My last two posts dealt with the Atlas Shrugged movie. Now that that’s gone down to box office defeat, I can deal with another motion picture project that I’m not watching based on a book that I cared deeply about in college but haven’t thought about in years. That would be A Game of Thrones. The book is the first in a lengthy fantasy series by George R. R. Martin. The series began airing on HBO last Sunday.
What is A Game of Thrones about? I used to know. If you had only asked me six or seven years ago, I could have lectured you about the origins of House Fossoway, the motivations of Varys the Spider, the meaning of the prophecies in Bran Stark’s dreams, and many other such things. Yes, I was a fanboy in my day. Now I no longer am. I can vaguely recollect the outline of the plot but that’s it.
So let me recollect. I recall that during my teenage years I ceased leisure reading almost entirely. Then, during my sophomore year of college I began reading science fiction and fantasy once more. The book that brought me back into the fold–I’m not ashamed to admit this–was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. After that I started visiting the local public library and picking out novels at random. Some were good, such as James Stoddard’s The High House. Some were bad. Eventually I decided to seek out advice on what the really good stuff was. The two most popular authors were Robert Jordan and George R. R. Martin. I read the first; his stuff was dreck. Then I read the second and it was just … so … awesome.
Martin’s books were packed with great lines. For example, a character in the middle of battle sees some enemies soldiers approaching and says, “Those are brave men. Let’s kill them.” This is a great line. Don’t ask me to explain why, but teenage boys can identify great lines when we read them. Characters died in Martin’s books. This was important. I thought, for some reason, that major characters never died in other fantasy novels. Now I know this to be obviously untrue. And the series was huge. There were hundreds of characters, dozens of warring parties, and whole continents on which the story could unfold. Having more of everything obviously made the series better than its competitors. I couldn’t quite say why, but I knew it to be true.
As you might guess, I eventually grew out of Martin and his novels. I began to think that great prose should be intelligent and meaningful, rather than just being witty insults and death threats. I started to suspect that far from being original and ground-breaking, Martin’s series was actually rather dull and cliched. I began to wonder whether quality of characters and events mattered more than quantity. It seems that I bailed out at just the right time. According to internet scuttlebutt, it seems that Martin has all but stopped working on the series halfway through, so thousands of dedicated fanboys may never get the ending they were promised.