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  1. #1
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    Feb 2007
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    Game of Thrones - The Books

    I was late to the HBO series Game of Thrones and only started watching 2-3 months ago, in which I pretty much watched every night starting with Season 1, Episode 1, and caught up just in time for this season's finale. But now I'm hooked and going through withdrawal so I was thinking of starting to read the series on my Kindle app.

    For those of you who have read the books and watched the series, do you think I'll be bored or, as I've found in most cases when comparing books to TV/movies, are the books interesting and different in their own right? I'm not a huge fantasy genre person (limited pretty much to the Harry Potter series) so I need to consider that as well.
    Rich
    "Failure is Not a Destination"
    Coach K on the Dan Patrick Show, December 22, 2016

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    I was late to the HBO series Game of Thrones and only started watching 2-3 months ago, in which I pretty much watched every night starting with Season 1, Episode 1, and caught up just in time for this season's finale. But now I'm hooked and going through withdrawal so I was thinking of starting to read the series on my Kindle app.

    For those of you who have read the books and watched the series, do you think I'll be bored or, as I've found in most cases when comparing books to TV/movies, are the books interesting and different in their own right? I'm not a huge fantasy genre person (limited pretty much to the Harry Potter series) so I need to consider that as well.
    The books are awesome, but I am a sci fi and fantasy junkie.
    My problem reading them is they are huge and complex, and there was a huge lag between books being published.
    This meant each new book almost required a re-read of the preceding books. At roughly 1000 pages each, it became a huge time commitment. I've read through the fourth book and enjoyed them all, but have not started the fifth. There are so many characters, and the book style varies from several chapters focusing on a subset of characters to rotating through characters a chapter at a time. The writing style itself is not confusing but lends itself to continuous reading.

    My wife started with season one, we are almost done with season two and she is currently reading book five.

    They are well written, and my wife is not a fantasy fan and is enjoying them.

    I'd highly recommend reading them. For the most part, the show is true to the books but the books have much more intricate detail. It might be a bit of a reach given some of the supernatural elements, but if you like historical fiction you'll probably like reading Game of Thrones.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
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    Gates House (House H for you old timers)
    I have read the books, and I would say that if you love rich detail and compelling side stories, then the books would be great.

    One thing to potentially be wary of is the sheer number of people in the books. Some people complain about the show having so many characters, but compared to the number of characters in the books, the character list on the show is quite barren. Each book comes with an appendix listing all of the characters from the important families; however, there are many more characters, some of them important, that are lowborn/from smaller houses/etc that don't show up in the appendices. Sometimes ( meaning often) keeping track of various characters and their locations, their relationships to other characters, how they are significant, etc can get quite cumbersome and potentially overwhelming. However, the large character list adds to the immersive feel of being in a 'medieval' setting, so to speak. The world feels fleshed out, and you get the sense that many things are happening outside of what you see from the main characters' points of view. In other words, it feels like a real world, and not just a setting for the story to take place.

    On the depth of the books: Another complaint I sometimes hear from show watchers is that some storylines tend to drag a bit; i.e. they take too much time with dialogue scenes and side stories, letting the main plot drag on a little bit. Well in the books, there are far more side stories, dialogue sequences, internal monologues, recollections of past events, and in depth descriptions of food than there are on the show. Many of these added details are quite intriguing and, as before, help to immerse one's self in the story, while some others feel a bit out of place and somewhat unnecessary. I would say, however, that the sheer scale and intensive attention to detail really reflect the care George R.R. Martin took (and still takes, ah Winds of Winter we will never know ye) when crafting this story.

    Another added benefit, in my opinion of course, to the books over the show is that each book is written in a series of point-of-view chapters from several different characters. One chapter, you are inside Ned's head; the next chapter, you are inside Tyrion's head; the next Jon's, etc. The understanding that you develop with each POV character, many of whom end up enemies with other POV characters, really drives home the nuanced morality of Martin's universe. You get the sense that there isn't necessarily one "good guy" or "good side," a feeling that I believe the show has, for the most part, done an excellent job of recreating. Often times you will disagree with the decisions of some POV characters, but that is because you have been inside the head of some other characters, something the POV character tragically would have no chance of doing themselves. Of course, this means that some scenes from the show between certain characters, say Littlefinger and Varys, can't be shown in the books because neither participant is a POV character.

    As to the fantasy aspects: While there is some fantasy in A Song of Ice and Fire, just as there is in Game of Thrones, the story as told in the books, at least up to book 5, is primarily a medieval political drama. Yes there are dragons and greenseers and haunting ice beings, but the main focus of the story and most of the biggest plot points concern the high nobility of Westeros scheming and plotting ways to hoard as much power as possible. Much of the story as written by Martin reflects power struggles and events that happened in real life history. For example, the War of the Five Kings, which predominates much of the story to date, was inspired, according to Martin, by the War of the Roses. If you are a fantasy fan, you'll probably like these books just because they are so good; however, they are not high fantasy by any means. If I were to call this story fantasy, I would call it "low" fantasy, but I think calling it a political intrigue thriller with some fantasy elements is a more apt description.

    All in all, this is my favorite book series of all time, and I hope you take the time to read the books. Whether or not you choose to enjoy the show in its entirety first and then pick up the books later or to just read all of the books now is up to you, but I would encourage everyone to at some point pick up these books and read them. It's worth your time.

    Addendum: The book series is still unfinished. 5 out of 7 planned books have been written, and George R.R. Martin is a notoriously slow writer (and these books are notoriously long). Book 5 came out 3 years ago, and it looks like book 6 won't be here until 2015 at the earliest. Fair warning.

    Post-addendum: In addition to the main book series, there are several smaller stories that Martin has written that take place in this universe. One such series is the Dunk and Egg novellas, which take place approximately 80-100 years before the events of the main series. Additionally, Martin is releasing a major project later this year titled The World of Ice and Fire, which is essentially a tome of the history of Westeros and Essos, going into great detail about many stories in the Ice and Fire universe that happened before the story of the books.

  4. #4
    I'm going to pose the reverse of the OP's question. I've read the books and love them, I'm still debating whether or not watching the series will be worth it. In hearing other people discuss the show it seems that much of the hook is that you never know what will happen next, but since I've read I know what's coming. Will I still enjoy the show?

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by kmspeaks View Post
    I'm going to pose the reverse of the OP's question. I've read the books and love them, I'm still debating whether or not watching the series will be worth it. In hearing other people discuss the show it seems that much of the hook is that you never know what will happen next, but since I've read I know what's coming. Will I still enjoy the show?
    In short, yes. :-)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    California
    I am not really a fantasy fan, but I have read the books and would highly recommend them to anyone considering them.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Durham-- 2 miles from Cameron, baby!
    I'm in the opposite camp as a lot of people here. I read the first book, and stopped somewhere in the second, or maybe the third. (It was a while back. I stopped reading not shortly before the Red Wedding, as it turns out.) I'm usually a pretty determined reader, and it's a rare book or series that I put down that isn't patently awful. A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the few.

    First off: there was a lot about the books that I liked. The fantasy genre has become stale in a lot of ways, Martin really came at it fresh and and spun a lot of heads, including mine. The settings are dirty, gritty. Kings are jerks, or narcissists, or wildly incompetent, or decadent, or all of the above. People are interested in sex. War is dirty and nasty, people die horribly and for little reason. The books ARE a breath of fresh air in a stagnant room.

    On the flip side, I felt the books were overly long, particularly in relation to how much story they tell. (Or how much they advance the plot.) Martin's writing is excellent, but self-indulgent. Some people like the digressions and wordiness, I don't. Just a personal preference. And I'm no stranger to long books or series, or even wordy writers.

    One thing that increasingly turned me off was the feeling that Martin was a bit sadistic toward his audience. I felt like he tries to get you to really like a character before he kills them horribly. Obviously, this isn't a complete digression from the TV series, but I do feel that Martin really tries to maximize the likability of sympathetic characters before he kills them.

    The last reason, and this is kind of meta, is that I don't believe Martin will finish the series. He's 65 and morbidly obese. His life expectancy with that profile is not great, maybe five years or so. He'll be a book away from finishing at that point if current patterns hold, and that's IF he doesn't add a book or two, like most people expect. Plus, he frequently says things like, "I've got other things to do than write Game of Thrones" when pressed about finishing, so it's not the sole focus for him. This realization was the camel's straw for me.

    If he does, in fact, finish, I'll probably consider reading the books again-- particularly since I'll have already faced a lot of the meanest deaths via the show and won't get, uhm, Red Weddinged all over the place.

    I'm sure many will disagree with these sentiments, these are just my personal feelings and reason for dropping the series from my reading list partway through.

  8. #8
    The books are worth a read. The first couple of books are great. The series started to bog down in book 4 and 5, but part of the reason is the way the books were split. Book 4 and 5 take place concurrently, but half the characters are in book 4, and half are in book 5. I found this departure from the previous three book a bit difficult to grapple with. That said -- I have read through the whole series multiple times. If you are a consistent reader, I don't think you will have much trouble following the books. That said, each time I reread them I notice more intricate detail and foreshadowing, and pick up on things I missed...

    I disagree with Alteran that Martin is purposely sadistic. The deaths are hugely important plot devices for the main storyline -- they are the big events that the story pivots around. Furthermore, the "likeability" of the characters is more a testament to the terrific and sympathetic casting of the TV show. I found myself drawn to most of the characters in the book.

    The other reason to read the books is because it offers a fuller view if you like the show. You get a lot more perspective and understanding of things that happen in the show if you read the books. The show will only ever be an "incomplete view" due to the depth of the books.

  9. #9
    Plus, there are a few major plot differences between the books and the show. Robb Stark's wife/queen, for example, is handled almost completely differently in the books than in the show. The Red Wedding and who dies during it is a little different. The fight between Oberyn and Clegane is very different. Sansa's discussion with the leaders of the Vale. Sandor and the other Stark girl's (can't remember her name right now for the life of me) little journey is very different. There are others as well. Some of these are done due to timing for the show, others... I'm not sure why. Maybe they think it was easier for the audience or something?
    Last edited by bjornolf; 06-17-2014 at 10:13 PM.
    LET'S GO DUKE!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    The Northwest
    The books are fantastic. I'm definitely not a big time reader, but these ones are some of the best I've ever read.

    I couldn't even get through the second season of the show. It's so massively inferior to the books that is was constantly frustrating. Then in the second season they started changing major parts of the show - and not in ways that were better. Then when you throw in that HBO is run by 13 year old boys who go above and beyond the constant search to find any excuse for more boobs and blood at any chance - it makes the choice between the two of them beyond easy.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by theAlaskanBear View Post
    The books are worth a read. The first couple of books are great. The series started to bog down in book 4 and 5, but part of the reason is the way the books were split. Book 4 and 5 take place concurrently, but half the characters are in book 4, and half are in book 5. I found this departure from the previous three book a bit difficult to grapple with. That said -- I have read through the whole series multiple times. If you are a consistent reader, I don't think you will have much trouble following the books. That said, each time I reread them I notice more intricate detail and foreshadowing, and pick up on things I missed...

    I disagree with Alteran that Martin is purposely sadistic. The deaths are hugely important plot devices for the main storyline -- they are the big events that the story pivots around. Furthermore, the "likeability" of the characters is more a testament to the terrific and sympathetic casting of the TV show. I found myself drawn to most of the characters in the book.

    The other reason to read the books is because it offers a fuller view if you like the show. You get a lot more perspective and understanding of things that happen in the show if you read the books. The show will only ever be an "incomplete view" due to the depth of the books.
    Lots of great posts in this thread, and I enjoy seeing everyone's perspective, all of which is well reasoned. AlaskanBear has my proxy, though. Books 1-3 are great, with SoS probably being my favorite. Book 4 took a bit of a dive (FoC), and book 5 was back up to the series' level (maybe equal with book 2).

    I do agree that I'm worried Martin won't finish the series, but hey, that doesn't make the work to this point any less compelling, and he has given his high level plan to others to finish for him if he doesn't wake up tomorrow. That's realistically a risk with any lengthy series that you start before it's finished.

    Probably my only main complaint about his writing style is the elaborate details on the food. When I see 3 pages of text describing the texture of a lamprey pie, I just scan and skip ahead.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Elon, NC
    [Probably my only main complaint about his writing style is the elaborate details on the food. When I see 3 pages of text describing the texture of a lamprey pie, I just scan and skip ahead.[/QUOTE]

    Another writer who got carried away with long, drawn out descriptions was Robert Jordan of the Wheel of Time series. He could go on and on for pages about the lace on a person's shirt. Robert Jordan did die before his final book was completed. His widow found another writer to take over the notes and drafts to complete the series. The final book actually came out as three books and continued the long drawn out descriptions. Wheel of Time was a series that in the end I wish I hadn't read because of it's long drawn out style. But after having read the first 4-5 books I decided I had to finish it to see how it ended. But knowing what I know now I probably would never have started the series.
    Tom Mac

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Reisen View Post
    Lots of great posts in this thread, and I enjoy seeing everyone's perspective, all of which is well reasoned. AlaskanBear has my proxy, though. Books 1-3 are great, with SoS probably being my favorite. Book 4 took a bit of a dive (FoC), and book 5 was back up to the series' level (maybe equal with book 2).

    I do agree that I'm worried Martin won't finish the series, but hey, that doesn't make the work to this point any less compelling, and he has given his high level plan to others to finish for him if he doesn't wake up tomorrow. That's realistically a risk with any lengthy series that you start before it's finished.

    Probably my only main complaint about his writing style is the elaborate details on the food. When I see 3 pages of text describing the texture of a lamprey pie, I just scan and skip ahead.
    You might skip ahead, I get hungry and raid the fridge

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    Atlanta, GA
    I'm an avid GoT reader and watcher. My take on the books, in many ways, is similar to what's been voiced here...they're wordy at times and they can be hard to follow if you don't pay attention, simply owing to the tale's sheer scale. For that reason (and to my wife's consternation), I've found them to be a very active and engrossing reading experience. I especially enjoy the geography that Martin has created. I have a thing for maps anyway, and I like how the varying terrain, biomes, etc. play into not only plot points, but the underlying personalities and motives of the people and clans involved.
    Like others, I worry that Martin will fail to complete the books. I'm not sure I'd go quite as far as to describe GRRM as "morbidly obese," but he's definitely not skinny. Either way, the franchise is worth so much now that I'm pretty confident that his heirs would find someone to finish the writing.
    My main complaint: the prose of the books is, generally speaking, not that great. Martin has a penchant for repeating certain words or phrases a lot, and there's the above-mentioned insistence on over-describing. Along with food, it's clothes. Finish the series, and you'll have spent hours reading about doublets and jerkins and cloaks and bodices and ringmail and boiled leather and cloth-of-gold and blah blah blah. As already said though, you can relatively easily skim those parts. I don't read the books for well-spun works of wordsmithy; instead, I enjoy the intricately crafted plot (which continues to entertain me after dozens of hours spent digesting it), the fully realized history of a real-feeling place, and most of all, the characterization. A phrase I use a lot when describing the series is "shades of grey." Martin is good at constructing flawed, layered, complex characters who do unpredictable, human things. In contrast to many other works of fantasy, GRRM's characters are, to me, more textured, in that they're all comprised of some good and some bad. I repeatedly find myself inwardly wrestling with my feelings on a given character who has done some noble things and some awful things. Nobody in Westeros is totally good or totally bad...well, almost nobody (looking at you two, Joffrey and Cersei). The richness and depth of the characters is the #1 thing that keeps me coming back.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Tommac View Post
    Another writer who got carried away with long, drawn out descriptions was Robert Jordan of the Wheel of Time series. He could go on and on for pages about the lace on a person's shirt. Robert Jordan did die before his final book was completed. His widow found another writer to take over the notes and drafts to complete the series. The final book actually came out as three books and continued the long drawn out descriptions. Wheel of Time was a series that in the end I wish I hadn't read because of it's long drawn out style. But after having read the first 4-5 books I decided I had to finish it to see how it ended. But knowing what I know now I probably would never have started the series.
    I don't remember his widow finding Sanderson, though I could be wrong about that. I thought he came in and helped with the last book Jordan wrote because Jordan's health was failing so badly, then finished the series. My understanding was that Jordan had already fully outlined and roughed out the finale, and Sanderson really just fleshed it out and polished it into a trilogy. I actually enjoyed that series, though.
    LET'S GO DUKE!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjornolf View Post
    I don't remember his widow finding Sanderson, though I could be wrong about that. I thought he came in and helped with the last book Jordan wrote because Jordan's health was failing so badly, then finished the series. My understanding was that Jordan had already fully outlined and roughed out the finale, and Sanderson really just fleshed it out and polished it into a trilogy. I actually enjoyed that series, though.
    Well it probably was the publisher who actually found Sanderson to complete the books but Jordan's widow was involved in the process to approve the writer selection. I used to read all the news on the WOT website and recollected that Jordan's wife was closely involved in the Sanderson selection. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I read the series. I just wished Jordan had been less wordy and more concise.
    Tom Mac

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Tommac View Post
    I just wished Jordan had been less wordy and more concise.
    Won't argue with you there!
    LET'S GO DUKE!

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