Game Of Thrones: The Books And The Broadcast

Game of Thrones fans eagerly anticipated last night’s episode opening season four. To help put the story in context, and to remind myself of the characters and their back story, I’ve been re-reading the books. Season four begins in the second half of the third book, A Storm of Swords, just after Robb Stark and his forces have been slaughtered at the Red Wedding by the scheming and now-cursed Walder Frey.

Having just read the book prior to last night’s broadcast, you can’t help but notice the differences. That’s not surprising, of course — the books are huge and sprawling, and if you were to faithfully recreate every fight scene, character, and vignette, the series would be impossibly expensive to film and last forever. In a nod to the realities of TV storytelling, some characters and incidents need to be cut. (And, it being HBO, the whorehouse settings, where some random nakedness can be displayed, tend to be accentuated.)

In addition, some of the more subtle aspects of the books and, particularly, the conversations of the characters are changed to direct statements in an effort to make clear, in an instant, a realization that books might convey to a reader after 50 pages of careful writing. Last night’s observation by Jaime Lannister that Cersei Baratheon is drinking more than she had been previously is a good example.

What are some of the other differences? Characters tend to be a bit more pointed on TV. For example, the writers of Game of Thrones never miss a chance to insert the execrable Joffrey Baratheon into a scene and have him say something that reconfirms what a miserable, bullying, craven little bastard he truly is. I don’t mind that, either, because anything that makes that sniveling character easier to hate is fine with me. And, because I read the books after I started to watch the show, I don’t have the disconnect that happens when you read a book first, fix a mental image of the characters in your head, then have to get used to a different person when the story hits the small screen.

I’m glad I re-read A Storm of Swords, which is packed with great scenes and shocking developments. I’m ready for season four, which should be a very wild ride.

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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.

Road Reading

When you’re traveling along on business, a good book is crucial.  The book will be your companion and entertainment at dinner, in airport gate areas, and on the plane itself.  If your book is great, it blunts the loneliness of life on the road.  If your book stinks, on the other hand, it makes your tedious time away from home seem immeasurably longer.

Lately I’ve been reading the Games of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin, and they are great road reads.  If you’ve watched the show, you know about the Game of Thrones world.  If you haven’t seen the show, envision a world of knights and kingdoms and dragons and magic where things haven’t changed for thousands of years.  The world is captivating and seems very real; the books are long and the length allows for subplots and back stories that the TV series can’t hope to match.  The books are full of surprises, and no character is safe from a sudden, unexpected demise.

I’m on book 3, called A Storm of Swords.  So far, all of the books have been real page-turners.  In fact, they might be too good — you want to stay up and keep reading late into the night.  When you’ve got a flight first thing in the morning, that’s not a good thing to do.

Mesmerized by Thrones

Wow, if you are looking for really interesting reading I would highly recommend the series of books George R. R. Martin (GRRM) has written from which Game of Thrones the HBO series is based. You can pick up the first four books in a paperback set, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows for about $30 at Barnes and Noble.

The series is told in the third person from the point of view of his characters which he so richly develops (my favorite being Tyrion an imp whose mother died during his birth leaving his father to loathe him). Wiki places the books in the epic or high fantasy genre and I have several friends both male and female that are currently reading the series so it seems to have appeal for both sexes. All of us reading the series agree you find yourself staying up til early in the morning reading to find out what happens next and you really can’t put the books down.

The story is set in medieval times and revolves around several plots, a group of families who have at one time or another ruled the fictional continent of Westeros all wanting to rule it again, the threat from “others” who dwell beyond a great wall of ice which protects Westeros northern border and the desire of an exiled daughter of a deceased mad king to return to the throne and rule Westeros.

Probably the thing I like most about GRRM’s writing is the way he cleverly will make you believe one or more of his characters is dead and the fact that he does kill off major characters at a whim (maybe it’s just me, but I am tired of reading books where everything always works out for the main characters).

I just completed book three, A Storm of Swords which was the best so far so if you have been watching the HBO series season three will have many surprises in store for you. I did watch Season one when it came out on DVD and I happen to think that the books are much better than the HBO series itself. GRRM has written book five, A Dance with Dragons which was published in 2011 and he is currently writing book six, The Winds of Winter now.

All I know is I am hooked and you might be to if you give these a try – Happy Reading !