Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Go Westeros Young Man!


DISCLAIMER: This blog entry DOES contain spoilers for anyone who has never seen HBO's Game of Thrones television series and never read any of George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series.

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  • 9 1/2 weeks
  • Five books
  • 4300 pages
  • 1.7 million words

Let the withdrawals begin!!!

To be perfectly honest, I can't believe I'm already done with all the books. When I took up the task of reading George RR Martin's epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, I figured it would take all Summer before I'd be done; just in time for the next book to hit the shelves.

Or so I thought. Martin is nicknamed The Great Bearded Glacier for good reason! He writes at his own pace, and is reluctant to acknowledge estimated release dates. It now looks as if the soonest The Winds of Winter will be released is sometime during Spring 2014.)

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February 2012, I signed up for Comcast's Triple Play Package, and the deal included free HBO. Until that time I had a vague understanding of the Game of Thrones TV series. But, didn't know much of else about it.

Like some unexpected addict-to-be I surfed the On Demand menu until I found Game of Thrones.

Watching the first episode, I was intrigued. By the time I got through the second episode I was floored. I think it took me about three days to work through the entire season, only to find out Season Two wasn't due for several weeks.

Fast forward to late April 2012. I was eagerly anticipating the new season, and what would one do in that case? Well, naturally watch the entire Season One all over again to refresh their memory.

NOOOOOOO! I thought, as they flashed the 2013 release date for Season Three at the end of Episode 10.

One of my bigger frustrations when I decided to cut the cord was the thought I would be missing Season 3 of HBO's Game of Thrones television series.

Shortly thereafter, I found a couple of Barnes & Noble gift cards, forgotten and collecting dust.

I figured maybe it would be a good idea to dive into the original novels since, at that time, HBO didn't offer their current season through iTunes or Amazon, and a Season Three DVD release was nowhere on the radar (and still isn't).

So in April I took the plunge, and downloaded the sample.

I found the first novel very readable and didn't want to put it down. When I reached the end of the sample there was no question I would buy the series.

A word of caution. If you decide to get the eBook versions, I highly recommend buying the INDIVIDUAL books, rather than the special 5 book collection.

While the $10 savings might seem attractive, it's not worth the headache while reading. The collection is ONE VOLUME with all five books smooshed together so it takes over six minutes to open every time you want to read it! And it doesn't matter if you might be on the fifth book. You STILL have to load the first four books into memory.

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Anytime something gets translated to the screen there's bound to be some changes. Sometimes it follows the source material pretty close. But, sometimes about the only thing left are the names of the characters and the title of the book.

Fortunately, for fans of the novels, this hasn't turned out to be the case. The first book was pretty close to what made it to my TV for Season One. Material left out really didn't hurt the continuity. This is a direct benefit of having Martin take an active role in production of the series.

Overall, the TV show has aged most of the main characters a bit, especially the younger characters, who Martin placed in their early to mid teens. While a young teenage King Robb Stark might be believable in a book format, which relies on the reader's imagination, I don't think it would have translated very well to the TV.

But make no mistake in thinking these are a series of children's fantasy books. While there are wolves, princes and princesses throughout, there is also blood and gore at every turn, as well as a major plotline of incest running though out.

Had the producers stuck with the youthful ages I'm fairly certain they would have run afoul of groups who found the visualizations objectionable.

But, I will readily admit that perhaps my perception of what the characters should look like was clouded by watching the series before reading the books. Martin goes at great lengths to describe physical characteristics of his characters, and a good portion of them do not match what made it to TV.

Seasons Two and Three (which I watched in one 10 hour sitting thanks to someone who still has HBO) have some major diversions for some of the characters as compared to the original source material.

A couple of characters have been combined, who had passages in the book, which had them doing things in different parts of the world at exactly the same time.

This will make for some tough editorial decisions down the road since I think they both might become important parts of the novels' story line in the remaining two unreleased titles.

Another thing which caught my eye were the cities in the opening credits. These stylized credits zoom over a map showing us which cities are likely to be visited in that particular episode.

Yunkai and Meereen are two cities that have very important storylines in books 3 and 5. However, there seems to be no room on the map for the latter city. We will have to wait until April 2014 to see if this was just a glitch by the animators, or whether we diverge even further from what Martin created.

There's a very detailed wiki which collects all the differences between the books and the TV show.

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So am I glad I went ahead and read the books, effectively knowing where the TV series will be going over the next three seasons? Yes.

The world that Martin created is so rich, that there's a lot of stuff that simply won't make it to the screen. And the producers have already said they don't see it being stretched to ten seasons, which would be necessary to save some of the less important stuff.

Can a person get by with only watching the TV series? Sure. But, you're cheating yourself of the fuller experience.

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if you are still looking for something to do between TV seasons, I highly recommend subscribing to The Boiled Leather Audio Hour podcast.

These guys make a super detailed examination of all facets of the world Martin created! Be forewarned every episode is basically loaded with spoilers if you've not read all five books.

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