I remember a couple of years ago when Game of Thrones first got started as a TV series. I was intrigued. I knew that it was an adaptation of a series of fantasy novels and I’m always looking for new things to read. Since I’m quite a fan of the fantasy genre, it’s only natural that I’d be quite keen to sit down and start reading it.
What was weird, was that a lot of people told me not to read it. In fact, most of my friends told me that I’d hate it. Naturally, this made me even more curious to read it. Maybe I would hate it and I’d be pleased that my friends know my taste in literature so well, or maybe I’d love it and get to enjoy the pleasure of reading a fantastic book. A win-win situation.
It may have taken me a while, but now I finally have read it. I don’t hate it… but I can certainly see why people thought I would hate it and I can see why some people would hate it. It has two major issues: the first is gratuitous violence, the second is the fact that it can be enormously boring.
First, let’s talk about the violence. This book has more rape scenes than the last ten books I’ve read combined. This book has more rape scenes than Fifty Shades of Grey (yes, Christian Grey is a rapist.) It’s not just the fact that it’s there either, but also the way that it’s handled. Like there’s a fourteen year-old girl who gets raped (it’s horrible) and she ends up falling in love with her rapist. Now, the word ‘problematic’ gets thrown around a lot these days, but that’s some pretty problematic storytelling! To make things extra uncomfortable, several of the main characters are girls aged 10-14 or so and the author seems to enjoy talking about their breasts and genitals a little too much. They always seem to be having baths too (something the men never do.)
Now, the boredom. I don’t think George R. R. Martin has a very engaging writing style. He has a sort of pseudo-historical approach to speech and writing, which is very bland. He’ll also toss in modern words every now and then, which are really out of place. He often reuses the same phrases and words too. I couldn’t count the number of times “manhood” was used to refer to a penis and when it appears about five times on a page, it seems really clunky. It’s the kind of stuff I saw a lot of from fellow students on my Creative Writing course, actually. The unengaging writing style alone wouldn’t bother me too much, if it weren’t for the fact that the story is pretty uneventful too. Just a lot of fantasy politics (which isn’t particularly thought provoking) and unrelatable characters behaving in uninteresting ways.
But a few things save it. There’s a character named Tyrion Lannister who I quite liked and was fun to read about throughout. Plus, the story actually started to become quite intriguing once I got about 75% of the way in. In fact, there were some genuinely tense and unexpected happenings in that final quarter. It was enough to stop me from thinking the whole book was terrible and to make me want to read the sequel.
If you’ve watched the TV show, perhaps you’ll get more enjoyment out of this book than me. If you’ve not, then proceed with caution. It doesn’t feel like reading a story, it feels like reading a random string of events which eventually just stop and it’s really difficult to become invested in it. As the book is 700 pages long (or something like that) you have to ask yourself whether the slow, dreary build up is going to be worth the final pay off. I’d not really recommend it.
(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)