NOW THE ACCLAIMED HBO SERIES GAME OF THRONES—THE MASTERPIECE THAT BECAME A CULTURAL PHENOMENON
Winter is coming. Such is the stern motto of House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon in far-off King’s Landing. There Eddard Stark of Winterfell rules in Robert’s name. There his family dwells in peace and comfort: his proud wife, Catelyn; his sons Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; his daughters Sansa and Arya; and his bastard son, Jon Snow. Far to the north, behind the towering Wall, lie savage Wildings and worse—unnatural things relegated to myth during the centuries-long summer, but proving all too real and all too deadly in the turning of the season.
Yet a more immediate threat lurks to the south, where Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, has died under mysterious circumstances. Now Robert is riding north to Winterfell, bringing his queen, the lovely but cold Cersei, his son, the cruel, vainglorious Prince Joffrey, and the queen’s brothers Jaime and Tyrion of the powerful and wealthy House Lannister—the first a swordsman without equal, the second a dwarf whose stunted stature belies a brilliant mind. All are heading for Winterfell and a fateful encounter that will change the course of kingdoms.
Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, Prince Viserys, heir of the fallen House Targaryen, which once ruled all of Westeros, schemes to reclaim the throne with an army of barbarian Dothraki—whose loyalty he will purchase in the only coin left to him: his beautiful yet innocent sister, Daenerys.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Game of Thrones has become such a pop-culture phenomenon that it’s easy to forget it all began with George R. R. Martin’s words. Even after many seasons of great TV, the power of Martin’s storytelling—and the energy of now-legendary characters like Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow—leap off the page. It’s gripping whether you’re reading it for the first time or the dozenth. Martin is famously unafraid of putting his creations in harm’s way, keeping us unbalanced at every turn and establishing a world as vivid and brutal as any in fantasy lit.
The first five volumes covered in Weigels Archeology (1976s Executioner to 1988s Song of Napalm) dwell on Weigls firsthand experiences of Americas southeast Asian war, returning obsessively to combat terror, witnessed atrocities and cravings for underaged prostitutes. However laudable his brutal honesty, lines like I was barely in country soon become tiresome. Weigls best poems come from his three 1990s volumes (particularly from After the Others, represented in Archeology with selections marked as New Poems) where he begins to distill his themes of disgust and horror within non-Vietnam contexts. Weigls most grimly powerful poems, all found in Archeology, are The Impossible, an account of being forced, as a seven-year-old boy, to perform oral sex on a strange man, and The Nothing Redemption, a disgusting vision of a young man whose hole/ was plastered closed with his own excrement in an attempt to disqualify himself from military service. Snowy Egret (from 1985) and Carp (a more pressurized rhyme sonnet from 1996s Sweet Lorain) are convincing documents of regret for mindless boyhood destruction of animal life. The complex and unsettling Pineapple (appearing in both volumes) is a recollection of a womans seductive behavior in a supermarket fruit aisle; tinged with lust and violence, it somehow reaches its dark climax in the narrators refusal to respond to the womans advances. That poem and other notables in After the Others (such as the squalid The Singing and the Dancing and the desperate Anniversary of Myself) make that book the most consistently rewarding effort from this still evolving poet.
The first and third books of the Song of Ice and Fire series are shocking, brutal, taut and epic. The second and forth are "merely" well-written and engaging. Not too bad.
There are a lot of "Buyer Beware" comments due to the fact that GRRM has not completed the fifth book in the series (A Dance with Dragons). And while it has been a long (very long) wait, it's not like Martin has't been busy. He's completed (as editor) at least three compilations (to which he contributed stories). He's continued his highly successful Wildcards universe in two books. He's in the process of launching the Song of Ice and Fire comic adaptation. And, oh yeah there's this little HBO series you may have heard about (premiering in April 2011). That's not to say that the wait hasn't been difficult, especially for something as well written as this series (how long has it been since Jean Auel's last book?). BUT, the end is in sight...today (3/3/11), on GRRMs website, the publisher and editor announced a date for the publishing of A Dance with Dragons!!! 7/12/11!!!
If you've heard of the series (at this point because of the epic delay) and are interested, give it a try. If you're interested because of the HBO series, it's worth reading the original source material. If you're a fan of well written characters whose motivations are complex and mature than you owe it to yourself to read this series.
A Song of Ice and Fire manages to do something very few works of "fantasy" do: transcend the genre. At it is core, this is a story about family, choices, power and ambition and the things these characters will do to protect those things most important to them.
Show is great, book(s) are better, and you should get "companion" app!
I haven't read fantasy in quite some time, but am very glad I picked this one up. I became hooked on the show, so I downloaded the book. It's well written and keeps you engaged. I found myself stealing time out of my work day to get some more reading in.
For those of you that are having trouble with characters, places, etc...I recommend you download the app "Game of Thrones Companion". You can zoom in on the map, get detailed info on houses, characters, religions, and so on.
Don't be put off by negative reviews on here - yes, the series is unfinished, but I can honestly say whether or not another book ever comes out (which I have faith it will unlike many fans) the ones out there are still worth reading. Just the sheer scope, the world created, the depth of the characters...it's brilliantly entertaining.
As far as the series goes, this book is fantastic, second one is probably my favorite, third is great as well, and there is somewhat of a dip in quality in book 4 but still worth reading, and I have high hopes for book 5 which is due in July.
One caveat, though: I have seen reviewers on here who complained about the sheer amount of characters and families and stuff introduced in the beginning, and there's definitely something to that - as I said before, the scope is massive. But the solution to that is the appendices; I found myself in the beginning constantly flipping back there to keep track of the different families and stuff, and while I can understand that might annoy some readers, it is definitely helpful for keeping track of who's who. Just know that if you do put in the work it's totally worth it.
I hesitate to compare it to Lord of the Rings because they are very different (this stuff is definitely grittier and more adult oriented, and far fewer fantasy elements are present), but it is similar in that it convincingly creates a whole entire world with a rich history and characters - it truly takes you away to another time and place, as good fantasy is meant to do. And the surprise twists the story takes...well let's just say your jaw is likely to drop on more than one occasion. Highly recommended! Especially with the HBO series coming out soon...