Game of Thrones great on tv, even better in print

19 May

Robert Frost may not have been able to decide whether the world would end in fire or ice, but George R. R. Martin has: and the answer is… both!  And I’m with him all the way (even if he is in a Twitter war with Damon Lindelof).

I love you Tyrion Lannister.

HBO’s new series Game of Thrones, starring Sean Bean as Boromir (sorry, Ned Stark), that creepy guy from The Wire, and Liz Lemon’s almost-boyfriend is currently at the top of my weekly Megavideo viewing list.  Bored by The Borgias and determined not to study for finals, I watched the premiere about a month ago–and loved it immediately.  So much so, in fact, that I felt compelled to check out the crypto-medieval fantasy series it’s based off of, George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

Martin isn’t called the American Tolkien for no reason, and I can’t praise the series enough.  Every three or four years, when science fiction starts to get a little tedious (cue gasp) I go back and re-read The Lord of the Rings for a taste of epic fantasy.  I have a feeling that it’ll be Martin’s books with the place of honor on my bookshelf from now on.  Or at least they would if I weren’t reading everything on the Kindle.  Alas, alack.

I started the series on April 27, the night of the dreadful Tuscaloosa, AL tornado, and am already on book three (which is saying something, considering each installment goes past 20,000 locations–or 1,000+ pages in print).  And so far, Martin seems not to have gotten the memo that successful authors can coast on sequels.  A Clash of Kings was possibly better than A Game of Thrones.

It makes sense, actually, that the series only keeps ramping up as it continues.  George R. R. Martin himself may hold the throne as the king of characterization–with each successive sentence, chapter, novel, his heroes and villains become ever more highly developed and multi-dimensional (so much so that I couldn’t name one individual I could pigeonhole as hero or villain).

Here’s the book blurb for Game of Thrones.  I highly recommend it, especially if you, like me, are determined not to study for the GRE either:

In a world where the approaching winter will last four decades, kings and queens, knights and renegades struggle for control of a throne. Some fight with sword and mace, others with magic and poison. Beyond the Wall to the north, meanwhile, the Others are preparing their army of the dead to march south as the warmth of summer drains from the land.

Although conventional in form, the book stands out from similar work by Eddings, Brooks and others by virtue of its superbly developed characters, accomplished prose and sheer bloody-mindedness. Although the romance of chivalry is central to the culture of the Seven Kingdoms, and tournaments, derring-do and handsome knights abound, these trappings merely give cover to dangerous men and women who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

When Lord Stark of Winterfell, an honest man, comes south to act as the King’s chief councilor, no amount of heroism or good intentions can keep the realm under control. It is fascinating to watch Martin’s characters mature and grow, particularly Stark’s children, who stand at the center of the book.

Bloody-mindedness–that’s the word I was looking for: prepare for battles in A Clash of Kings as epic as Helm’s Deep.

Availability: Game of Thrones is $8.99 as an ebook on Amazon.  And catch it on the small screen Sundays on HBO.

Valar morghulis!


5 Responses to “Game of Thrones great on tv, even better in print”

  1. Frida Fantastic May 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Definitely a great series. Best characterization around, but I especially I read on to see what happens to Tyrion, Arya, and Brienne. After that last book, their fates were all ???, but again, doesn’t Martin subject all his characters to that treatment? No one is safe! There might be dragons! Gah!

    • Isabela Morales May 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      I know! I was telling my sister the other day that Martin is one of the few writers I know of who lets such terrible things happen to his major characters (besides China Mieville, who kills off about half at the end of every book). Bloody-minded indeed.

  2. Frida Fantastic May 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

    I’ve only read Perdido Street Station by Mieville, but most of the SF/F fans in my network never complain about Martin’s endings, but complain about Mieville’s endings. I even had a friend say “Mieville’s books are a must read. But the last 50 pages? Optional.”

    Martin makes everyone mortal in such a real sense that you forget that his book isn’t fiction–it’s basically a mirror into another world. I thought the ending of Mieville’s Perdido Street Station felt manipulative rather than a natural extension of events. Martin is bloody-minded without feeling manipulative. For me, it’s an important detail that elevates this series to another level.

    • Isabela Morales May 19, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

      I can understand that, but I wonder if the difference is that the endings of Martin’s books aren’t actually… endings. I honestly can’t demarcate some of the events in Game of Thrones from Clash of Kings already. His books are part of a wider series, and it seems to me that they don’t conclude individually in almost any way. There’s climax and denouement along the way, but if either of the first two books, at least, were stand-alone novels, I might have something to complain about. Perdido Street Station is part of a wider story-arc in that it takes place in the same world as The Scar and Iron Council, but each book is distinctly its own, and they don’t follow completely consecutively. I can’t judge if Martin’s endings are contrived or not because there haven’t been any! I guess we’ll see with book 5.

      Although seriously, some of those deaths in PSS were unnecessary. He was getting a little trigger happy, for sure.

  3. Frida Fantastic May 20, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Heh, good point about the endings! Maybe that’s the secret. Maybe we’ll actually just go *headdesk* at the end of the series after all 😛 But the ride’s been pretty good so far.

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