Book Review: The Fifth Element by Terry Bisson

Hi everyone! It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for another review. Today I am reviewing The Fifth Element by Terry Bisson, a novelisation of the film of the same name.

The Fifth Element by Terry Bisson was first published in May 1997 by HarperPrism and is 250 pages long.

Korben Dallas becomes embroiled in the hunt for some ancient elemental stones which, combined with the mysterious ‘Fifth Element’, hold the key to saving the world.

Korben Dallas
Korben Dallas is the protagonist of the story. He is an ex-military man who lives in a tiny ‘modular apartment’ with his cat, Sweetie, and drives a cab for a living. One day, while he’s just going about his life, something or rather someone, crashes through the roof of his taxi cab, setting him off on a mission to help save the world from The Ultimate Evil.

Leeloo is the beautiful, mysterious woman with bright orange hair who crash lands in Korben Dallas’ cab. She’s more than just a pretty face, though, since she is ‘The Fifth Element’ – the saviour of humanity. Her sole purpose is to interact with four elemental stones and destroy The Ultimate Evil, which shows itself every 5,000 years and attempts to destroy Earth.

Leeloo is a clone and is newly alive at the start. She must learn to navigate the world and its people while attempting to track down and regain control of the other four elements. Luckily, she’s strong-willed and learns incredibly quickly.

Father Vito Cornelius
Father Cornelius is a priest and is part of an order tasked with gathering the four elemental stones and finding the fifth human element, ensuring humanity’s survival against the oncoming ‘Ultimate Evil’. He is an enlightened man who wants nothing more than the longevity of the human race and the destruction of all things evil.

Jean Baptiste Emanuel Zorg
Zorg is one of the antagonists of the story. He is an evil industrialist with no motivation other than making as much money as possible and finding the elemental stones for The Ultimate Evil, who has promised him tremendous rewards in return for his help.

Having sent his assistant Right Arm out to spy for him, he discovers that the Diva, Plavalaguna has the four elements and that she will be performing on the space cruise ship Folston Paradise. He sets off to collect the stones, determined to stop at nothing to complete his mission.

Loc Rhod (Ruby Rhod)
In the book, written using the original 1995 version of the script, the character of Ruby Rhod is named Loc Rhod.
He is a famous radio Dj on Folston Paradise who has a flamboyant and extravagant sense of style with a voracious sexual appetite to boot.
He meets Korben Dallas and Leeloo aboard the cruise ship and ends up helping in their mission.

The Ultimate Evil
The Ultimate Evil is the story’s main antagonist.

It is an ancient and destructive cosmic being made of anti-matter that has been trying to destroy Earth for thousands of years, each time being thwarted by The Fifth Element (aka Leeloo). To prevent another defeat, The Ultimate Evil strives to have the elemental stones for itself, using Zog to gather them.

Writing Style
The book almost feels like you’re reading a script in that it is mostly dialogue with little description or world-building, so it certainly helps to have seen the movie first.
The novelisation was written from the original 1995 screenplay, and so I expected there to be scenes that didn’t make the final edit, but it seems that if there were any, they were omitted. The extra bits and pieces the author did include, like Korben Dallas trying to get his fare to his appointment early at the start, didn’t add anything to the story.

The book is a short easy read (I read it over two nights), and it is reasonably fast-paced, just like the movie, but… the book pales in comparison.

I really wanted to love this novelisation; I wanted it to be full of extra pieces of plot – or perhaps even fill in a few plot holes from the movie, such as the fact there aren’t hundreds of moons orbiting Earth, when, if The Ultimate Evil arrives every 5,000 years and is defeated by Leeloo, there should be?

At the very least, I wanted the characters to jump off the page like they jump off the screen and hold you in a headlock until the end. But alas, it wasn’t to be. The book was just ok. It was great for reading at bedtime when you don’t mind dozing off halfway through a chapter.

Final Thoughts
I love the Fifth Element movie and watch it fairly regularly. It’s a great way to escape from the world for a bit.

When I learned there was a novelisation of the movie, I jumped online and bought a copy, though, as I said, it was disappointing. It feels rushed and reads almost like it was written for children.

Except, of course, for the writer’s seeming obsession with Leeloo’s nakedness. Also, and I could be wrong, but Leeloo may well have green eyes. At least, that’s what I’m picking up from the twelve billion times her green eyes are mentioned. Am I exaggerating? Read the book and decide for yourself if, of course, you have time to waste.

I would only recommend this book to super fans of the movie or those who love to experience novelisations as much as I do. In fact, if you’ve not seen the movie, I would very much recommend you forget the book exists and go watch it in all its colourfully action-packed glory.

I am giving The Fifth Element a 3/10.

Have you read The Fifth Element by Terry Bisson? What are your thoughts about it?

As always, thank you for reading my review. I appreciate your time!

Until next time,


© 2023 GLT

Categories: Book Reviews, Reading

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