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07 April 2012

'A Game of Thrones: Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire' by George R.R. Martin

Tolkien writing a version of Conan the Barbarian, edited by Machiavelli

First of all, cool name, of the author, I mean.  It got me thinking about what name I will chose should I ever write that novel my well intention-ed, loving, nearest and dearest wants me to write.

Normally, I would say 'not my kind of book'.  Too much horrid intrigue.  I find intrigue for intrigue's sake annoying.  I like characters to grow and (with luck) reflect.  What with so many knives, swords and poisons around, people often die as soon as they learn something. Those that survive often keep cursing every time something unexpected happens, like a war.  This book has more twists and turns than your first French kiss.  Betrayal, rapes, revenge...  It puts me in mind of Tolkien writing a version of Conan the Barbarian, edited by Machiavelli.

But who am I kidding?  I love fantasy fiction.  Mercifully, there is magic here but only in glimpses; more is on the way, I suspect.  Martin does not feel like a writer who keeps coming up with a better idea of how to back-stab while he writes the book.  It feels like this is the first act just to set the players up.  There is a promise that the best is yet to come.  Promises like these are hard to keep.

It occurs to me that readers often have low expectations of fantasy.  Somehow the bar for suspending disbelief is set lower.  It is probably one of the reasons fantasy is dismissed by some 'serious' readers.  I argue that the opposite is true.  Because it is fantasy, the author and the reader must (together) create a completely new world. The bar must be set that much higher than fiction which takes place in familiar Manhattan with its average rainfall, gravity, litter and total lack of dragons.  Martin has the intrigue down like a proper thriller writer.  In between bouts of gore and regrets he gives us glimpses of the traditions, values and foundations; cultures in which this 'game' plays out.  I am not sure I understand the ramification of all these intrigues within their settings; I am not sure I care yet for this new world with so much death, despair and tears.

One of my real concerns is 'how long does this go on?'  These sorts of epic stories ought to have endings as well crafted as the maze of amoral games in the books.  Publishing houses and often writers, like to squeeze every last penny out of a successful story unnecessarily.  Not only does the writing and the story suffer, but the reader suffers too.  A bad book not only steals my money but my time as well.  I will give this series a try but I am suspicious.

Now, naturally, I have to go shopping for one or two more books.  Beloved Proof Reader made a deep sigh   this morning when informed.  He's lucky I mentioned it at all.

ISBN: 9780007448036

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