Look, I’ve really been trying. Not only was I prepared to like Game of Thrones when first I sat down to watch the opening episode of HBO’s series last year, I’ve come back to it several times, figuring I might have missed something, since so many people of generally discerning taste have been raving about it. But sorry, despite the best efforts of the producers to put on a good-looking, big budget production, it is hard for me to see where it differs from a Live Action Role-Playing Game writ large. Lot of overpaid actors running around in the woods with styrofoam swords, throwing flour at each other. Plus lots of tits.
I’ve also tried going to the source, figuring that the show might have got it all wrong. People have been singing the praises of this guy, George R. R. Martin, calling him “the American Tolkien” and stuff, and for all his faults, Tolkien is pretty damn great in my book. So I picked up the first volume in his endless cycle of 800-page novels and gave it a crack.
Oh gawd. What’s there to like? I mean, really? The world-building is staid, consisting of every fantasy cliché you can imagine (hardened but pure Northerners, decadent big city politicians with worm-tongued advisors, and dark-skinned savages that are awesome in battle as well as in bed, etc.) And everything is named so generically — you’re in trouble when “King’s Landing” is the best you can come up with for a great city, and when “Ice” is your idea of a cool name for a sword.
But the worst is the prose. I shall refrain from going on at length about it and merely flip through the book a random to give you a sample. This is on page 59. The righteous viking king (played by Sean Bean on TV) is haunted by doubts about a political move while his queen pines after him:
The wind swirled around him and he stood facing the dark, naked and empty-handed. Catelyn pulled the furs to her chin and watched him. He looked somehow smaller and more vulnerable, like the youth she had wed in the sept at Riverrun, fifteen long years gone. Her loins still ached from the urgency of his lovemaking. It was a good ache. She could feel his seed within her. She prayed that it might quicken there. It had been three years since Rickon. She was not too old. She could give him another son.