It’s time to talk about A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, an insanely prolific writer. This book has humbled me as a reader, and he’s pretty much blown my idea of what a writer can do in a single book completely out of the water.
A Game of Thrones is the first in the epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. It was nominated for and won a number of awards in 1997, a year after its release. Curious as to why I never heard of this book until the chatter bubbled up in 2011 about the HBO series, I looked up what was happening in 1996: DVDs launched in Japan, the Spice Girls’ hit ‘Wannabe’ infested the radio, Smashing Pumpkins then squashed Spice Girls, Rage Against the Machine, Marilyn Manson corrupted, Whitewater happened and Clinton defeated Dole. I was more into music than books then.
The paper back entered my apartment back in November. I set it on a shelf and there it sat for weeks. At over 800 pages, it’s size was a bit overwhelming so we moved it from the book shelf to the the end table to under the end table. I only decided it was time to rise to the challenge after stubbing a toe.
To be honest, the first 150 pages were a struggle. You meet a lot of characters and they all have super long names so it’s hard to keep them all straight let alone follow what little action there is. This is a world where winter can last for years, where men are beheaded for deserting a post, where the dead return and dragons are said to have vanquished. It’s a land of seven kingdoms all united under one former valiant soldier and current drunken king. It’s a civilization of bloody extremes filled with lust, ambition and honor.
Definitely recommend reading it. Slog through the first 200 pages, then keep slogging. I basically read it in 50 page increments, taking breaks for other books in between. Some chapters seem to drag, but they pay off later. Others will have you laughing out loud. Some scenes may cause a loss of appetite and just when you think the plot dips below the attention span threshold, hunky barbarians start mounting maidens and you’re like ‘huh’. It’s true. There’s a bunch of sex in this book, and even more needlessly inserted into the HBO series.
I don’t recommend putting the book down around page 480 as I did for two months. This is where the book really takes off. The moving parts finally get going, head on into one another. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective. Most of the characters are really well developed. While females on the periphery are basically props for sex or breeding, the primary women characters are intelligent, flawed and have stronger arcs than the males.
I think Martin is one of the best writers we have today. I’m just sorry it took me so long to discover him. Then again, I would have gone mad waiting for the sequels whereas now they’re all waiting for me in a beautiful stack set high off the floor.
UPDATE: Reviews of the first four books:
Song of Ice and Fire book 1: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Song of Ice and Fire book 2: Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
Song of Ice and Fire book 3: Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Song of Ice and Fire book 4: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin