I have actually read all the novels of this series to date. I must be mad! but you knew that anyway. However, it has the advantage that when other TV presenters say to Jon Snow ‘You know nothing’, I get it.
After finishing the first volume, I intended to watch the Game of Thrones DVDs only and stop reading, since the plot seemed better than the writing, but somehow I went on reading and have only seen two or three episodes of the TV version.
The reasoning behind starting these books was: masses of people read fantasy literature and science fiction, and I don’t fancy it at all, but have I given it a fair trial? Lord of the Rings (read in early sixties at school) was annoying, Harry Potter (read from late nineties because students expected it) quite good. I suppose most of the problem with these books is the way some readers totally identify with the characters and the world created. There is an instinctive desire to disagree with them. Thus it was when I was at dinner table where someone ran down Harry Potter but had not read it that I realized I’d have to try it, so I authorized myself to opine.
There were things I didn’t like in general about fantasy literature as I imagine it to be. One thing was the shallow characterization: events and atmosphere more important than character.
I was also misled when I read the review by John Lanchester, because I overlooked the fact that Lanchester actually likes fantasy literature and thus was biased. I would have liked to read a review by a non-fantasy-lit. type, but that was not going to happen.
One advantage Martin has is his use of a medieval model, so we know about knights and battles and the importance of birth. There are some more fantastic elements like the white walkers and the children of the forest, and live dragons and direwolves, but the main framework doesn’t need masses of explanation because the map is roughly Great Britain plus a bit more and the families are like medieval dynasties.
It is also quite helpful that most of his characters have names spelt unexpectedly, because that means you can look them up on the Web and find them (Margaery, Robb, Sansa, Arya, Petyr and so on).
One thing that worries me is the concern of fans that Martin might die before finishing the series. OK, he took six years over the last volume. But he is 65 and overweight!
Game of Thrones author rebuffs health fears with the finger and F-word. Where does this leave me? It’s about time I started doing something sensible.
Here are some notes I took of the style, which is often pseudo-medieval, sometimes pseudo-British and sometimes somewhat American.
much and more
little and less
pot shops (sic)
poison ivy (in a world based on the UK)
I misremember, I mislike
for the nonce
that ought not pose much difficulty
turnips (are these rare in the USA? they are constantly being eaten)
whilst (felt to be quintessentially British)
yellow onions (surely a US expression)
Occasionally odd use of shall, but I can’t trace that now.