More thoughts on Game of Thrones

Nearly one third of the way through the book, here are some more thoughts I’ve had on Game of Thrones since I began reading it on Tuesday:

  • I am so hooked on this book! Every free moment I can get I want to spend reading it and if I read 10 pages of Astounding (as much fun as that is) I then read 2 or 3 chapters of Thrones. In part this is just because I’m finding it to be such a good story, but I also think that after four straight months of reading nothing but short science fiction, my mind is welcoming the change of scenery.
  • I’m really impressed with how closely the first three episode of the HBO series have stuck to the book. It is not just the events as they take place in the book, but even the viewpoint switches from one chapter to the next are followed closely in the series–something that had to have been a conscious decision I imagine. There are definitely details left out of the series, but it is almost like they took a full scene in the book and showed only the second half or two-thirds on the series. You don’t lose too much.
  • Given all of the viewpoints from which the story is told, my favorites are Tyrion, Eddard (Ned), Jon, and Arya. Especially Tyrion. His image has been fixed in my mind as that of Peter Dinklage, who does a phenomenal job as this character and I wonder what I might have thought of him had I read the book before seeing the HBO series. I find Daenerys viewpoint interesting from time-to-time, as are Catelyn, Bran and Sansa, although I like Sansa the least.
  • My favorite part of the book so far is the chapter from Bran’s point of view just before he wakes up from his coma. In the HBO series, he awakens as the direwolf, Lady is killed. In the book there is a preface to his waking up, a kind of dream that he is having that hints at much larger things to come and that scene is just a remarkable one.
  • The book has been seriously reconsidering my position on high fantasy. I’ve tried reading Jordan and Brooks and Eddings in the past but never made it past the first chapter. Those reading this post who’ve read lots of high fantasy: what is it about Thrones that sets itself apart from these other books? I am still trying to figure out why I am so hooked on this one and couldn’t even scratch the surface on others.
  • Part of the answer may be the HBO series. This has me reconsidering my position on adaptations. I’ve never been much of a fan of making books into movies or TV shows because the latter always seems to suffer. But the HBO series is remarkable and it is the first time that I can recall that I read a book because I was so fascinated by the show. (The closest I think I’ve come prior to this is Carl Sagan’s Contact, which I read after I found out the movie was coming out, but before I actually saw the movie. And I thought it too was one of those rare instances where the movie was nearly as good as the book, despite some changes.)
  • I noticed that about 10% through the book is where the first episode of the series ended. About 20% is where the second ended and the third ends about 30% of the way through. That means the entire book could be covered in 10-12 episodes on HBO. Does this mean that season 2 will cover the second book? Does anyone know yet?
  • I hope the book continues to maintain the standard it has set so far. And I hope that the other books in the series are just as good. I already see myself starting the next one as soon as I finish this one.

Stay tuned. I’m sure I will have more to say about this in the near future, particularly on how this book differed from my notions of what a high fantasy novel is alleged to be.

13 thoughts on “More thoughts on Game of Thrones

  1. I need need need to read this book. I’m JUST starting to catch up on my Sci-Fi reading while falling behind on my plays. So much good stuff to read!

  2. I’ve been totally blindsided by this book. It is just SO good. (And so is the HBO series for that matter. I loved Peter Dinklage in THE STATION AGENT but he takes it to another level here.)

  3. I just finished A Game of Thrones. It knocked my head off my shoulders from about 100 pages in, but the last third of the book is soooo good that it will have you awake all night trying to figure out how the f*** Martin got away with doing it. I started A Clash of Kings today, and if anything, it is even better. I am so on the epic fantasy bandwagon.

  4. I noticed that about 10% through the book is where the first episode of the series ended. About 20% is where the second ended and the third ends about 30% of the way through. That means the entire book could be covered in 10-12 episodes on HBO. Does this mean that season 2 will cover the second book? Does anyone know yet?

    That’s the assumption, but I don’t know it as fact. If it is true, though, that means the seasons are going to have to get longer as the subsequent books do.

  5. Paul, I noticed that the late Ralph Vicinanza is an executive producer of the HBO series. He was the top agent in the SF world, agent to folks like Connie Willis, Jack McDevitt, Robert J. Sawyer, and many others, presumably including Martin. He was also executive producer of Sawyer’s Flashforward. Clearly he had a way of getting good stuff produced in a way that keeps it intact, especially with Thrones–as least so far.

    And according to HBO GO, there are 7 more episodes this season, making it a total of 10 for season 1.

  6. I have never read Jordan and Brooks and Eddings so I can’t say why Game of Thrones is better. But I have read Joe Abercrombie and Daniel Abraham, and those writers are on par with Martin. And they acknowledge their debt to Game of Thrones as a trailblazer.

    What makes the formula so satisfying? The realpolitik, the sense that actions have real consequences, that magic is precious and limited and its use carries real costs. And the social awareness–democracy and authoritarianism in a medieval world, classism, bigotry, oppression of the masses. And the realistic battle scenes–brutality, confusion, fear and cowardice, and incompetence in addition to the more usual heroism.

  7. Matte, I think you are right. I’m close to halfway finished with the first book and all of what you say is in there. And surprisingly (to me) I have yet to see any magic. There are references to wizards and dragons and Others, but so far, they are as good as urban myth.

  8. High Fantasy is like any other medium… good writing trumps ALL. Example… I am also am avid comic book reader, and I have NEVER liked the character of Kitty Pryde. Joss Whedon had a run on XMen several years ago, and as much as I have loathed that character, she was amazing under his pen.

    What makes GRRM’s writing so good? IMHO, 1) His characters are ALL separate and distinct people with their own motivations. Many many books have characters that are all just archetypes, with little depth. By the end of the first chapter in most books, a reader “knows” the characters, and largely how each char. will respond in any given situation. I like Stephen King a great deal, but it’s amazing how little depth his villains often have (i.e. they are usually very bad people, with NO redeemable qualities) None of the characters in Ice and Fire are purely good or purely evil, as are most real people, and their behavior will often surprise you. 2) His characters live in a very realistic, threatening world, by which I mean their actions have REAL consequence. I love the Wheel of Time books, but I don’t care for those chars. NEARLY as much because, by the 4th book, I felt that NONE of the main characters are ever in any real danger. No matter how desperate their situation, they always find somehow, someway to triumph. Ice and Fire’s chars are under no such protection. (I hope that wasn’t spoilerish, my utmost apologies if anyone feels it is)

    It is my understanding from reading GRRM’s blog that yes, each season of the show will mirror each book. He has a Dance with Dragons (book #5) coming out this June, and he has said before that it will be a 7 book series, so he has approximately 5ish years before books 6 and 7 need to be out to keep pace with the show.

  9. Charles, I know what you mean about his characters. You are continually learning about them. They sometimes do things you don’t expect but they are still entirely “in character”. And yes, there are no purely good or evil characters–so far. This is one of those rare times (like when I first discovered the FOUNDATION series so many years ago) that I am genuinely thrilled at having a set of these wonderful books laid out in front of me, and the anticipation you get from knowing that this is the first time you are reading them, and they are so good!

    Oh, and I’ve added GRRM’s blog to my RSS feed. 🙂

  10. It’s cool to see that someone else who’s not a high fantasy fan also likes A Song of Ice & Fire (A Game of Thrones is the 1st part of that). What makes ASOI&F different (from what I remember) is that the people & the world are so much more believable. Another reviewer wrote the HBO series is more like a historical drama than the other fantasies that get on TV. A big part of that is the restrained presence of magic. You’ll get to see some later on but it won’t be thrown around carelessly.
    I encourage everyone to check out Martin’s earlier books & collections of his short stories. They rock too & you won’t have to wait for years to find out what the ending will be.

  11. Will, I was telling my wife how much I was liking both the series and the book, and she asked what it is about. I said, well, there’s a lot going on but so far, it is kind of like a historical drama mixed with castle intrigue. Absolutely spot-on description and I’m glad I’m not the only one who see it that way. Um, I have to go now. The book is calling… 😉

  12. 10 eps first season, one book.
    10 eps second season? (I think 10 eps. 2nd season already greenlit), another book.
    Two seasons for the third book (it’s longer).

    One amazing thing about Martin is that he writes children so well. They are not miniature adults (flashback to Analog: alien posing as kid, but talking like an adult at all times — prof is still surprised that the alien is not really a child).

    Tolkien wrote about demigods, and a desperate gamble after all hope was lost. He had Gandalf get resurrected — and yet, magic isn’t the solution to most things (and corrupted Sarumon).

    Martin remembers that, and makes a world where magic’s still magical… In a place where it feels realistic to have 25 yr old men ogling 13yrold maidens (just like real life).

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