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Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Game of Thrones (book) /Game of Thones (TV show) review

So, most of you will probably see the title and think, "Really? You're just getting to this now?" Or, possibly, you're thinking, "Way to jump on the bandwagon, took you long enough." Well, I have some thoughts on that, and an explanation as to why I'm only getting into this series now.

First off, I have been busy the last year, as anyone who frequents this blog will know. I'm not saying I was busier than anyone else, even though I could have a case for something said of that nature, no, I'm saying I chose not to devote any time to serious reading until this summer. And yes, I am aware that the book has been out since '96, and the show since last year, but beyond the fact that I simply hadn't heard of the book until last year, there is another reason I waited it out.

Hype. I have a problem with hype, which in itself is a tricky issue because the line between popularity and hype can be thin sometimes. Maybe it's the hipster coming out in me, but sometimes I have an issue with things when they first come out. When I see how excited other people are for something, sure, I get excited, but I also get wary. Have you ever gone to see a movie in the theatre and afterward you thought, "That was awesome!", and then you see it again, at home, months later, and you're like, "Well...I was wrong."? (*cough* G.I. Joe * reference to some friends who told me about this experience, haha)

That's what hype is to me, that's why I delay some things. Anyway, long rambling aside, I just finished watching the first season of Game of Thrones, and reading George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, and here is what I think:

I liked them both! By the way, some spoilers below!

Let's go into the book first and then I'll talk about the show. The book was very fascinating, and kept my interest the entire way through. The book does a great job of establishing the world in which the characters live, one which is similar to a medieval time, with a little magic mentioned here and there. Not surprisingly, the book is political, I mean, it's a GAME of THRONES, a struggle for power, and the book does a fantastic job of setting the scene, establishing the rivaling parties and their interests, and moving the story forward with a pace which is quite exciting, but also easy enough to follow along. The characters are very intriguing. Here is a book which features the flattery of court, of kings, queens, knights, lords, etc., and combines this perspective with faults, with depth, vices, and goals.

First off, I love the way the supernatural is portrayed throughout this book. At first, it seems like if magic existed at all, it doesn't anymore. That time has passed, or at least the belief has, for the most part. Yes, there are a lot of religious beliefs and a lot of near-superstitious devotion to things, but most people don't believe in the Children of the Forest, or the Others, and the dragons are long gone. Or are they? As the story unfolds, these elements come back, and undermine the beliefs of many characters, and give a depth into this world with which we are just becoming familiar.

Every chapter is named after a character and follows them along and provides us with their perspective on things. I really look forward to seeing this develop in the future, where maybe the same incident will be covered in two chapters, from two very different perspectives, and maybe hearing the thoughts of some other characters not covered before. It's not a new feature, by any means, but it works, and might be the only way in which you could represent the entirety of 7 different kingdoms without feeling detached.

The TV show does a pretty good job of this without going so far as to break things down into chapters, although one could argue that this is what episodes are for. Anyway. The acting is quite spot on, and the casting was magnificent. I had to ask some people because I watched the first episode of the show and then started to read the book, so I had to ask if maybe I was just biased because of how I went about it. Most people I ask agree that the casting was pretty fantastic and that the actors do the characters justice. The only main difference is age, as the characters are sometimes much younger than their real-life counterparts, but this can't be helped with such adult content as war, sex, etc. But, everyone looks the part, acts the part, and I can't help but see their faces when I'm reading the book. The first season does a great job of following the plot of the first book, complete with quotations from the story. And the show isn't just a translation from the page to the screen either. Some bits are added which contribute to the general feeling of the scene and capture the spirit of the world, if not necessarily canon. 

One thing which I, objectively, look forward to, is the struggle between good, evil, and expectations from a book, TV show, or film. Obviously, the struggle between good, evil, and the grey area in the middle, is fascinating, and something I will really enjoy, but, objectively, I look forward to how the story develops and whether or not things will work out in the end. I say objectively here, because I know I will have an issue with this story, in some respect.

Let me be a little more clear. When asked about how he saw the conclusion for this series, Mr. Martin was quoted as saying something as bleak as, "A barren wasteland, covered in ash", or something equally haunting. He has a reputation for killing characters; a reputation I've known about for quite some time.

So, I know this series will be more realistic. I know people will struggle, and that, as one character says in A Game of Thrones, "Life is not a song, sweetling." So, I say I will enjoy this objectively because I mean to say that I will find the way in which the story was written, composed if you will, to be thoroughly interesting. The way an author or artist puts something together can be thoroughly fascinating, even if the piece itself isn't, or disappoints me in some way.

I'm not saying I need everything I read or watch to be as happy as My Little Pony where friendship is magic, as I appreciate the "realism" which can be provided in a setting such as the one in A Game of Thrones. I'm just saying I hope I don't get too sad while reading this. (all of you ahead of me in the books are laughing at me, that's okay)

What this means, is that I don't know where the books are going, and that's great. It also means that I can expect a lot more bloodshed, betrayal, and maybe an unhappy ending. This is also...good. But sometimes, I want to escape this world of realism, and go somewhere where right wins out, and honour is more than just a word, and I'm not sure if that will happen with these novels. Not that this is a bad thing, it just might mean a slower progression through the books as I take a break from anything particularly heartbreaking.

If you haven't read it, and like the sound of it, give it a read. If you're too busy to read, the show does it justice, even though the characters aren't always just.

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