Bad News For A Song Of Ice And Fire Readers

If you are a fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series of books, upon which the fine HBO series Game of Thrones is based, you’ve learned to be patient.

776466_510_promo_frames_16_00170187[1].jpgLike me, you’ve read the existing books in the series, reached their end with the epic tale still completely midstream and tantalizing plot threads dangling, did some reading about the pace of Martin’s writing, and realized that the next volume wouldn’t be coming out for years — but the books were so good that you were willing to wait, and wait, and wait, in hopes of seeing where the plot line goes and finding out, at some indeterminate date far, far, far into the future, how the story finally ends.

So when we all heard that the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter, was planned to be released in conjunction with the airing of the next year of Game of Thrones, this coming April, we rejoiced — but many of us also maintained a healthy bit of skepticism and an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude.

Now we learn that that skepticism is justified, as Martin has announced that the book isn’t done, it won’t be released by April, and he doesn’t know, in fact, when it will be finished because the writing is going slower than he anticipated — and this is from a writer who took six years to produce A Dance With Dragons, the last book in the series.  It’s disappointing, but I can’t say it’s really surprising.

So this leads to a quandary:  should the fans of the books and the TV series watch the next season of Game of Thrones, when the storyline moves past the end point of the last book?  I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m going to watch, because the TV show has diverged from the book plotting, anyway.  In my view, the world created by Martin’s fertile imagination is sufficiently rich that it can support two alternative approaches to a great story, and I just can’t wait much longer before I learn about what happens to Jon Snow — in the TV universe, at least.

In the meantime, I’ll wish George R.R. Martin a long, long, long (and productive) life.

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A Song Of Fight And Ire

As a fan of the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin, I view the HBO series Game of Thrones as both a blessing and a curse.

The TV show is a blessing because it helps to fill the Westeros void as we wait . . . and wait . . . and wait for Martin to finish the next installment in the series of epic books.  It’s a curse because the course of the TV show is, increasingly, veering away from the established plot lines of the books.  The variances are both large and small.  Unless you have a complete recall of what happened in A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons — something I cannot claim — you can’t even identify all of them.

There is no way that a TV show could possibly present all of the plot lines in Martin’s vast landscape of characters.  I can understand the Game of Thrones producers taking shortcuts in the storytelling and lopping out characters — like, apparently, the tale of the Iron Islands and Greyjoy clan and the post-death Cat Stark.  Even so, this year the TV show is treading on increasingly thin ice (and fire).  Sansa Stark back at Winterfell and betrothed to the sadistic Ramsay Bolton?  What the hell?  Jamie Lannister off to Dorne on a half-assed mission to retrieve his daughter?  Sir Barristan the Bold killed, and maybe Grey Worm, too?  And where is Bran Stark, anyway?

I still enjoy the TV show, because it is well done and the Martin-inspired tapestry is so rich.  But increasingly I view it as an alternative history of Westeros, the Wall, and the rest of the world, a tantalizing kind of “what if” approach to the characters we’ve come to enjoy while we all bide our time waiting for the release of the next book — which will tell the true story.  And when will that be?  Only George R.R. Martin knows for sure.

O, To Be A Game Of Thrones Character, And To Name Your Death!

George R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones and the other books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, is offering fans a unique opportunity:  in exchange for contributions to worthy charities Martin supports, they can get interesting items related to the books.

The best prize?  Two people — one male and one female — who contribute $20,000 will have a character named after them in an upcoming book in the Ice and Fire series, and can choose their character’s station in the world of Westeros and the method by which they go to meet the Seven.

I don’t have $20,000 lying around — more’s the pity! — but the notion is intriguing.  If you could be a Game of Thrones character, what would you be, and what would you want to be the cause of your untimely demise?  You wouldn’t want to duplicate some of the more gruesome deaths that already have occurred.  Ned Stark has locked in beheadings, for example, and the no one could possibly carry off having their head crushed by hand like the Red Viper of Dorne.  And we’ve seen people immolated by dragon fire and wildfire, killed by molten gold poured over the head, shot full of bolts from crossbows, poisoned, stabbed by a creature of smoke, crucified, pushed through the Moon Door, and stabbed through the back of the skull — among countless other causes of death.

So what’s left?  There are still some good choices, I think. A foolishly brave hedge knight who tries to protect a main character from a charging direwolf and is torn to bloody bits.  A gluttonous lord who is stabbed through the eye by a broken off chicken bone.  A turncoat meister who is tortured to confession and then fed, alive, to one of Daenerys’ dragons.  A rogue supporter of Roose Bolton who consumes a potion that causes his bowels to explode through his torso, mail, armor, and all.  A plucky young page who is impaled on one of the tusks of a wildling mammoth and then crushed against the Wall by the rampaging beast and the giant who spurs him on.

Yes, I’d say good choices remain.  Now, where’s that $20 K?

Trapped Mid-Tale

Help!  I’m trapped in the middle of George R.R. Martin’s monumental A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels!

I started reading the books after Kish and I enjoyed the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.  We got the first four books in paperback, and I read them at a good clip.  It took a while, because the books are huge — almost 1000 pages each.  Then I got the fifth book from the library and read it with pleasure.

I’m not a big fan of the fantasy genre, but these books aren’t your standard fantasy fare.  They are vast, sprawling, richly charactered, carefully plotted epics that drench you in the reality of this strange world where the seasons are out of whack and human development seemed to stop in the medieval era, where it has remained frozen and unchanging for millennia.  The books are fascinating just as works of fiction and are well worth reading.

But here’s the problem — the fifth book ends mid-story with cliffhangers galore, and the sixth book is nowhere in sight.  What’s more, the sixth book won’t be the end of the tale; a seventh book will follow.  And to give you an idea of how long I might be waiting, consider the publication dates of the first five books:  A Game of Thrones (1996), A Clash of Kings (1998), A Storm of Swords (2000), A Feast for Crows (2005), and A Dance with Dragons (2011).  It may be optimistic to think that the next book will be out before the next presidential election.

So I sit, with countless characters and subplots and storylines fresh in my head, knowing that I will lose the golden thread by the time the next book in the series appears.  I’ll have to go back and re-read those thousands of pages to get refreshed and ready for book six, and then when I finish the sixth book I’ll have to do it all over again when the seventh book appears sometime after I become eligible for Social Security.  O, sweet misery!

It’s ridiculous to pine for years for a book, but it’s the reality.  Martin has set the hook so firmly I can’t walk away.  I want to know how the story ends.