Wednesday, 29 June 2011

This week : A Game of Thrones - the book and some other stuff.

So the other week , for Father's Day as it happens, I got a bit of stuff to play around with. A few more copies of the seriously dark and doomy graphic novel 'The Walking Dead', the last two volumes of the seriously cool Dillon/Ennis series 'Preacher' and a pack o' cards. (A WoW TCG starter deck, just because it wasn't very expensive at about £6. It was a random deck - a Mage set, not that this would normally thrill me, but it's good source of deck building cards for a relative noob like me.) More of all those later.

But I'm going to start with a brief review of the opening of 'A Game of Thrones', the ubiquitous (?) novel by George R. R. Martin. I had already seen the first few episodes of the HBO series. I was impressed. Especially when I compare it now with the Channel 4 version  of sex 'n' swordplay - 'Camelot', which appears to be a bit like the BBC's 'Merlin' for grown ups - if that's not too condescending. Camelot's production values are excellent and Fiennes is fine as a badman Merlin, but it did feel a little tired. We all know the story already , even if they tried a few different slants on the tradititonal views of the tale.
'A Game of Thrones', however, is more complex. In my view more satisfyingly so. I liked having to work out the relationships and their histories, the back stories and past events. Yes, my brain did have to work, but I enjoyed its gritty, cinematic, darkly atmospheric feel. The production values are far better than 'Camelot's' and I have to say - I love HBO. 'The Wire', 'Deadwood', sex, swearing and slaying, oh and more swearing. Ok, that's me ...easily pleased. But the acting is superior, the plot more sophisticated and the characters more fresh and intriguing. They're all badmans, even Ned!

So, to the book. Book One of 'A Song Of Ice And Fire' as it happens. I'm not going to write too much about the story. There's a lot about it all over t'internet already.  A number of families (or houses) vying for power, political leverage and/or royal favour. Illegitimate children, Direwolves, assassination, incest and greed. Great! I was pleasantly surprised, having expected something rather fomulaic, maybe trite or even cliched. I have to confess to being a bit of a Tolkien die-hard at heart, however, I felt that the short chapters, the controlled descriptive sections and the whole world feel engaged me straight away. I will admit that the young ages of the girls did make me cringe a little, given their in-story 'experiences', but having said that, their treatment is consistent with the kind of world Martin is trying to set up. It isn't Middle Earth, it's tough, it's uncomfortable, it's uncompromising. The Dark Ages even. The pace moves swiftly on, when Tolkien would pause for dramatic effect. The reader has to work things out, where Tolkien would either have a character explain, or write an entire historical appendix. Good characters aren't allowed only to make good decisions for justice and truth, they have to make awful ones for survival and political expediency. And  ...  wot no magic? Cool enough.

Now, I've learnt all of this in the first 100 pages, so roll on the next 700.



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