I don’t read a lot of fantasy, or science fiction for that matter. In fact, the only fantasy books I have ever read of my own free will were The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. If I hadn’t grown up without my mom reading them to me three times through, I may not have ever read the books on my own. I most recently read the LotR series about two years ago for no other reason than I missed my mom and was feeling really homesick. She always did the voices when she read to me, and as I read, I could hear her voice as though I was eight years old just yesterday. I’ve almost always been satisfied with non-fiction, but like so many others I was first introduced to the storyline of Game of Thrones by the HBO series of the same name. A Song of Ice and Fire, better known as the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin, has been a fun though sometimes challenging read, while proving the exception to the rule that “the books were better”.
I was first introduced to the HBO series by a friend of mine whom invited me over to his place one Sunday night to watch the first episode. It was well after season one had ended and he hadn’t started it yet. I went for a beer or two and reluctantly sat down to watch the first episode, having first tried to change his mind and just watch YouTube videos. After the first episode I was hooked, went home, acquired the rest of the season and watched it all the way through that night. I wasn’t aware that the HBO series was based on a book series until I had seen the first season twice through. At that point I had about two months until the second season premiered and decided to wade into the first book, which I downloaded on my Kindle. As the premier date drew closer, I had this crazy idea that I could read the first and second book before the first episode of season two aired and away I went.
I’ve read long books before but nothing in my life prepared me for the undertaking of this book series. As anyone familiar with the HBO series knows, there are many intertwining plots, hundreds of significant characters and settings to match, all under the weight of thousands of pages! As I approached the first book, I nearly gave up after about 300 pages in, a mere 40% finished with the book! I quickly lost faith that I would even start the second book by the time the second season started. Truth be told, I didn’t even finish the first book until well after the second season ended, having put the book down for a good month or two. However, I was committed to the idea of getting ahead of the show, not wanting to wait years for all the juicy details that surely awaited me. Last November (2013), I picked up the second book, Clash of Kings, and while it was just as long as the first, I got through it in about two and a half weeks (according to my Kindle, each book takes me about 30 hours of solid reading time). I quickly picked up the third book, Storm of Swords, so as to not lose momentum. I’m currently 75% finished with the Storm and am passed where the third season of the HBO series left off and have until April 6th to stay ahead.
I remember watching YouTube reaction videos of the Red Wedding filmed by readers of the book series who knew what was coming and I wanted to be a part of that excitement, to know what was coming before the viewership of the HBO series. For as much cultural currency as the HBO series has, I feel that I could seriously ruin someone’s day with a well-planned plot-spoiler. I feel like I deserve to lord that over people just for the time and effort I put into reading the books. Now don’t get me wrong: I didn’t read the books just to threaten plot-spoilers. Like I said before, I read them because I didn’t want to be at the mercy of HBO’s release cycle to get on with the story. I know that with great power comes great responsibility and I should use my knowledge of what’s to come to share in the excitement as the events unfold in season four and beyond, and not to ruin the surprises to come (of which there are already many!). But for the fun of it, here’s something I just can’t keep to myself (warning: plot spoiler ahead)…
Just kidding, I’m not going to spoil anything!
The HBO series is the first time I’ve ever encountered a book-turned-video that I really liked. The show does absolute justice to the spirit of the books and while there are certain plot concessions made in the interest of time and shortening the storyline to fit ten episode seasons, they are fair and in the interest of the characters involved. Of course, I have until now been playing catch up and I may be whistling a different tune once season four starts to roll out and the expectations I have for its portrayal of the books is or is not met. But that is to be decided. As of now it’s been an absolute joy to read the book series, as it affords me more and better quality time spent with the characters I have come to know, love, hate and mourn.
In terms of storyline, the HBO series suffices but for anyone wanting to spend more time in Tyrion Lannister’s head, fight side-by-side with Jon Snow or follow Arya Stark as she tries to find her way through Westeros, I highly recommend the book series. I don’t read them because they tell a better story but because I get so much more of it!
Pages: 2805 FoA pages: 36491
Game of Thrones Pages: 819, Clash of Kings Pages: 770, Storm of Swords Pages: 1216