Friday, June 1, 2012

De and Doug's Den: A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones)

Hi, Doug here to tell you about the book series Song of Fire and Ice, a.k.a. Game of Thrones!  

It is a fantasy series by George Martin that was recently adapted for a TV series on HBO.  Only five of the seven proposed books are available, but it is never too soon to dig into the series.  I started reading it last spring (and still haven’t gotten to the latest book, released last July), and De and I watched the first season of the show.  The show follows the book fairly closely.

This epic is set in the fictitious continent of Westeros, culturally similar to the medieval period.  Westeros is a monarchy over seven “kingdoms” that had been united under a single dynasty.  About ten years prior to the story, there was a civil war in which the mad, completely wicked King was overthrown and a new dynasty was installed.  This drama shows the outbreak of a new civil war, splitting Westeros into multiple sections; incest, pride, honor, and lust for power created several factions, each seeking to install their own king.  

The author has created the most expansive list of primary characters I have ever encountered; each chapter follows a “point-of-view” character (out of 15-20 characters) throughout the chaos, battles and politics of the realm.  In addition, there is a slow building story of conflict centered on an ancient, evil power growing in the frozen north, threatening the people of Westeros, blinded by their own affairs.

The Good:
If you are seeking an immersive experience, this is a series for you.  Many characters, each with their own attributes and flaws, inhabit this world.  Political machinations, battles, war planning, betrayal, and heroism all create a living, breathing world.  I like deep stories and settings, and this provides it in spades.  If you are looking for something to compare it to, think “Lost” meets “The West Wing.”

The Bad:
There isn’t much critically wrong with the books or the TV show.  The books can drag sometimes, there many narrative summations and monologues (which are often a necessity for such a large world), and the fantasy does overtake logic or realism in certain parts.  The TV series is pretty good; most of the acting is acceptable, and in some cases it is brilliant. There are some missing scenes from the book series, but it does a fantastic job condensing everything into an understandable story.

The Ugly:
There are few, if any, characters that have exemplary behavior; this is not the high, ideal fantasy of Tolkien, Lewis, or Baum.  This is more “realistic” which, to be fair, was probably what the medieval period really was like; however, if you are looking for a “hero” to support, there are only a few that might fit the bill.  Both the show and the books are definitely “Rated R” material. The show is aired and created by HBO, which allows for much more than other TV shows and most movies.  There is blood and gore, violence, language, nudity, sexual situations, and more.  The show doesn’t add anything to the book plot, but the show seems to condense the “boring” parts, which creates a higher percentage of objectionable material compared to the books.  (Every 10-15 minutes on the show compared to every 50-100 pages of the book series.) 

Overall, it is a great series and interesting plot.  There are many “pieces” to watch in the Game of Thrones, which creates a dynamic and ever-changing world in which to get lost.  If you think you want to read the books, try watching an episode or two of the TV show.

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