Book club: A Game of Thrones discussion for readers

Portrait of Ygritte by jigokuen

So it was high time I tried to start a serious discussion about the books, A Song of Ice and Fire. I started reading them at the same time the HBO series started. I saw the opening to the first episode and knew I’d be hooked. But before I watched any more of it, I picked up the first book, A Game of Thrones. I kinda read the first book and watched the first season of the show at the same time. When the reading got boring, I saw about 4 episodes but then finished the book before seeing the end of the show.

I watched Season 2 entirely before starting the second book, Clash of Kings. I read it and the third, Storm of Swords, over last summer. Four weeks into Season 3 and I had to start reading book 4, A Feast For Crows. I had to because the Theon storyline in the show hadn’t been in the books yet and I guessed they might be drawing from events in the later books. I read Crows — an 800 page book — in a week.

Why am I so addicted to this series of books? I’ve never consumed books like I consume this series and I am a decently serious reader. I have the Kindle app on 3 devices plus a Kindle. For books 2, 3 and 4, I’ve read them constantly. Wherever I am, I open the app on my phone and read. I read at Disneyland yesterday. I read in the bathroom at work. I read in line to get lunch. Why can’t I stop reading these books? What is it about the style of writing, the story and its construction that keeps me reading?

In answer to those questions, I think that the way that the chapters are built keeps me reading. The device of having each chapter present the events around one character at one time constantly makes me want to “catch up” to the other characters. So I finish one chapter and immediately begin another. They’re episodic. It’s as easy to keep reading as it is to watch a season of your favorite show in one sitting.

Secondly, the universe that George R.R. Martin has imagined is so complete and so vast that it’s easy to get utterly lost inside. I think in terms of the maps and where certain cities are compared to the others.

That brings up another crazy side-effect of reading the books: the sheer act of remembering everything. I know ridiculous family relations because of this series. I know all these histories and details.

So that brings me to the show.

Just glancing at the size of the books, it’s pretty clear that they’d have to do a lot of re-writing and editing to get the overall story into the show. But I don’t see any reason they couldn’t be loyal to the books while doing it. That loyalty would make bigger fans out of the readers and we’d be even better evangelists for the show, rather than having conversations with friends that end with “well, it isn’t like that in the books.”

For example, in Season 2, when Jon Snow kills the Halfhand, he’s portrayed as a complete dick. Yet in the novel, Halfhand has ordered this to happen. Halfhand has told Jon to go be a spy. They wanted to edit that to give it some suspense, fine. But when I watched Season 2, I was utterly turned off. When I read the novel later, I loved it.

Watching the show has been fun for me because, in addition to seeing how other people interpret the world that GRRM is creating, I also challenge my memory of events. I had hoped that the show would be sort of a Cliffs Notes to the books but as it is, I’m constantly struggling to figure out what I read versus what I saw. It’s the ultimate nerd universe. Trying to pull apart the worlds of tv and novel, trying to explain to friends the parts they’re missing by not reading the books — these are the trials of the nerd.

But here we are in Season 3 and this latest episode, “The Climb,” and … well, will there be any reckoning between the novels and the show after this? I don’t see how. When Melisandre appeared among the Brotherhood, it was like Marty McFly tripping Biff at the diner. It unraveled a piece of history. The taking of Gendry is another problematic plot point. Every time they take a shortcut now, they change the future. And because they didn’t introduce that one of Robert’s bastards was held by Stannis, they’ve had to substitute Gendry. What will they do when Gendry appears later in the storyline?

It’s getting messy. But I don’t seem to be able to curb my addiction. So I’ve started reading A Dance With Dragons.