed quite a bit and I was disappointed we no longer had a cop character who matched with a serial killer, the series did a good job of balancing creative changes for length, simplicity, and staying true to about 60% of the novel.
The character names have been changed.
Rebecca’s the scientist/CEO behind The One, where a single hair can be tested to find your match. She has fallen out with the scientist/friend she’s done the discovery with due to past conflict we’re slowly revealed.
The board is trying to push her out, and she does whatever’s necessary to keep her seat and control in the company she created. The world thinks she is in a relationship with her match. When the body of her old roommate surfaces, cops investigate the case, lead by Kate.
Kate is bisexual and currently in contact with her match Sophia via video calls.
Mark is a happily married journalist, but his wife can’t help but fear what would happen if he met his match. Obsessed, she gets him tested without his knowledge and befriends his match under false pretenses. In the meantime, Rebecca gives Mark story scoop that will benefit her both legally and professionally.
Kate is convinced Rebecca is connected to the roommate’s disappearance and murder. She also tries to cope with the fact that her match had an accident when she arrived in the country and is now in a coma. Then she meets her match’s wife and learns that she has been keeping quite a few secrets.
Through flashbacks, we find out how Rebecca really got her hands on the DNA she needed for research, and what happened with her real match.
Book vs. Series
The series casting is more diverse and has added new characters, removed some of the original ones and combined several character attributes and storylines. The most loyal adaptation is Ellie/Rebecca, though her storyline has changed as well.
For instance, Rebecca’s scientist friend James doesn’t exist in the book, but he is vital to the story in the series. The murder case that jeopardises Rebecca’s life and career doesn’t exist in the book, neither does the roommate. In the book, she never meets the cop character, and the cop character is secondary (albeit crucial to the plot).
In the series, we can’t help but like Ellie/Rebecca’s true match. He is a loving brother and a stand-up guy. He chooses to stay behind to look after his addict brother even though he is in love with her. When he finds out the darkest things about her past, he chooses to protect her. In the book, her match is practically a villain.
It’s hard to say whether the book or series Rebecca/Ellie is more morally corrupt. They both get their hands on people’s DNAs through unethical and illegal ways and conduct testing without their knowledge. They commit other crimes too, but they are often pushed to do so. The characters that push them don’t go to the cops and turn them in. Instead, they resort to blackmail and threats and want to destroy everything she’s built.
In the book, it’s not possible for one person to have more than one match, while in the series, it makes for a pretty good complication.
And these are only some of the differences.
Verdict: Which is better?
I love them both for different reasons!
The book is darker thanks to Christopher, the serial killer character.
The series is more even in the genre department. It’s a crime/thriller with romantic storylines. It’s closer in tone to the most police procedurals we see. There’s even a whodunnit, combined with several other past and present crimes. (Critics of the show complained it was too much of a procedural, but it was right up my alley.)
In the book, on the other hand, some storylines are pure romance. Jade’s storyline is never a thriller. It’s exciting and full of surprises, but it’s a complicated romance when it is said and done. Nick and Alexander’s story also bears no criminal element.
Mandy’s storyline becomes a thriller toward the end, but it’s mostly drama. Christopher’s storyline never quite becomes romance, because well, he is a psychopath who thinks he might kill his match too.
There are many insane and impressive twists involved in both.
I loved reading the book, and I definitely enjoyed watching the series. I appreciated the changes because it meant I no longer knew what was coming.
Both are fun and gripping, just in different ways.
But if you force me to pick, I’ll pick the book because it came first, blew my mind and is a masterclass in writing a story with several protagonists, genre-blending, and cliffhanger chapter endings.
Over To You …
Whether you prefer the book or the TV series, I’m pretty sure you will be asking yourself …
- Would I get this test? How would I react to the result?
- Would I act differently if I was single vs. taken?
- And what would I do if my one true love was married/criminally-inclined/a compulsive liar/already seeing my sibling/took the test for me behind my back?
And considering the psychological and sociological impacts alone makes it worth trying the book and series.
The series hasn’t been renewed as of yet, but the ending has potential and I’ll be sticking with these characters if there is a season two.
BIO: Pinar Tarhan is an experienced freelance writer and romcom novelist. She enjoys creating fun, escapist fiction. Her second novel A Change Would Do You Good is available on Amazon.