Reviews of books by Joe Abercrombie, Daniel Abraham, Mark Hodder and Scott Westerfield this week, and interviews with Joe Abercrombie, Terry Brooks, Peter Orullian and Mark Lawrence. Production begins for The Hobbit movie, Gimli gives his take on portraying a dwarf in a film (advice for The Hobbit actors), and HBO releases a slew of shorts spotlighting individual characters.
Book review of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
It’s not only a pleasure to revisit A Game of Thrones, the first book of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, its somewhat of a necessity. With each edition of the growing series averaging between seven-hundred and one-thousand pages, and Martin going on four years between the release of the fourth and fifth novels, its getting a little tough to remember the details of the first novel which was released in 1996. And a growing series it is. The fourth and fifth novels were originally planned as one, but when they grew too large for Martin’s publisher to release as one edition, it was decided the fourth book would be split in two, pushing the total for the series from six books to seven. If you’re not a fan of truly epic fantasy, you can’t say I didn’t warn you: A Game of Thrones defines epic.
It’s also worth noting that for this revisit to the A Game of Thrones and the seven kingdoms, I’ve chosen to go the audiobook route. I find that an audiobook is the perfect format to revisit a book that I’ve already read. I don’t typically re-read books – there’s just simply too much good stuff out there – but an audiobook presents not only an alternative method (I can listen while working, for instance), but an entirely different creative presentation. Reader Roy Avers does a fantastic job of bringing the characters in A Game of Thrones to life, adding a new dimension to the novel, and resurrecting subtleties of character’s personalities that I may have missed the first time around. That said, this review is of the book itself, not strictly the audiobook.
George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is the quintessential genre novel. It breaks the once thought of boundaries of what an epic fantasy can and should be. Its got an ensemble of poignant moments, matched with robust dialogue. While thick and twice the size of some of the The Lord of the Rings novels, to set a basis for comparison, I was not once left feeling like the pace could be picked up a bit, as I was more than once during Tolkien’s series. While lengthy, every bit of the juicy story in A Game of Thrones is worth your time. Parents should beware, this is not a novel for the children, or the faint of heart. There are adult themes, and a few gruesome moments. However, Martin does not go into extreme detail when the opportunity presents itself.
Set in a world where the seasons are unbalanced, and it has been Summer for much too long, A Game of Thrones takes place on the brink of what the elders believe to be the long winter, which is approaching at a sluggish pace. This land has everything one could ask for in an epic fantasy, from the frost of The Wall and Castle Winterfell in the North, the islands in the East and the West, to the sun-streaked lands of Dorne in the South. Much of A Game of Thrones takes place in the uncharted Summer lands, where the Dothraki horse people roam free. The meat of the novel take place in the heart of Westeros, in the midlands, in the castles of the regal. If high court intrique is your taste, you’ll plenty here in A Game of Thrones.
While the characterization, dialog and setting development shine, the format of this novel is perhaps what is the most brilliant aspect of A Game of Thrones. Martin’s ability to write entire chapters from the point of view of such a vast variety of perspectives is what truly amazes me. He runs the gamut: the middle-aged “king in the north” faced with a proposition of a job upgrade versus more time with his family; his bastard son of fifteen; his wife, the confident, intelligent, strong woman; their son, a boy of nine; two of their daughters, twelve and ten; another thirteen year old girl; an imp; the list goes on an on. The dynamic of seeing a story from this many directions is compelling. The realism that is brought to a tale when an author can tell it in this fashion, and truly, and I mean truly, get into the skin of each of these characters, is something I doubt will happen ever again in fantasy fiction. A Game of Thrones is just simply unmatched.
The end product of an author having the ability to literally transform himself into so many well-established characters is a novel as multi-dimensional as A Game of Thrones. You begin to see the people in this world as real human beings with real problems and real beliefs. The story takes on not one, but a vast variety of plots and sub-plots, each of them more consuming than the next. The way the story lines diverge and inevitably cross paths again weaves a tale that is simply pure genius.
For this, I can give nothing but my best rating possible to A Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin has truly given us a world and people worth believing. Isn’t this the reason we all started reading fantasy novels so many years ago?