Thursday, 1 August 2013

George R.R. Martin - A Game of Thrones

After many, many people started creaming their pants about the television series, I saw this book on the counter at GameStation and thought, ‘Why not? Let’s see what all the fuss is about.’ So I took it. In exchange for money.

I’m ashamed that it is one of the only books I own that has the television cover on it, which is also annoying because all the rest of the books I’ve bought in the series do not having matching covers which is something I will struggle to live with.

While the TV series was enjoyable, the books are so much better. In terms of character building and story telling the narrative is well developed and the dialogue tells you so much about the type of person the character is.

I didn’t make any notes over the first 375 pages which shows how cleanly written it is, however after this point, it suffers from Stephen King’s Carrie syndrome as the writing completely falls apart. It was like the first 300 pages were submitted for publication and then the rest of it was just rush written with little editing.

For example at the bottom of page 376 there is a piece of dialogue that I still cannot understand; ‘Mind you, Princess, if the lords of the Seven Kingdoms, have the with the gods gave a goose...’ Can someone please tell me what this is supposed to mean? It’s clearly a typing error of some sort but it makes the dialogue meaningless which is unfortunate at best.

There are loads of other little ones that don’t have that much of an impact; an additional ‘e’ on ‘gather’ or ‘withing’ instead of ‘within,’ and a few additional punctuation errors but nothing too major.

One did make me laugh though. On page 451, one of the more casually written pages, George is writing about a character called Karyl, yet the spelling in the book of this character changes to ‘Kary!’ I’m not a hundred percent sure how this happened. The book was written in 1996 so I can only assume the author was using the standard keypad, but the ‘L’ key and the ‘!’ key are fifteen centimetres apart on my laptop keyboard so that’s quite the jump to make.

On page 481 we have the case of the overused description. In this instance, I will assume that most people have seen the series however, one of the characters is killed after he is mean to his sister and the narrative describes him as ‘the man who had been her brother’ far too often, thus it loses its impact.

There were a few instances of out of place narrative as well, one of the most funny being on page 718 where Sansa is confronted by Joffrey, has an emotional breakdown, and then describes his clothing – just like any normal person would do. The book is 780 pages long. I don’t think we need to know what the boy king is wearing in the middle of an intense scene. It would be fine has this been written from an omniscient narrator but we are effectively in Sansa’s head after she is talking about her father being killed. I don’t think she would stop to assess  Joffrey’s current fashion trend.

One more thing that I found puzzling more than annoying was trying to understand how the Night’s Watch works. John Snow joins the Night’s Watch by choice. Most people are taken there because they are given the choice of the Night’s Watch or death. Now, if you choose to join, does that mean you are allowed to keep your pet wolf? I wouldn’t have expected the Night’s Watch to be the kind to allow pets. Certainly no other recruits have this luxury so why is John Snow allowed to keep his direwolf with him at all times? It isn’t even restricted to kennels - it sleeps with him in his room! It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but I’m sure it’s okay because it’s necessary to drive the story. In case you can’t tell the previous sentence is sarcastic.

I would recommend reading A Game of Thrones even if you have watched the series. I’ve heard the argument previously of ‘there’s no point reading what you can watch on TV.’ But this statement is bollocks at the best times and even more so in relation to these books.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin was published by Voyager in 1996. RRP £8.99 (Paperback) 

The version I wish I owned

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