A Game of Thrones bookclub begins
Greetings League! Before I write any more I’d like to extend special thanks to E.D. Kain for giving me the opportunity to write here. Hopefully I won’t disappoint.
Anyway, my name is Daniel and I’ll be E.D.’s copilot in this A Game of Thrones bookclub. I have no political stances and won’t engage in any discussion concerning policy or politics so don’t even try. Besides that there isn’t much else to know about me. I’m a journalist and a longtime fan of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (I was a fan before the HBO series) so I’m predictably pretty excited about this bookclub.
One thing about this series is that it’s pretty upfront. As far as I can tell the pleasure of the story depends on the complexity of the characters and the straightforward complex plot. As far as I can tell, there is very little undertone or overarching symbolism beyond what can be found in the actions and characteristics of the various protagonists and antagonists. There are plenty of bookclubs where this isn’t the case but there are also ones where it is so I don’t think we’ll have any problems making interesting conversation.
One unique aspect of this bookclub is that it’s happening while an adapted t.v. version is airing while the author is still alive. There have been a fair amount of comparisons of the A Song of Ice and Fire series to The Lord of the Rings series and say what you will about that (I don’t think they’re very similar other than the popular fantasy aspect) but one clear difference is that the first big adaptation was made while the series’ author is alive. That makes it harder for diehard fans to froth at the mouth and say that the show isn’t ‘doing it right’ or that the t.v. series would never have been allowed to air in this way if George R. R. Martin had anything to say about it…because he does. Moreover, unlike other popular authors, Martin is a blogger and you can read and engage with him here.
The other day Martin prompted a pretty obvious question given the circumstances:
Judging by the comments I’m hearing, one of the favorite scenes in this week’s episode of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES was the throne room verbal sparring between Lord Varys and Lord Baelish. (For which all credit goes to David Benioff and Dan Weiss. The scene was not in the novel. Which is not to say it could not have happened, but neither Petyr nor Varys is a viewpoint character, so I had no pov from which to present such a scene).
(emphasis mine) So do fans of the series have to follow the show if they want to get as complete a story as possible? Is Martin’s story now a multiplatform one? I guess you can compare this to Star Wars and the expanded universe but my knee jerk reaction is that George Lucas lost total control over his vision and George R. R. Martin hasn’t. So I want to extend this question as an opening salvo for our bookclub, what do you think dear readers? Are the books now only providing part of Martin’s vision now or are they still Martin’s one true story? Is it fair game to consider what happens in the show while reading the books?*
Anyway, in terms of kicking this thing into gear, lets read the first four chapters (not including the prologue) of A Game of Thrones this week meaning to the end of the first Eddard point of view chapter and reconvene on Wednesday.
I feel like I need to include the Game of Thrones intro somewhere in this post so here it is:
*UPDATE: A part of this post seems to have been missing when I first put it up. I’m not quite sure what happened. Apologies.
SECOND UPDATE, 5/19/2011: I liked this comment by Jamelle:
I have a general rule about books series and their film adaptations that applies to Game of Thrones. It’s not that the show is the “real” timeline, but that it’s something of an alternate one; that is, it’s what Game of Thrones (the book) would look like if George R.R. Martin were starting from scratch and producing a television show. The stories and characters share common elements, but because of the medium, there are also important differences.
The upside of this approach is that it’s hard to be disappointed when the show takes a different direction, because it’s necessarily the same as the book.
I generally agree with this when it comes to the books and the T.V. show. Both the books and the T.V. show are the story that Martin wants to tell but each has its own limitations.
One of the biggest differences, for me, between the show and the books is what the actors do to the characters. I believe E.D. said it best: Peter Dinklage is just too damn handsome to be Tyrion Lannister, which affects how the viewer thinks of Tyrion. In the books, Tyrion’s lecherous and ugly exterior hid the qualities that eventually made him my favorite character. I grew to like Tyrion as I learned that he’s more than just a sarcastic lord always looking to get laid. In Game of Thrones, it’s been hard for me to grow to like Tyrion like I did in the books because I’m never inclined to think he’s just this ugly smartass hornball like I did in the books. I’m not changing my opinion of Tyrion in the same way I did when I read the books.
The “actor factor” came up in the thread to the Cersei post too. In the books, it’s easier to see that Cersei is a cruel lunatic. In the show she seems pretty calm and kind at first. But I’m pretty sure she’s going to come around to mirror the Cersei in the books soon enough.
THIRD UPDATE, 5/22/2011: Ryon! in the comments writes:
Very glad that this is up and running. Some of my favorite books, and I am so glad that the new book is coming out.
One of the interesting things about Martin being so involved in the making of the show is that it can also provide an interesting perspective on events that were otherwise mysterious. For example, the conversation between Littlefinger and Varys was great because it made clear to me that [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER] it was Varys and Illyrio were the ones talking in the dungen that Arya overheard. I think it was made clear in a later volume of the books, but the scene had lost its import, but because of the new scene, it suddenly clicked and makes Varys the interesting character that he was to become.
Another thing I am excited about with the show is the part where Daenerys gets the vision in the weird temple/house. I can’t wait to see what they do with that. I could never follow it too well in the books, but will love to see the visuals they cook up for it.
(emphasis mine) I didn’t pick up on this until I saw the show either. I think that’s part of the give and take of an adaptation. In watching the show some things in the story are going to become more obvious while other things (like what drives a character to do something) will be less clear. That’s just the tradeoff of telling a story on T.V. versus telling it in bookform.