I am intrigued by Westeros but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Oh, I would buy real estate in Middle Earth in a heartbeat, even during the rise of Sauron, but you could not pay me to step one foot in Westeros.
When I think of Westeros, I like to picture my four-year old son and his reaction to something scary on TV. See, when he is scared he will immediately run out of the room, but then he will slowly return and watch the TV from a distance via a reflection off of the glass of a picture on an opposite wall. Not quite watching, not quite looking away…
That is me with the George R.R. Martin series, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.
I discovered A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE book series by George R.R. Martin (including GAME OF THRONES) last year. And like an addict I pulled a lot of people into the addiction with me with free samples (presents of books, and I gave a lot last year) and peer pressure (Watch the HBO series, you know you want to… Who will it hurt? It’s only an hour. It won’t hurt anybody…).
I’ve become one of those fans who like to discuss the series, speculate on what is to happen next and, more fun, breakdown the things I love and hate about the series. Oh, and how I love to debate this book series with people.
Good Guys Don’t Stand A Chance
Sometimes I feel like Martin is mocking us for looking for a hero and then rooting for him. This is very true with the Starks. He keeps dangling one in front of us as a hero, only to have their head chopped off, killed at a wedding, or stabbed in the snow.
Yet, it is more than that. When a character decides to do good, typically it will come back to haunt them. Tyrion takes control of the defenses in the Battle of Blackwater and loses part of his nose. Sandor starts to act noble and the last we see of him he is dying. Oberyn versus Sir Gregor.
Now, I’m not about to argue that everyone has to write a book or series where there is a good guy in white for us to cheer for, but it seems like the message in Martin’s books over and over and over again is that doing the right thing and being good is a weakness and it will bite you on the ass later. In his world, love, caring for another, being a friend, etc., are all weaknesses.
Ouch, seriously, ouch.
Fine, Mr. Martin, if that is your lesson, it is your call, but here is the problem… After thousands of pages filled with numerous examples of this “lesson” it is getting monotonous and a little predictable. I expect everyone who does the slightest good for another to get “it.”
And when I say “it,” for Martin there can be a lot of “its.” In his imagination, being only stabbed can be a blessing. I’ve never read an author that has so much creativity when it comes to torture and abuse.
No, I don’t know if that is a compliment or a concern for a therapist, but it is a fact. Martin is very creative about finding new ways to injure, mutilate, and abuse his citizens of Westeros. Whatever, the case I do not want to get on his bad side… ever.
Where Are We Going…
One of the things I find the most frustrating about the series, is I don’t see Mount Doom. For those that can’t speak Middle Earth, what I mean is I do not know where we are heading, why, and what is the goal. And, to be brutally honest, I find that really agonizing as a reader.
Right now, we are five books into a seven book series and there is no clear direction besides the soap opera-esq day-to-day life of the people in Westeros. Yes, specific characters have goals they are working for (and some just want to survive), but there is no overarching point.
It took four books for winter to finally arrive for example!
Let’s say for example, the main hub of the story is actually the Others and what is going on at the Wall. If that is the case, then what is the point of everything else? Would that make the four books a kind of prequel to that storyline? In the long run then, do we really need to know about Cersei and her backstabbing in the courts? (Did anyone else expect her in the fourth book to suddenly be wearing one of those long black mustaches bad guys wear in silent movies? OK, maybe that was just me.)
If the story is the kings and their battle for the Iron throne, then one has to ask the same question about the Others.
Yes, a series can have a few major storylines, that is fine. But when it is this many, and no clear direction or goal for so MANY characters and plots…
I can’t even finish the thought it is just so frustrating to me. I want something to latch onto as a reader and he just doesn’t give it to us. Give us a Voldemort! Please!
First, I thought we were building to the return of Daenerys, but then in the fifth book she was almost like she was a different character just waiting, but for what? OK, actually this brings me to the next point…
Please Move Forward
The last book, while entertaining didn’t feel like it went anywhere. For me it felt like the characters were all spinning their wheels. Oh, they went places, everyone it seems was on a journey but Jon Snow, but plotwise they didn’t really get anywhere. It was such a long book and in the end there were only a few major occurences and I can count them on my hand.This never felt like an issue with the earlier books (especially the first and second book).
Is he spreading out the action/plot because he knows there are more books coming? Did he just want to focus on character, but if that is the case it didn’t feel like it with all of them (for example, Daenerys, who actually felt like she stepped back in many ways).
Frankly, sometimes I feel like Martin gets bored.
I know many praise Martin for his amount of creativity in this series, the hundreds of locations, thousands of characters, languages, etc. For me, it all feels too much. And during the third book, I began to wonder if this amount of addition after addition being added by Martin is because he gets bored by his initial creation of Westeros.
Look at the fourth book for example. I know Martin says that it is part of book five and he split them in half, but a part of me wonders if those chapters were merely the ones ready because he was bored with all of the other lead characters and didn’t have any desire to write them yet.
There are other things that make me wonder about the boredom issue. For example, I have found that when a character’s plot line isn’t moving forward or they are “waiting” for the time when they are supposed to move forward (In other words, there is something Martin wants to put in motion in the plot first)… well… they have sex. And they seem to have sex until that gets boring for the character. It seems to be one of the running little things to notice in the story (Well, that and describing food. And the religions! They don’t stop with the religions!).
You know a character is waiting for Martin to lock something into place for the rest of the plot when a character looks over at another and gives a sly, little wink.
I don’t know if this series needs an editor (even though I loved seeing GAME OF THRONES cut down to only 10 hours and the heart of the story for HBO) to get rid of the excess baggage, but there are definite times (especially during the fourth book), when I wish there was someone with a giant pair of scissors on hand.
Yet, who am I to judge? People love this series! I go back all the time to them. Would I like it overall shorter? Hell, yeah. Do I think others could have done one of his books in 400 pages instead of a 1000? Yes. Does it matter I feel that way? No.
The fact of the matter is what George R.R. Martin is doing is very impressive. The fact that people are debating the series, like this editorial, around the world is a major accomplishment. And no matter how much I may (or may not) complain, he has me hooked.
I’m his junkie, I just wish I didn’t have to wait so long for another dose.
If you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here. Thanks for reading!