(THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS POST. Do not read if you plan on reading the books.)
I’m on vacation right now, and I finally had enough free time to finish the 800 page book A Game of Thrones.
It is Michael’s favorite book (and series of books…yes, there are more than one.) He’s been trying to get me to read it for years, and since fantasy is just not my thing, and because he kept pushing for it, and because he would never read the books I liked and wanted him to read, I never read it. But then an HBO series of the book was greenlighted, and was to premier in April. Five days before the series was going to air, I decided it would be a huge mistake if I watched the series before I read the book. I could never go back to not knowing what the actors looked like if I wanted to read the book someday. I decided it was now or never. Sure, it’s a dense book but I could still read it in five days, right?
That was the first week of April. It’s now the final week of June and I only just finished the book yesterday.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, let me give you an idea of the story. This is from the back cover:
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
It sounds awesome, right? Well, in truth, it is. The story is so rich and thick and detailed and it’s never predictable. The characters are all so complex and real, it’s not easy to tell if there are good or bad guys. Not to mention the descriptions could just kill you they’re so good. He made me want to eat all the food he describes in the book and gave me nightmares about weird pseudo-dead-dragonish-baby-monsters birthed by a human. I wanted to be several characters in the book, I wanted Arya to be my kid so I could support her tomboyishness, I wanted Jon to be my big brother so I could recall his sword advice to “stick them with the pointy-end”, I wanted to tell Bran everything was going to be ok, I wanted to punch Cersei in the face on several occasions. I loved the story, I loved the characters, I love the actual writing, so why didn’t I love the book?
A few reasons:
1. You aren’t reading one story, you’re reading, like, twelve. Which is awesome on it’s own, but in this book every chapter is from a different character’s perspective, so the book jumps from plot to plot by chapter. It’s so unsatisfying to get into one story, something happens, and then you get ripped from it at the chapter’s end before a climax, and get dropped into a different story. It’s like, imagine you always leave the best bite for last at your meals. The book is like if your plate got ripped from under your fork right before you could have that last bite, at every meal, everyday, for MONTHS. I hated that. Just let me get into the book, you know? The episodic thing drove me crazy.
2. I didn’t realize before that I never really read the names of characters in books, I just recognized their shapes. Like, the “A” guy and the “Th…y” guy. You can’t do that in this book. Why? Well, there’s this one guy named Viserys but another guy is named Varys. There’s also Greyjoy and GreyWind. There’s Tywin and Tyrion. Everyone in the entire Dothraki race was vaguely called Chaka Khan in my head. I could not keep all these people straight. Not to mention, people go by several different names: their real first name, their nick name (some have a few), their title, and/or their relationship to the perspective of the character you’re currently reading from. My mind can’t handle it. I was constantly refferring to the appendix to remind myself of who people were. Since the book is a mystery as well, there were quite a few “reveals” that instead of having me gasp in shock, they had me going, Wait, WHO? Wait…. what?
3. I hate reading action scenes. I skim the quiddich scenes in Harry Potter. I skim the battle scenes in Game of Thrones.
So the book wasn’t so satisfying to read. But I’m glad I did, for a few reasons: I got to picture the whole world and what the characters looked like without a TV show doing that for me. And now that I know I love the story, I can’t wait to watch the show. Also all of Mike’s friends and their wives have read it, and now I feel like a part of the club. Although I might be the only one that had mixed feelings on the book.
But the best part? A few years ago I had Michael agree that if I ever read A Game of Thrones, he would have to read one of my favorite books. I gave him a choice of two: Middlesex by Jeffry Eugenides or Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.