Wednesday, 6 July 2016
Devouring Books: A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin
And so, I watched all 5 seasons of the show in less than 4 weeks last summer when I was supposed to be writing my dissertation (hashtag YOLO I guess), and it was spectacular. Probably one of the best binge watching experiences of my life, and I say that as someone who used to watch 4 episodes of The West Wing a night, every night til I was done, in my second year as an undergrad (how did I ever get any degrees?!) It's now been about a year since being completely consumed by the characters of George R R Martin's world in TV form, so obviously this summer felt like exactly the right time to start reading the books.
And so we come, at last, to the point. I read A Game of Thrones in about a week, which is a really impressive rate for a book that I absolutely couldn't carry anywhere with me, for fear of spinal injury. I was led to believe (by a snooty journalist, to be fair) that GRRM's prose would be not-so-great, but I found the book immensely readable, and I am picky about prose. More than that, it made me want to be reading all the time. I was reading with my breakfast, straight after work, before bed, after bedtime... I can't overexposes what I mean by all the time. In the end, the only reason it didn't leave the house with me is because I did fuck my spine up last November and there's no way I was aggravating that shit again.
Until I really get into A Clash of Kings, that is...
In summary, it's an immensely readable book, even when you know that's going to happen. Maybe surprisingly, though, it's not necessarily a book I would want to read again, and that is entirely the fault of the TV show. Regardless of how much I read the book, and regardless of how much I enjoyed it, I couldn't help feeling like the TV series is just... better. Now I really really don't want to start a debate about which is actually better, and doubtless this is almost all a result of seeing the TV show first, but in spite of the book's 780 pages, there are many ways in which the TV show just feels... fuller.
I think most of this has to do with the way the story is told in the books. Each chapter is told from the perspective of, arguably, the TV show's most prominent characters, and whilst this allows for an excellent amount of development for these characters in the books, it also sometimes means that the other characters, whose inner monologues we do not encounter, sometimes feel flat. Although the TV show does not, in my opinion, do anything to rectify the dullness of Robb Stark's character (unsalvageable, that one), the Lannisters are the ones who suffer most in book form. In the book, Cersei, Joffrey, and to a lesser extent Jaime, are all seen through the eyes for characters who dislike them, and whilst this makes them clearly disliked by the other characters, it is not always clear why we as the audience should feel the same way. The TV show makes this so much clearer, and with the perspective of Cersei so clearly included, her motivations and general horribleness are made a lot more explicit. I was actually really surprised that she doesn't have a voice in this book, considering how dominant and consuming she feels in the TV show, but that doesn't necessarily make this a failing of the book so much as a very welcome addition to the TV show.
There are many other ways that the TV show benefits over the book(s) in being able to show even more multiple perspectives, but I won't bore you with all of them right now. Suffice it to say that although I'm definitely going to read all of the books, and probably in record time, once feels like it's going to be enough for me, which I cannot also say about the TV shows, which I already basically want to watch all the time. And really, isn't that the defining feature of their various successes for me as their audience? I think yes.