Here we are then: a review that combines everything I hate most in writing a review. Expansive and hard-to-distill-into-a-single-review mythology? Check. Massively possessive fan-base? Check. Genre I’m not totally comfortable with? Check. We got there people: it’s the hat-trick of doom. I had absolutely no knowledge of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series before Game of Thrones was well into its second season on HBO. That usually gets expressions of shock and incredulous disbelief from people that are… well, they’re liars.
If everyone that read Game of Thrones before the series came out had actually done it, the damn thing would have sold more copies than the Bible.
It’s like people that claim they were into the Mirage Ninja Turtles first, not the Fred Wolf animated series: bullshit you were. You might like it better now, you might be into it now, but don’t edit history and say that you were into a black and white indie comic that only produced a few thousand copies at age 7. You’re a liar.
I came to the series like many people did: kicking and screaming. Getting into Game of Thrones is like getting into hard drugs: you do it because some idiot friend of yours peer-pressures you into it. You hate it the first few times, then you slowly start to like it, then before you know it: you’re hooked. And like a hard-drug addiction, sometimes I hit it too hard and decide I’m never going to watch this stupid thing again. Usually for me this come in the fact that I don’t think the series works as single episodes: I save them up and binge-watch them, otherwise it’s plodding pace drives me insane. The thing works with all the speed and zest of a mid-’90s soap opera.
But I digress. I’m here to talk about the book, the original novel, A Game of Thrones (year). Except it’s exceptionally difficult to divorce my feelings of the first book from my feelings on the first season of the show: the two are inextricably linked. I can’t read Ned Stark without picturing Sean Bean: partly because I took in the series first, partly because the casting was so perfect. No matter what version the books are taking, books, show, or audiobook (my favorite way to enjoy the Song), Martin’s writing does the impossible of bringing me into a fantasy realm.
Because I’m not really a fan of fantasy, in general. And so far, neither JRR Tolkien nor Terry Prachett has managed to sway me. You can rant all you want about it being a prejudice of mine, and that’s not being argued. But we ALL bring our positions and prejudices to EVERY book we read. What’s impressive here is that George RR Martin gets me over it.
The text itself I’m not going to get into. I could go over it point by point, but I really have no desire to. The main point — for me — is the death of Ned Stark, and the way it was handled: setting up plot points as though the political intrigue were going to continue through him, Martin kills off the character that was, at that point, considered the protagonist. It was possibly the most mind-blowing, what-the-f**k inducing moments in all of fiction. It was perfectly paced and masterfully plotted, proving that Martin knew enough about the writing craft in order to subvert our expectations of it and surprise us. On that level he’s kind of the Quinton Tarrantino of literature, if anyone understands what I mean by that.
Look, main points: it’s a great book. It has a plethora of characters, almost all of which produce an intense emotional reaction in the reader: either extreme revulsion or extreme love, in the reader. Which depends on the character, the reader, and the point in the novel, as opinions on individual characters can change. I’m sure anyone reading this think they know who I’m talking about, filling in the blank with their own loves/hates. I won’t spoil that by telling you mine.
It’s a great, fantastic book.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“It’s a great, fantastic book.”