Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Song of Fire and Ice

Robert slays Rhaegar

So, did you watch A Game of Thrones on HBO? I caught the series a few episodes in and got caught up in it. The casting, production values, the opening title sequence -- one of the coolest I've seen in a long time (imho), and of course the storyline were all wonderful.

At the end of the season, I see that it isn't a one off at all, but a series to be continued over a couple of seasons. And of course, in the opening credits, is says that it is based on George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice," so I figure I'll get the book and read up to see what's coming.

Back a few years, I had seen the movie Manhunter based on Thomas Harris' Red Dragon -- a movie far superior due to Michael Mann's excellenct moody direction to the lukewarm version put out later. And I had naturally seen Silence of the Lambs as well, so when I heard there would be a third movie, I zipped out and bought the book to see what was coming. As such, I both understood and was disappointed by Jody Foster's refusal to reprise her role. And also found the cowardly way they avoided the book's ending to make a more mainstream palatable ending diminished the movie, book, and series.

Anywho, I bop on over to Amazon, 'cause that's where everyone buys these days, to pick up the Fire & Ice book. Lo and behold, it isn't a book, it's a series of books. Four so far with a fifth coming. Game of Thrones was simply the first. Oh joy, this is going to be more work than I originally thought.

Now normally, I don't read the reviews on Amazon except to see what extras are in dvd's or get a synopsis of something I'm not familiar with. But I glance at the reviews of Martin's opus.

Oh my.

Review after review talking about how big the books are -- my favorite was the comment "700 page doorstop" -- how they're not for light reading, how they are oddly formatted chapter-wise. One reviewer complained about the medieval dialogue being hard to follow. And so on.

When I was in high school, I tried to read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged because my mother, father and sister had and I wanted to be able to chat about them as well. Yeah, talk about ponderous. Those were heavy reads. I never got through them. Yet I read the Dune trilogy without problem. And years later, the follow up books by Frank Herbert and then the closing efforts by his son -- pale shadows of the original stuff, but a nice homage from son to father.

I like Harlan Ellison for my sci-fi reads. He is certainly no Dick & Jane writer. And my favorite horror writer is Clive Barker. So, I'm not completely helpless when it comes to complicated storylines and rich imagery.

And as I read the reviews I begin to wonder if there is some sort of Machiavellian reverse psychology thing going on here. Sort of a "Oh this is too much for you . . . stay away . . . get something easier to read . . ." business. Which is exactly the way to get me to do something -- tell me I can't do it.

So I order the four book set in paperback and pre-order the fifth in hardcover -- I love how mis-matched books look on a bookcase. Not pricey at all. And they finally show up.

Eeesh, they are big to be sure. In paperback, the books are over 900 pages. So I decide to start on the second novel -- A Clash of Kings because the series was based on the first book and I've seen the series . . . you get what I'm thinking here. And . . .

Not hard to read at all. Martin creates a richly detailed world, the characters are fleshed out bit by bit, the dialogue was easy to follow (don't know what that reviewer's problem was). The chapters are titled according to the character they focus on -- Robb, Arya, Catelyn, etc. Nothing unusual or bizarre there.

If I had to chuckle at one thing it was Martin's description of several of the feasts. As he's going dish by dish with his description, I couldn't help but get the feeling of a student trying to fill out a word count for a term paper. It was like -- I get it, it's a sumptuous feast, I don't need to know every ingredient in every dish, dude. heh

But aside from that, I liked it. It engrossed me. You may notice I haven't posted much this week. Yeah, that's because once I start a book, I don't do anything until I'm done with it. Come home from work -- read. That's it. I got up on my day off at 7:00am and read straight through until 1:00 in the morning. Finished the book, but whew, talk about stiff.

That said, if you're a fan of the series, next season should be pretty interesting. Lots of sorcery, big battles, stuff beyond the wall, and so on.

And if you're tempted to read the books yourself, I say go for it. Don't let anyone put you off.

I've got some vacation next week. I'm going to read the first book then. Then it's on to the third book -- A Storm of Swords. Who knows, maybe I'll review it here.

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