I know that some Balloon Juicers are extremely enthusiastic about HBO’s Game of Thrones, but I don’t know how many of you read Laura Miller’s pre-first-season New Yorker report on “A fantasy writer and his impatient fans“:
The writer George R. R. Martin left Hollywood in 1994, determined to do what he wanted for a change. He’d had some success in television, working on a new version of “The Twilight Zone” and on the fantasy series “Beauty and the Beast.” But the pilot for “Doorways,” a series he’d developed, hadn’t been picked up, and he was tired of the medium’s limitations. “Everything I did was too big and too expensive in the first draft,” he told me recently. He wanted castles and vistas and armies, and producers always made him cut that stuff. A line producer for “The Twilight Zone” once explained to him, “You can have horses or you can have Stonehenge. But you can’t have horses and Stonehenge.”
On the printed page, however, he could have it all. He recalls telling himself, “I’m going to write a fantasy and it’s going to be huge. I’m going to have all the characters I want and all the battles I want.” In 1996, he published a novel of seven hundred pages, “A Game of Thrones,” the first volume of a projected trilogy called “A Song of Ice and Fire.” The series chronicles the struggle for power among several aristocratic families in the Seven Kingdoms, an imaginary medieval nation. In a genre crowded with stale variations on what Joseph Campbell called “the hero’s journey,” with plots distilled from ancient legends, Martin took his inspiration from history instead of from mythology; he based his tale, loosely, on the Wars of the Roses, the bloody dynastic struggles in medieval England. Compared with most epic fantasy fiction, Martin’s story contained relatively little magic, and it felt dangerous, lusty, and real…
The days when nobody showed up for a Martin signing are long gone. In January, at a hastily scheduled appearance at Vroman’s Bookstore, in Pasadena, hundreds of fans waited in a line that coiled around the store. They presented Martin with volumes from “A Song of Ice and Fire” and works from his early years as a science-fiction writer, as well as with calendars, posters, e-readers, yellowing pulp magazines, and replica swords. Three young women wore handmade T-shirts emblazoned with the coats of arms of their favorite clans from the series. Martin was unflaggingly attentive to his supplicants, including the couple who asked him to pose for a photograph with their infant daughter, who was named Daenerys, for one of his heroines…
A typical post-Tolkien epic fantasy is the best-selling “Wheel of Time” series, by Robert Jordan. David McCaman, a marketing executive and one of the founding members of the Brotherhood Without Banners, dismissively summarizes the genre this way: “The young kid on the farm discovers he has powers, and no one dies, and they find the magic to rule the world.” He calls it “Nerf fantasy,” meaning that “it’s really safe.” By contrast, “A Song of Ice and Fire” doesn’t truck with “orcs and goblins and dark lords and bad and good. It revolves around people, really gritty people, and real situations, things that you don’t see in fantasy—sex and language and betrayal.” Benioff once told New York that “Game of Thrones” was “ ‘The Sopranos’ in Middle-earth,” and although he now winces at the formulation, it remains sound; the book’s intricate, racy narrative practically feels custom-built for HBO. The series especially resembles “Rome” and “Deadwood,” although, unlike them, it’s free from even the most perfunctory obligation to be historically accurate…
Miller’s story mostly covers the fandom that grew up around the “Song of Ice & Fire” books, which developed (like Martin himself) out of an established sf fandom / community. I haven’t yet read the books, nor watched the HBO series, but I was part of another corner of that larger fannish community from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. So were some of the early, daring progressive political bloggers — people like Avedon Carol and Gary Farber and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. It sometimes fascinates me how much the current political-blogging subculture seems to be recapitulating the post-Star Trek, pre-millenial fannish era, as an influx of newbies attracted by big new shiny popcult “fads” threatens to overwhelm the original self-sufficient (if somewhat inbred) community…
Really enjoying “Game of Thrones”, and I’m midway through the first season right now. On a related note, I’m far behind on my desired reading list, and have a copy of Moss Roberts’ translation of “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” awaiting a read.
well I tend to like the “grittier” Fantasy and Science Fiction stuff meself, multithreaded POV’s whose stories intertwine across a broader canvass. Not everyone can write it and not everyone likes it. Across genre’s examples are Tom Clancy in the conservative libertarian wet dream variety, to GRRM with aforementioned series to David Weber over in the SF genre. Hell even Stephen King has been known to do in a significant character every once in a while ;-). I also like stories where the author really can and does kill off important likeable characters, so that it means that the story is more important and it doesn’t devolve into a popularity contest of superfriends against scooby-doo villainy.
If you like this kind of fantasy, where characters that you grow to like and even love can and do die, I would heartily recommend an old series (that is still in print these days) from Glen Cook called The Black Company, the narrator for the majority of the pieces is a gent called Croaker. Sit down with he and Elmo and play a hand of Tonk if you’re so inclined to take a journey to the next farthest shore.
as always, ymmv
Thanks, Anne Laurie. I tore through the books last year, and thought the first TV season was excellent. Alas, I don’t have HBO, so I’ll have to wait a bit for season two…
Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again)
Now can HBO do me a solid and adapt Barry Hughart’s Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox? That would be awesome.
I think I read the first three WoT books. I liked them more than I disliked them, but boy, could they get tedious. I sometimes develop fantasy/SF conceits (I don’t have the time or patience to actually write a book) often with the intent of making them character-driven and realistic (though probably not as gritty as Thrones). I think, as a Fantasy/SF fan, mainstreaming traditional fantasy epics with rounded and believable characters instead of the Thud and Blunder stuff that the public often thinks of would be a big step forward. But personally, I always get derailed because the magic and the battles and the histories and all that sort of stuff is fun to write about too.
Read it? Hah! I lived it.
I wasn’t one of the obnoxious impatient fans, but I was going to his Worldcon sessions to see the rough footage for Doorways (which would have been really cool), and I remember when he announced that he was going to completely confuse publishers who already didn’t know whether to shelve him as an SF author or a horror author by writing epic fantasy.
Haven’t seen mention of this around here: I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave
Granted, she’s earning 2x to 3x more, but does this really sound any better than Foxconn? I’ve been saying for some time now that Amazon is a much bigger problem in our jobs economy than Apple or pretty much any manufacturer. Further, is there much more evidence than is needed that any non-value-add employee will get replaced? Theres nothing that these employees contribute to the given task over what a robot would do – and they’re treated as such. Amazon is so certain of that trajectory that they recently bought Kiva Systems – a company that makes warehouse robotics.
These aren’t peripheral problems for labor, but structural ones. We’re rapidly approaching a point here where the manufacturing, assembly, packaging, shipment, and fulfillment of what we buy involves nearly no direct human labor. Lots more indirect labor – more designers, engineers, programmers, technicians, logistics experts, etc, but overall less labor. That’s going to require profound changes to how we view labor in this country – either to reward workers for their increased productivity and buying power with fewer working hours, thereby requiring more workers – or with a large, growing and permanent welfare class. There’s just no other outcome.
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
@piratedan: Cook is hit and miss. The Black Company is a complete hit, though it doesn’t get really complex until Dreams of Steel. On the other hand, I find the Dread Empire novels, at least the first three, to be terrible, almost more the outlines of what could have been good books rather than actual good books. For something offbeat in an entirely different way, most of the Garrett, P.I. novels are a lot of fun. Their pulp noir detective fiction in a fantasy universe.
If people like The Song of Ice and Fire, they might give Steven Erikson’s Malazan: Book of the Fallen a try. They are, if anything, even more complex, though it is sometimes annoying that Erikson seems to assume that you are thoroughly familiar with the universe he and Ian Esslemont have created, even though they haven’t published anything like a full description. On the plus side, Erikson actually got his epic written. He published one book a year until the series was completed with The Crippled God in 2011.
Unlike Martin, who took four years to finish a book that he’d said was 75% done when he published the previous volume. I love the series, but his output is borderline unprofessional. If you have asked people to invest as much time, money and passion into your work as he has, then you have an obligation to get it done. That’s pretty much the only condition under which I think an audience is entitled to an artist’s work, but releasing a long story in pieces creates an obligation that Martin doesn’t seem to appreciate.
@Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): I would agree that the Dread Empire books were lacking, in a way, I almost think he had to write them before he could do the Black Company books as I think those stories represent lessons learned in regards to how he uses his writing voice. I feel like Dread Empire was him trying to write to the formula whereas both Garrett PI and the Black Company books are more of a “screw it, I’m gonna write it the way I want to write it”. It’s very conversational and I know more than a few folks who can’t seem to handle that kind of story telling intimacy.
I like the GRRM stuff, been reading it since Tuf Voyaging and I fear that he’s not gonna finish the stories, period. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be more stories, but he’s kept a lot of folks waiting on edge for quite some time. I’ve stopped worrying about it and have taken the “it’ll get here when it gets here” approach, which is terribly unprofessional on his part but I also understand that its his world, he’s gotta be indexing and flowcharting like mad just to keep track of who is doing what. Hell, I even envision “war room” with a map with colored pushpins and strings indicating who is where in the world and on what timeline.
I did try Erikson and made it to book three before I realized that I wasn’t even crazy about any of the characters, so I punted on that and instead wait on the latest from Bujold, Weber and Flint plus whoever else I take a fancy to. Thankfully my tastes run from Steele’s Coyote books to the Liaden books by Lee and Miller, so if you have someone who has a nice backlog, let me know :-)
@piratedan: I made it to book eight of Malazan, which I put down about 20 pages in b/c Erikson adopted a different writing style, though apparently only for that one book. Book five is the best of the ones I’ve completed.
I started reading WoT, in my late teens 20 years ago. After book 5, I began to wonder if the story would ever end, because there always seemed to be a plot devise introduced to drag it on.
I was fascinated, as an observer, as more and more 800 page WoT books got published, year after year.
After hearing Robert Jordan died, I figured that’d finally see an end to the story. I was wrong. The WoT keeps going on and on…thought I did hear that there maybe an actual end to the series…
The first three books of Martin’s series are good. As others have pointed out, they’re sort of the anti-Tolkien — no clear cut “good” vs. “evil” tropes, just lesser degrees of wickedness. Definitely no namby-pamby Christian allegorical bullshit. The most loyal and honest characters are punished mercilessly. The most evil tend to get what they want (although further on there is a certain sense of justice to be had, if only because nobody seems to have a long lifespan in this universe).
That said, book four was a disaster. If you’re introducing new main characters when you’re roughly 3,000 pages in, you aren’t a genius with ideas that can’t be contained, you’re a sloppy writer. Also, in introducing these very flat new characters, more established ones get short shrift. Some of them, quite literally, just kind of disappear forever with no explanation.
I hope Martin can wrangle the thing and finish in two more books, because then it’s more likely HBO can do the whole series. But somehow, I don’t see it happening. And this makes my nerd-boner quite sad.
@Martin: Agreed; it’s like we’re heading toward the world depicted in Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano, just to tie it in with the thread.
@Martin: I found the link here several days ago and read it. Great piece.
As an internet shopper, it hit home to me; yet there aren’t any stores in my area (literally, we just opened our Community store for things like shoes) and so I don’t have much in the way of choices. I love Costco and its corporate philosophy, but it’s two hours away.
What really broke my heart was the retirees forced to pick up jobs like that; it was hard enough for the younger people.
What’s the answer? A reshaped economy; right now, they are all dropped in a pit and fighting for a bigger slice; and they made it that way.
Music, for instance, is breaking away from the corporate model; going straight to the fans, and writers and comic artists are, too.
Can the same model work for gadgets? The book section that so tormented her is going digital. The coders and authors are doing the heavy lifting there.
@wetcasements: Agreed. He’s lost control of the narrative. I’m highly skeptical that he will ever finish asoiaf.
@Martin: well I believe that now you have an understanding why so many states are pushing hard against organized labor in this country. There’s your business model and I have to say that I am just as guilty as the next guy because I purchase items from Amazon and never even blink twice about the environment that they employ to “pay” for those discounts. Goes back to the old saw about buying locally, thinking globally, I’ll have to do a much better job of being aware.
I got about that far too. I typically stop reading a fantasy series when, by my rough calculations, the author has killed off more peasants than could actually exist in their quasi-Medieval worlds. Like Goodkind, Feist, and so many others, it just seemed like, given the amount of violence everyone should be dead by now. I also know it’s time to give up when I start rooting for whatever evil power is threatening to overwhelm their world. Sometimes the worlds created by these authors are a little too nasty, brutish, and short that that they just really aren’t worth saving and could use a Noah-like flood to wash it out and start over. (I’m looking at you Sarah Douglass. Give me a world where rulers have random courtiers chew each other to death, and I’ll root for the evil guy to win, I’m just saying)
In retrospect, it made me appreciate The Hobbit much more. It establishes Middle Earth as a nice place, full of nice if flawed people worth saving from Sauron.
Wonder if there will be a major news event somewhere in the world to preempt Sarah Palin on the Today Show? God couldn’t love me that much.
Top 5 things I thought were April Fool’s jokes but weren’t …
The Republic is circling the drain.
Oh, and, from the linked story:
Sine Song of Ice and Fire predates Sopranos by a few years, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say the Sopranos is like SoIaF in New Jersey?
I tried to read Game of Thrones. It was tedious and I stopped. I enjoy Joe Abercrombie more. YMMV
@Cassidy: I agree, Bleak House and Little Dorritt for me.
I’m with you, Batocchio. I’d just stumbled on GOT right before the series was announced. Read all of them in one sitting, basically. Now we are slowly watching our way through the first season which we got on DVD. I bogged down on the fifth book, though and agree with John Cole (? I think) the series lost all forward momentum. The one thing you could be sure of is that people you liked and respected would be killed off. Its like the beginning of A Series of Unfortunate Events when the voice over of the narrator warns you that if you want anything happy to happen, ever, you should GTFO already and choose another movie/book.
I didn’t even find the Sopranos as dire as GOT. You could identify with people in the Sopranos, and, in the end, even identify with the notion that evil might get its comeuppance. In GOT you have no idea if there will ever be a resting place, even a breathing space, for hope.
Have you tried Wen Spencer? Might be too girly for you. But if you love Bujold, at leat the Vorkosigan stuff, you might like Spencer’s Ukiah Oregon series and her Elfhome series whose third book is coming out (finally).
Ivan Ivanovich Renko
I ripped through the first three books of SoIaF shortly before the HBO series began; then watched the entire first season sitting on an airplane on my way to Seoul. I just put down book 4 about halfway through simply because I didn’t want to run out of ice or fire… gonna have to go pick it back up sometime.
For now, though, I just dove into David Weber’s “Safehold” series… and am loving it. I love Weber’s badass women.
New information about the Zimmerman/Martin case:
Zimmerman was the sole community organizer in support of the call for justice regarding the beating death of the homeless black man named Sherman Ware by the son of a Sanford policeman in 2010.
Conclusion: Despite the best efforts of NAACP and Al Sharpton, Zimmerman is simply not a racist.
@FridayNext: I was midway through book five of ASoFaI when I thought, “You know what? I don’t care anymore.” and put it down. I haven’t picked it up since and doubt I’ll even look at the final books. I have trauma fatigue. There’s just no respite from it, not for anyone. I’m usually all about the dark and gritty, but there has to be some sunlight in there sometimes, if not for relief, then at least for contrast.
@Unsympathetic: Because calling someone a “fucking coon” is not racist.
Been watching the HBO’s Game of Thrones and really am bored – the first ten minutes captured me and then I discovered to my horror it is just a patchwork of the same brutal history I have read through school/on my own. Yes, the events from our real history was lifted from the last thousands years and most characters are related to past (mostly western) rulers. No great thing to put that together and I really have issue with the very shallow religious belief system he uses (get real, that drives all of history almost as much as money) – what a joke missing that aspect of history(about as believable as the paper thin character who is the lead character in the first story – really, that one dimensional looser makes Tolkin’s characters look dense and complex.) If the ice zombie’s don’t get a lot more treatment in season two, this series will be worthless. If I wanted reality, I’d read the newspaper and history books – not a good series at all nor worth a movie if he just wants endless numbers of standard western history bad guys. Of course, for those who like that sort of thing, more power to you and enjoy.
On the other hand, I fell away from epic fantasy into urban stuff. I just got Simon Green’s latest Nightside story, which rumor has is the end of the series. I am planning a long weekend around a complete re-read. I also love everything by Charles Stross, but the Laundry series is a lot of fun.
And Miles Vorkosigan rocks.
Not even starting
I’m not so into rape porn or rape as entertainment, so there’s really no point in even starting with this misbegotten excuse for sick wankery.
Given my Tolkien obligation (Must re-read everything before the Hobbit comes out), I’ve got no time for GoT; I’ve watched bits and pieces of the show and it looks intriguing, though I can’t say I follow what’s going on other than: DRAMA.
One long Fantasy series I don’t often seen thrown into these discussions though is Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower”. I know there were some efforts to get it on TV/film, but I think they fizzled out.
Any fans? Non-Fans? I loved it, but I’ve got overly personal reasons for much of that love, so I don’t fully trust my own opinion.
@redshirt: I love the Dark Tower. I remember getting my then sister in law (also a King fan) a copy of the limited run first edition when it first came out, thinking she’d love it, only to find years later than it hadn’t been her thing and she’d given the book away. AUUUGH!
@debit: Did you like books 5-7? And possibly throw 4 in there too?
I think 1-3 are beyond debate – they’re awesome. 4-7 generate quite a bit of very different opinions.
@debit: That is kind of where I am at. The first three books were excellent. The last two were chores to read.
@redshirt: I did like all of them. Wizard and Glass was, admittedly, not my favorite, but I appreciated the history to Roland’s story.
Five through seven felt like a return to the urgency of the first books and I enjoyed all of them, even if I had to sometimes handwave some things that tested my willing suspension of disbelief. I liked how he decided to end it and felt it was a really satisfying journey.
I really enjoyed W&G once I got over the disappointment of the framing (backstory). Good novels – and even more so for series of novels – are like damn Crack in that you just want more and more and more. W&G broke that rush and thus generates alot of heated opinion. It’s a wonderful book and stands on it’s own pretty well.
King was deeply inspired by two sources when he wrote the first book of the series, The Gunslinger: LOTR, and Clint Eastwood Westerns. Its a great take on the hero’s journey (anti-hero), but I don’t think it has any larger impact or influence on the genre or the culture at large. For as popular a writer as King is, his great work barely causes a ripple and even die hard fans can skip it. It’s puzzling.
No One of Consequence
Fair warning: Fantasy and SF started me out as a voracious reader. I contribute half of what I am to getting into epic fantasy at a young age. Tolkien was a master of this genre. Entire worlds created from whole cloth.
Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are a good example.
Cook’s Black Company is another.
Goodkind Sword of Truth series (though the author becomes unbelievably political in later books and is a Randite to his marrow)
Belgariad (Eddings maybe?)
But, if you like some philosophy and uranium-237-dense epics, you cannot do better, imho than Steven Erickson. I am re-reading the entire (3 million word+) series again for the 3rd time. I am still finding new stuff, and gaining a better understanding of the plots (too numerous to wave a fistful of sticks at).
If you like some less-dense, and different in a way of kick-ass, go with Steven Brust. His books on Vlad Taltos are some of the best fantasy being written today, (or any day). Jhereg, Yendi, Teckla, … (there are a number now, and will be 17+). The main character is an assassin, and he is quite endearing. The books are typically no more than 250 pages (where a Malazan Book of the Fallen can be expected to weigh in at 800+, even the lightest of the bunch).
Ymmv of course.
“Game of Thrones” is good, but prefer the late David Gemmell, or even Moorcock, Fritz Leiber (Fafrd and the Grey Mouser) or even the granddaddy of them all, Robert E. Howard. They are all more succinct too.
Agree with Wetcasement that book 4 was a huge disappointment. GRRM picked up the threads in book 5 and I enjoyed it immensely. At this point though, I really doubt that GRRM will finish books 6 an 7 before he shuffles off this mortal coil. He just does not seem motivated to get ‘er done.
I’ve enjoyed the Game of Thrones series right up until the book A Dance with Dragons.
WoT I read up until the 5th book. The endless petty sniping of men versus women turned me off of the series.
When I noticed that Brandon Sanderson picked up the series, I decided to check him out. I really enjoyed the Way of Kinds and his Mistborn Trilogy.
My favorite series is still Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth.
@Not even starting:
Are you talking Game of Thrones?
I’m on my second trip through the books now and unless I am missing something while raping and pillaging are certainly part of the narrative, all but a very small handful are “off camera” and not much described even when part of the foreground.
Now Goodkind is another matter. One of the reasons I stopped reading that series was the constant raping and torturing.
Mr Stagger Lee
I wonder if there is a fantasy series based on the Mayan, Incan or Aztec civilizations, I would like to see something on that track. I’ve kind of thought about writing a story based on that, but I am not a good story teller.
Religion becomes more prominent in Westeros this season as Stannis’ “spiritual advisor” Melisandre proselytizes for the (new to Westeros) fire god Rh’llor (sp?) against the established Seven (based on Christianity) and the Old Gods (based on pagan/Celtic gods). Later in the books, religion becomes even more important as believers become more militant and fervent as society collapses. The books go into this in much more detail than the series, as there is only so much one can cram into 10 hours with 30 major characters.
With regard to the ice zombies, and their masters, the Others, one of the major point of the series is that the greatest threat to everyone in Westeros is ignored by almost all of the major political players – it’s simply a myth to them. Only the people north of the Wall have actual experience with them. This season deals with the Night Watch’s attempts to find out what exactly is happening (because even for most of them, the Others are just a myth.)
A Feast for Crows is pretty underrated. There are a lot of new POVs but aside from the chapters in Dorne, none of them are new characters. it’s a nice breather after the chaos and body count of A Storm of Swords. And for a book where “nothing happens”, there are a lot of nice climatic moments.
I think its concurrent nature with A Dance with Dragons throws a lot of people, especially since only one fan favorite has any POVs.
I only picked up the entire series of books last year after watching about 3 episodes of the excellent TV show. I was immediately enveloped by them and am considering throwing my social life into the trash bin for a re-read, because I simply cannot put the damned things down once I begin.
How books of such tremendous quality could be out there for years without me hearing about them, at all, until HBO adapts them for TV is somewhat troubling to me. WHAT ELSE AM I MISSING, INTERWEBZ?!
@Swishalicious: Have you read Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun? It’s about a torturer who is cast out of his guild for the sin of mercy and wanders through a corrupt, decaying society where magic and science are indistinguishable for most people (but it’s set in the far future, not in 21st c. America.) The religious and existential themes are much more prominent than in ASOIAF, and Wolfe is, in general, a much better writer than Martin, though not necessarily a better storyteller.
Polymath commenter Martin and asiangrrlMN’s lovechild.
While we’re recommending fantasy works I’ll put in a word for the Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham.
As for books that I want to see put onto the screen, anything by Jack Vance.
I came to this series in 2000, and so had the first three books at my disposal. I loved them. Then I waited for 5 years for a “Feast for Crows”, which was a mess. I still figured I’d read the next in the series, but after a 6 year wait, I had thoroughly lost any interest by the time it came out. I watched the HBO series, and while it was okay, it did nothing to rekindle my interest. I’m definitely in the “He’ll never finish the series” camp.
Having read books 1-4 of Martin’s series, I’ve given up, because I’m not sure how the series fundamentally differs from Saw/Hostel torture porn. There seems to be no point to ASOIAF other than the set-up of gaudy tableax of pain. It’s true that Martin can create vibrant, multi-dimensional characters, but for all I can tell he does so only to give the characters’ inevitable torture, mutilation and death more “piquancy.”
We seem to have entered a Hannibal Lecter period of culture, in which authors (both high and low) have no other goal than to create well-rounded characters and peel the skin off them for our entertainment. Cf, The Walking Dead. I’m midway through the new Battlestar Galactica and am getting the sneaking suspicion that it too will turn out to be torture porn.
jake the snake
Read “Player Piano” one of Vonnegut’s last books marketed as science fiction. Covers the social disruption of robotics replacing labor. Just is happening a little later than Vonnegut thought.
The Other Chuck
Back in the late 90’s or so, I had a co-worker enthusiastically endorse the Wheel of Time series, so I thought what the hell and picked it up.
I thew it down after three chapters. He assured me it got better, so I read it about halfway through, at which point I threw it in the garbage. I’ve made it through the first book of _Mission Earth_, the first ten or so books of the Xanth series, and Ayn Rand’s entire oeuvre, and I’ve never read a worse writer than Robert Jordan.
Though the majority of my reading is non-fiction (science and politics, mostly) I’ve read a lot of fantasy and sf since I first read Tolkien and an Analog SF anthology of short stories I got at the library back in ’66 (I’ve found, for my taste, that sf more often works better in short stories than in novels or trilogies and the like). I’m familiar with most of the authors in those genres mentioned so far in this thread.
I’ve also read quite a bit of other fiction, too, mostly “classics” like Milton and Twain and Faulkner and translations of Dostoevsky and Garcia Marquez and the like, but for fun reading I prefer the fantasy and sf genres.
I’ve found Martin’s Ice and Fire series to be among the best, and HBO has done a great job so far bringing the story to the screen (better than Peter Jackson with Tolkien). For those who don’t like it for whatever reasons, that’s fine – you like other stuff, that’s cool. To me, Cermet’s criticism up in #30 is too harsh, but that’s his opinion – he should probably read and watch something else (though I’d like more ice zombies myself).
Yeah, the long waits between the last couple books has been annoying, and I started reading the series when the first book (GOT) was published in ’96. But I’ve found the wait worthwhile (even if the latest book – book 5 – was not quite as good as the earlier 4). I do think Martin will finish the series, though it will take at least another six years. I’m much less certain that HBO will keep with it that long – I think they’re more likely to pull a Carnivale.
I’m happy to have a larger fanbase for the series due to HBO (the “influx of newbies attracted by big new shiny popcult fads” as Annie Laurie put it). Means more of this kind of stuff might make it on the air.
I think HBO would have done better to make Poul and Karen Anderson’s wonderful King of Ys into a series. It’s a similarly compelling and “gritty” kind of story (with actual sex and flawed characters and “sword and sandal” fighting and so on) and has two great advantages over Martin’s work – it’s shorter (4 “volumes” contained within two books that are each about as long as Martin’s shorter books) and it was finished in ’88.
If you like fantasy and historical fiction (King of Ys is a combo of both – sort of a mashup of HBO’s Rome and Game of Thrones) and haven’t read it you should definitely check it out. One of my all-time favorite reads.
I appreciated Feast For Crows more on my second read-through. Most of the large scale combat of the war is finished, so now we get to see Westeros in the aftermath, with all the devastation and upheaval, and winter just around the corner. The major characters can reflect on what a mess they’ve made.
As for Wheel of Time, the best reading decision I ever made was giving up on it 250 pages into the first book. Besides being tedious, I can’t think of another story I’ve read where I’ve absolutely hated every female character. From what I’ve read, they only get worse later in the series. I thought this was supposed to be a classic of the fantasy genre.
If the implication is that Tolkien is “safe” in that important characters don’t die, that’s actually not true of The Hobbit. And The Lord of the Rings is awash with loss and fading away. I liked Martin’s books, and certainly they are more realistic in the sense that people swear and have sex, but I guess I don’t see that as some awesomely clever reinvention…like always it is the story itself that is compelling along.
@DFH no.6: heck, the science fiction channel might even start showing programming that is science fiction again. The shows and networks are out there…. if only fans of the genres had control over the programming. Seems like each head of broadcasting loathes their own brand and wants to turn every network into the USA Network.
@FridayNext: I enjoyed the new characters. The fifth book in particular, it felt like Martin zoomed out about 10x, and now the world feels so much bigger. Shit is going down on every continent. It was much more ambitious than I was expecting. I thought he succeeded pretty well, even though the 4th and 5th weren’t as good as those first wonderful three.
As one of the few WoT fans posting here, I guess I’ll defend my love for it.
Yes, it slows (to a crawl), but post book-4 it turns into a new type of series. It becomes a lot more political, and stories no longer get tied up nicely at the end.
More importantly, in a few months the series is over. Brandon Sanderson did an amazing job so far wrapping up the story. Bodies are dropping all over the place, resolution is happening to long played out stories. and yes, even characters you thought would never die have been sacrificed.
If a 13 book mega series isn’t your stuff. Try out Sandersons other works, Elantris and Warbreaker are great stand alone novels (and Warbreaker is downloadable as a PDF on his website.) Mistborn trilogy is a great, tight, series where it feels more like Joss Whedon (as in, anyone and everyone can die) than standard fantasy tropes.
Loved his latest, The Way of Kings, it’ll be a huge series, but I think it will be a lot more manageable.
I got through the first three books of ASoIaF before I got tired of the “gritty fantasy” trope where we know it’s a crapsack world because there’s lots and lots of rape. (See also: Dragon Age: Origins) I also got sick of having one character I liked, geting 30 pages about her and then nothing more for another 200 pages, at which point I had to go back and re-read so I remembered what was happening.
I actually like the standard fantasy tropes when they’re done well. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is still one of my favorite series. I cared about the people, and I liked watching the protagonists trying to do the right thing against impossible odds.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this with Dragon Age 2 and the person to whom things happen who isn’t really a hero, and with Skyrim. My conclusion is that I’d really like a game where it’s more SCA (“The Middle Ages as they should have been”) rather than a more realistic, brustish, nasty gray and brown world.