Evil Geek Book Report – A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones
Good afternoon Evil Geek Nation, it’s time for another Evil Geek Book Report! Today we’re bringing you a little something different: a review of an ACTUAL book, the kind without illustrated pictures. Scary, right? It’s ok, we’ll all be ok, they’re the books that Game of Thrones is based on. TV, you like TV! Look, Game of Thrones, you like that! We’re going to make it…whew! Seeing as how the majority of us here don’t read books that often without at least one person wearing spandex, we had to call in a little help on this one. We’ve got a guest blogger who’ll be sharing with us her reviews of the first four volumes of George RR Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice”. Please welcome our newest guest blogger: Isavella Vassilakis Eden! Come back next week for the next part in her series of reviews.
I’m not exactly qualified to write this review. For starters, I haven’t even finished the book (though I’m close). To quote Shredder, “So Sue Me.” Also, and I am so so ashamed, I already know what’s going to happen…and you know why. For enders (?!), I have absolutely no experience with this genre. The genre of fantasy/middle ages porn/stories of magic. These pages, full of word combos that I would full on Zsa-Zsa Gabor slap in the face had they the decency to even own a face, were alternately cursed and cherished. They were given a stern frown of disapproval; they were lovingly hugged to my chest as I danced through the Wolfswood, alone.
As usual, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. As I am wont to do with judging anything, and especially books, certain criteria carried more weight while others receded. You simply can’t take this series and try to hold it up against canonical works in its use of language. (I can’t imagine what Nabokov would do with the Seven Kingdoms, but there are certain similarities between Dany and Dolores Haze.) Fiction is categorized into genres, like it or not, and the deceptive “literature” section of your favorite bookstore isn’t all encompassing. There are even massive differences between books grouped into one genre; we all know this. So while I’m not well versed in this particular subculture (please do not even try to tell me there is no subculture), I am well read in general, so I think my opinion holds some value.
I wasted your time saying all this because some of the reviews below claim A Song of Ice and Fire (I feel like the title itself explains everything; it’s all there, people) is worthless garbage. Spewing this vitriolic can only reign so fully in the critique of genre fiction. The hazy borders of such a specific category seem to harden depending on you who consult, and the aftermath is a horde of “experts” who have spent countless lonely hours honing their personal preferences and opinions on a topic they feel close to. So when something fails to qualify in regards to their specific criteria, it is worthless garbage.
It almost has to be this way, though; the genre makes it so, much like the North forges men cold and strong. Because in a genre, certain literary skills are valued more than others. The ability to describe a completely fictitious land, to build an engrossing mythology (not to be confused with convincing), to create characters that enhance and enable these things, is a specific gift, one probably more important than the reflection of highbrow taste. I might have inwardly cringed more than once or twice a page, but I had no trouble envisioning Westeros, the telling physical traits of different Houses, the terrifying beauty of the Eyrie, the dust and savagery of the Dothraki plain. It got heavy-handed at times, yes, but sometimes, nestled between the clinking of Valyrian steel and could-be-clunkier medieval speech, a gem of a sentence can be found.
The other thing, and it is a very important thing, is that George R.R. Martin (really, guy?) is pretty good at pace and plot. He holds his secrets well and there is more than one artful reveal. Each chapter is told from the point of view of many different characters, and these chapters are tidy little vignettes that lend themselves nicely to a steady, buildable plot. I can see why someone read this and after the fanboy delirium wore off, told themselves it would make for good television.
Truth be told, I wanted to read this series because I really enjoy the show, and in many ways my mind blends the two to form an enormous molten ball of Westeros just frolicking around in there. The show takes many elements from the novels, obviously, but it leaves out the most interesting things out of necessity: the inner monologues, the scintillating (haha) descriptions, more information on shit like what the hell maesters and septas are, the histories and religions of the East and West. These things are mainly hidden in a line or two of dialogue on the show, seemingly to just throw them a bone and be done with it, for we have better lines to give Peter Dinklage (not that I’m complaining). The book cleared up a lot of confusion for me, and really thickened up the soup. Characters that all looked the same now have backgrounds and purpose. Of course there is the disadvantage of not being able to erase the appearance of the actors from the experience, but that’s okay as I approve of much of the casting and there is some excellent eye candy (Drogo, Jon, and Renly…in that order).
(Am still debating what to do with subsequent novels. What would I rather have ruined, the series or the show?)
Apologies for overuse of the word “genre.”
When all is said and done, the biggest gauge of a book’s worthiness for me is if I enjoyed it, can’t put it down, and indeed this happened and everybody just needs to relax. Relax, nerds!
On the flipside, it really isn’t high literature. Who knows, maybe once I’m hooked and dip some more toes into this GENRE, I will agree with some of the haters.
Last but not least…thank the Old Gods for maps.
-Isavella Vassilakis Eden