No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2012/66: A Game of Thrones -- George R. R. Martin

"You are the gentle sex," said Lord Karstark, with the lines of grief fresh on his face. "A man has a need for vengeance."
"Give me Cersei Lannister, Lord Karstark, and you would see how gentle a woman can be," Catelyn replied.[location 14060]
What to say about A Game of Thrones? I doubt I can add much to the screeds that have been written about it in the last (eep) seventeen years.

This is not feel-good fantasy, at least not yet. There's plenty of brutality, and not just amongst the 'barbarians': there is war, and treachery, and cruelty. A Game of Thrones a complex, densely-plotted epic, with a large cast of rounded characters and a coherent world that differs from our own in ways that, in this first volume, are unclear. The seasons, for a start, are longer -- 'winter is coming' -- which makes it peculiarly difficult to get a sense of the passage of time. And while I'm being critical: one drawback of having multiple narrators, in a book this length, is that Martin can keep the reader on tenterhooks for a long time after ending a chapter at a critical moment.

I liked it, but I didn't love it. I think I found the tone too level, the humour lacking. (Though I did laugh out loud at the singer named Marillion. US readers will probably not find this as entertaining as will UK readers, especially those of a certain age.) After finishing this book, I mentioned online that I preferred K J Parker, and I maintain that Parker's novels are just as complex and a heck of a lot wittier.

That said, Martin has some truly splendid female characters (I wonder if this was more remarkable in the 1990s than it is now?) and some intriguing hints at the larger story, which I believe is still unfolding. I shall keep an eye out for cheap copies of the other books in the series, but don't currently feel inclined to pay a fiver a time for Kindle e-books, and don't believe my wrists are up to reading the dead-tree versions. (Excellent holiday reading, though -- truly immersive!)

Question: would I enjoy the book more, or less, if I had also watched the TV series? (Managed one episode. Everyone was improbably good-looking.)

1 comment:

  1. I have the sample chapter on my kindle. It was okay but not 'hey let's actually pay money for this'.