There may come a time when you’re standing in the stacks, book in one hand, DVD in the other. What to do!?! Have no fear. It’s Book vs.
Movie TV HBO.
Season Three is Coming: Game of Thrones vs. A Song of Ice and Fire
A Game of Thrones: PS3563.A7239 G36 1996
A Clash of Kings: PS3563.A7239 C58 1999
A Storm of Swords: PS3563.A7239 S7 2000
A Feast for Crows: PS3563.A7239 F39 2005
A Dance with Dragons: PS3563.A7239 D36 2011
Okay, technically I’m cheating. Game of Thrones isn’t a movie, it’s a TV show. In my defense, HBO makes some pretty epic shows — this one included. That and A Song of Ice and Fire is a book series not a book, but hey, this is my blog column (blogumn?) and I’ll do as I like. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in graduate school, which is basically the same thing), you have probably heard of this series before. Being of the medieval fantasy genre, it has often been compared to The Lord of the Rings, which would be true if Tolkien had written more about naughty bits and zombies (both of which are more prevalent in medieval literature than Tolkien would have you believe). On that point, props to George R. R. Martin and the Game of Thrones creators. But I digress; let’s get down to this review business.
The setting of both the TV and book series is reminiscent of medieval England in its early days. Divided kingdoms are at war with each other over who will sit on the iron throne and unite the country. The practical impossibility of this task makes the series feel rather recursive at times. Meanwhile, along its northern border, wild natives and frozen zombies (called Others) threaten the stability of the civilization the southerners created. In short, it’s got everything you really want of a medieval fantasy series—dragons, battles, intrigue, murder, incest, and wenches. Word of advice: don’t get too attached to a character as he or she will probably get knocked off.
A Song of Ice and Fire is a book series, yet to be finished, by Martin. I’m not going to mince words: this sucker is long. Really long. Each book is between 800 and 1200-ish pages. There are five books in total with plans in the works for two more. That’s a lot of trees, people. What doesn’t help is that Martin’s writing style tends to match the length of his books — long and tedious. Each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, which is a lot to keep up with, but that format also has the benefit of playing with what is known/unknown or seen/unseen to create moments of tantalizing suspense and literary brilliance.
I imagine the most difficult part of making the books into a TV series was cutting down the sheer bulk of the books. Some detail is lost, and what’s left may seem insignificant to someone who hasn’t read the books. By and large, though, I have to say, HBO did a good job — probably because so many naughty bits were already written into the story. They do try to match the point of view shifts that happen so frequently in the books. It feels somewhat more natural for a TV series to switch perspectives, but it can still be jarring at times.
Overall, if you have the time (summer is coming!), I do think the books are worth a read. If you don’t have the time, I totally understand on this one. Check out the DVDs.
Winner: both, depending on how much time you have.