A Game of Thrones – I’ve Finally Gotten Round to It
Hey everyone, it’s about time I did another blog and so I thought that it would be appropriate to talk about the series/books that everyone has already been talking about. Lots of my friends recommended ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ to me, but as you know I’m sometimes flecked with that personal trait known as stubbornness, and so I held off joining the throng in reading/watching it.
A few days ago one of my friends leant me the first book to read, and my father bought my mother the first series for her birthday (which is the day after mine) and so I started reading, and later watched the first two episodes of the series.
I have to confess, that I was impressed by both the book and the series. Both are startlingly intelligent though slightly graphic, full of interesting characters, and compellingly addictive. I haven’t anywhere near finished it yet, I’ve not even finished the first of the six books, but I reviewing it now because I have to come out and say that yes, you were all right, and yes, I was stubbornly wrong.
The key, in my personal belief, to George R. R. Martin’s success, though it is easy to observe these things rather than do them oneself, is that he intrinsically understands the nature of the ‘epic’. The word is rather overused now (is a night out where all your friends vomit everywhere really ‘epic’?!) but if we look at its classical meanings, we can see how it fits George R. R. Martin’s series.
Firstly it’s important to have scale, a sense of the vastness of a world, physically, emotionally, and what I would term sensually, or spiritually, depending on how you see it. In the books this is thoroughly achieved on all fronts. A sense of the vastness of the world is aided in conveyance by the number of characters and the shifting between their perspectives gives a sense of a rich, multidimensional view of the land they inhabit, which of course creates verisimilitude.
Secondly, it’s important to understand that your story has no doubt been told before in other forms, and so that it is your job to acknowledge that and reinterpret it. Tolkien created a fantasy world that has touched the hearts of thousands of readers (I believe he is the second best selling fiction author in the world, Dickens taking first place), but Tolkien had a very, very different take. Tolkien’s world did not bring a modern idiom or sentiment to his world, in fact he re-imagined a classical world right in the midst of modernism and the rejection of tradition, a feat that causes me to marvel at.
George R. R. Martin however has not fallen into the common trap of trying to emulate that, nor should he: Tolkien’s world is phenomenal, but it reads more like Homer’s Odyssey than a novel – George R. R. Martin has contemporised his universe, making it consistent enough with modern idiomatic habits (the place of the ‘one-liner’, you notice that no one in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ novel whacks off a dramatic one-liner, in fact even the narration never succumbs to ending on a snappy dramatic line). But he has kept just enough of the old world in, probably drawing from sources of the Anglo Saxon vein, to make us believe that this is not our world.
It’s this sense of epic that appeals to so many, and it’s probably helped by the fact that there seems a sad lack of the epic in literature at the moment. Endings that make sense are seen as ‘trite’ rather than inevitable, or ‘unrealistic’ rather than heroic. After all heroes really have, and do exist, who wants to read about failures and broken individuals and see them as encapsulations of our era? Those of you that know me will know what kind of writers I am alluding to.
Anyways grumping aside, I‘ll stop now, because I know some people will be even later than me in coming to this novel and series, but I cannot recommend it highly enough – quite apart from the brilliant story and dialogue, the music of the TV series is brilliant, along with the acting, and even things down to the costume, and the consistency of the siblings (i.e. the brothers actually look like brothers) have been thoroughly attended to. In some ways the series excels the book, as it creates links between events that are happening to different characters far quicker, using visual symbols along with the verbal and literary.
So, to all you who recommended I read it, I salute you, and thank you.
If you enjoyed this blog, then you can follow Joseph on twitter at: josephwordsmith