Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin

The book is dark, and full of terrors.

I was hesitant to even talk about his book series and the HBO show, it's so big, so much to cover. And let's be honest, it's been covered about a billion times by other people.

I would like to talk about something a bit different than the plots and stabbings in GRRM's work, I'd like to talk about the writing process and GRRM's overall goal when writing this work.

First of all, the process. Did you know that George RR Martin does not outline his works ahead of time? He doesn't. He'd get bored if he did that, the writing work would get dull and the story would suffer. I really like that take on the writing process.

What I don't understand is how you keep everything straight when writing something as voluminous and complex as A Song of Ice and Fire.

Oh, never mind, there are huge wiki's online to help him. I wonder if he reads them? I bet he does.

That's not to say ol' Georgie didn't have a plan.  Not only did he have a general idea of the big characters and where they were going, he also had a thematic plan. He set out to write complex characters with real motivations.

Characters aren't evil, it's just their selfishness outweighs their empathy. Or they are perceived as evil but actually have pure motivations. This is not so unique any more though, just off hand the characters of The Punisher, Judge Dredd and Dirty Harry are all stone killers but the term 'evil' doesn't fit them. It's all about motivations, greater good, how far are they willing to go, that sort of thing.

I think Martin is striving to bring that same sense of complexity to epic fantasy. He's said as much. He's succeeding.

What's more unique is that he's upending the classic story expectation that good guys get the happy ending and bad guys get the bad ending. Everyone gets what's coming to them in the end, and so all is right in the world. GRRM dumped that totally on it's head during the first book, and he continues to do so in each succeeding book.

I love that. He's stuck to it, despite some criticism once the show has come out, horrible terrible things can be in store for innocents and do gooders. Or good things happen. You never know, and that makes for an astounding tale. The show sometimes takes the story even further, diverging from the source material, but I'll not spoil those moments for you.

I recommend these books to any epic fantasy fan. They can be dense and slow at times, so you might have to speed read through certain sections, but overall the big events in the book are truly awesome. I recommend the show to everyone. It's the best show ever made, in my opinion. Do we need to use the phrase 'in my opinion' any more? This is obviously my opinion. No panel of judges got together and declared it the greatest of all time, in case there was any confusion.

I issue a warning though. If you want a nice happy show where the good guys are good and have good things happen and the bad guys get their just desserts, then you need to avoid this show and this book series. You'll know at the end of the first season of the show and by the end of the first book if it's for you. Please take note, the first book/season is just the tip of the ice berg. The story is dark, and full of terrors.

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