You Vex Me, Game of Thrones!

Books GeekMom TV and Movies

The buzz surrounding the TV adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones was nearly impossible to miss. Fans couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were to see his amazing world finally come to life. They talked of dire wolves, and swords, and epic battles. I wanted to share in that excitement, but since I’d never read the books I could only muster so much enthusiasm. The one bonus to this was that I had no preconceptions about what the show should be and wouldn’t be disappointed by the omission of a favorite scene. So, right along with the legions of die hard fans, I sat down to watch this grand, fantasy adventure.

It turned out to be pretty much what I expected with knights and swords and castles and even evil things in the forest that were sure to cause problems later. Oh, and there was a beheading, which I think is required in every fantasy novel. It’s right up there with hangings and the use of Ye Olde English. I liked the first episode so much that I immediately downloaded the book. Do you know that thing is nearly 800 pages long? That’s a lot of beheading, but the show held promise so I wanted to read the book. It’s inevitable that things get left out due to time, budget or creative license, so I make it a habit of reading the books on which my favorite movies and shows are based.  After this, though, I may have to rethink that policy.

I should have know I was in trouble when I complained about the pace and people said I had to read the first hundred pages or so before it got good. So, I kept reading. And reading. And reading. I’m not one to give up on a book so I read through to the end and, when I turned that last page, I let out a sigh of relief and frustration. This guy makes Tolkien look concise. I know more about the color, design, and shading of the house banners of Westeros than I ever cared to know. I also know way too much about wenching, people’s eyes melting out of their sockets like jelly, and crumbling old buildings. Where the show consolidates and cuts, the book just goes on and on about details that don’t really add to the story. I know, he’s creating a world, but there’s more detail and description in this book than actual story, and I read for story.

The worst part? Now that I’ve read this ponderous tome, I’m less excited for the show. It’s not knowing what’s going to happen, but knowing just how little is going to happen that has ruined the story. I’ll keep watching the show in all it’s wenching, knightly glory, but it just isn’t the same now. And before you tell me that I really, really ought to read the second book because that’s when it gets going, you should know that puts you at risk of experiencing a beheading by my own hand.

What did you guys think?  Fan of the show? Fan of the books? How did they rate for you?

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28 thoughts on “You Vex Me, Game of Thrones!

  1. I didn’t read the book but my husband just finished it a few weeks ago and he gave me a daily play by play as he read. He really enjoyed all of the “stuff” and he’s not usually one for wordy descriptions. It was the death near the end of the book that put him off reading the next book and made me put down my copy. Some things are just to frustrating to pursue.

    1. Yes, the ending I found nothing short of awful. It just didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the story. The sort of is there/isn’t there of all that is magical was played so tightly throughout that the ending felt heavy-handed.

  2. I have the complete opposite feeling. I read the books first. As a result, the TV show seems rushed and dull. Things happen, up to and including death, that are much more dramatic when you’ve had a few hundred pages to get to know a character.

    A friend summarized well what has made the show so disinteresting. The books change perspective. In one chapter, you’re hearing about another character secondhand from another’s perspective. You start to hate him. He’s awful. Two chapters later, it’s from his perspective, and things start to sound different. It’s a richer experience.

    1. I completely agree with you, Ruth. That was exactly the way I felt about Jaime, when I read the first chapter from his perspective.

    2. I do have to agree with you that the perspective shifts and sometimes outright changes to a character’s introduction lend them a completely different vibe in the show. Kahl Drogo was a character I immediately despised in the show, but he is more sympathetic in his initial treatment of Daenerys which completely surprised me. I actually liked his character instead of hating him.

  3. Well, I loved the books and still haven’t seen the show (living in France, blah-blah-blah).
    I wasn’t bored, not at all, even with the first hundred pages. But I know many people who were, like you.
    And you know what? It’s far worse if you read the French translation since the French publishers cut the originak books in three !
    But as a big fan of the books, I feel really sorry about your experience. And even puzzled. For so many things are going to happen ! More drastic things than in any other fantasy series I ever read !
    I hope you’ll come to like it later. The show, at least.

    1. I can not even imagine reading a translation of these books! I’ve read a few translations to English and it was obvious that more than a little was lost in the process. I wish, I really, really wish I had fallen in love with this the way you have. I read your article in response to that horrid reviewer’s attitude and it’s clear you truly connected with the story. I will stick with the show out of curiousity for how close it comes to the books. And who knows, if I have a lot of time on my hands this summer, maybe I’ll try book two. Maybe.

  4. I love the slower pacing of the book. And, in fact, by the end of Game of Thrones, I longed to revisit the first few chapters with a more informed eye so that I could savour them instead of stumble through.

    The fast pacing of the show cuts out all the subtlety, all the pauses and all the supporting detail – it’s like making chili in 20 minutes. Chili needs to stew all day to reveal the true complexity of its flavours, to allow the richness to develop.

    Plus, it’s the first book in a 7 book saga. The conclusion of which the author describes as “a vast graveyard”. When the books were recommended to me, my girlfriend said, “it’s amazing, but beware; the author doesn’t hold any characters as more precious than any other. He’s not afraid to kill a character everyone loves.” And I think this is also part of the visceral thrill of reading the books. You really never know what’s going to happen.

    1. Well, that’s my problem right there. I’m a 20 minute chili girl, so this was doomed from the start! I do know what you mean, though, that where the book does take pains to draw you in, the show just throws it all in front of you. And with several of the deaths, I was completely surprised. It reminded me of Stephen King. Just when you really start to love a character, that’s when he’s going to meet his end.

  5. I have just begun reading the books (I’m into book two) and I am enjoying them. But, like others have said, I enjoy the detail.

    I also enjoy the politics, and intrigue involved. There’s not a lot of fighting action as in action/adventure. For someone interested in more action, I can see how it leaves a lot to be desired. I think the rich character development makes up for it, in my mind anyway.

    The thing I really like is though the show has made cuts, for the most part they are right in line with the books, and the author’s vision.

    1. There really isn’t a lot of fighting, and when there is it is brief and focused more on what’s going on in the character’s mind than on how many knights they skewer. I didn’t mind the lack of action, more the overall pace. It all moved too slow for me and I got bogged down by the endless description. So far, the cuts haven’t been too bad. You know it has to happen in such a big story. We’ll see how that goes once the whole thing airs.

  6. I didn’t start reading until the TV show started getting all the buzz. I’d heard of it, but casually and non-recommendedly–which is not a word but should be.

    Now I’m hooked, and on book 3. I love a good epic, but I was so disappointed with the last one I tried (Wheel of Time) that I haven’t been really looking.

    1. Then you picked the right one, Sharon, for I think Martin’s books have all the qualities that Wheel of Time lacks…

    2. People have been talking to me about Wheel of Time in a recommendedly way (it should be a word) but it’s a split between read/ don’t read. What is it that was missing from that series that you feel was done well in GoT?

  7. I felt exactly the same way. The show looked like it would be good so I got the book and started reading. I couldn’t stand it – it seemed way too cookie-cutter-fantasy for me to get interested. I still haven’t bothered to see the show, but I bet it would be better – the same thing happened with the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I can’t stand the books (I’m serious. They are terrible.) but I watch the show! It gets ridiculous too but in a way I can stand.

    1. You might like the show better. It’s still typical fantasy, but without the slooooow pace. And would you believe I just bought a Sookie Stackhouse book to read! Ugh, I hope I didn’t make a mistake there.

      1. Well, I can’t stand True Blood the show because all the characters are stupid but now and then they reach over-the-top glory. (We will eat you. We will eat your children. And now, the weather, Tiffany?)

        I’ve heard really good things about the Sookie books, though.

  8. Every time i hear someone say the book was slow or boring, I always wonder whether we’ve read the same book. I found it incredibly fast-paced and, while detailed, none of the detail is filler — all of it is relevant to what’s going on. It’s not a cookie-cutter fantasy, except at the most superficial level…scratch the surface and there is rather thorough deconstruction of the very idea of “heroic” fantasy.

    When talking to people who didn’t like the book, I typically discover one of three things. Either (1) they have a hard time with the idea of a made-up world and therefore dislike fantasy to begin with, (2) they don’t like the violence, sex, and moral grayness of the plot and characters, or (3) they are just not very careful or close readers.

    1. Hmm…I have a bookshelf full of books with made up worlds that I love getting lost in and many have considerably more sex, violence and moral ambiguity than GoT. As for being careful or close, I’d like to think I pay a fair amount of attention to whatever I read. It’s not like I don’t like any stories, just not so much this one.

      I just didn’t find anything amazingly new or refreshing and it felt like a standard knights and maidens fight with each other for power and fear the oncoming threat of the big baddie story. Now, if you love that kind of story, then this is absolutely something you’ll love. I needed something more, though, not just endless exposition of the fantasy norm. Which is why it’s a good thing the shelves are full of lots and lots of different fantasy books so we can all find the ones that work best for us!

  9. My husband read the books and loved them. After years of trying to get me to read them, we decided to listen to the audio book in the car. It took a very long time, but listening to in in shorter chunks was great for me.
    It’s important to remember that this isn’t meant to be a stand alone book, it’s just the first part of much larger story.
    I feel like the show is rushing things though, I wish they would slow down and let us get to know the characters a bit more.

    1. It’s funny you mention audio, as that’s how my husband first learned of the books. He listened to them all and can’t wait for the next one. I was debating stealing, er, borrowing his CDs and seeing if they were better for me than sitting down with the books.

      I think if the show had been guaranteed more episodes from the start that they’d have slowed down the character development. It’ll be interesting to see how the next season flows.

  10. Thanks for this review!!!!
    I haven’t watched or read any of it, I don’t have HBO and have seriously gotten so tired of all the hype really didn’t want to because it was just SOOOO over pushed. Like the Twilight series. It was EVERYWHERE. And because it was EVERYWHERE I had no desire to read or watch sparkley vampires and every desire to make fun of those that did. Which was easy since my 30 yr old brother in law was and is still a fan. This series I was kind of curious about but the way you describe the book I defiantly would not be able to get through. Books I read really have to capture my attention from the start. Learned that from trying to read ” The house of seven gables ” as a kid. I know WAY too much about gables at this point.

    1. I read Twilight, all of it, right to the sparkly end. Nice little chunk of my life that I’ll never get back, but I was tired of hearing people telling me that if I read them, then I’d get it. Nope. Don’t get it. Sparkly vampires are silly.

  11. I got talked into starting Game of Thrones during a hiatus with Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. It was during a time when Jordan had gone off-track (or it at least felt like it) with his epic series, and I had heard how incredible Martin’s story was. Intensely detailed, but crazy good politics, world design and characters I could love, hate, love to hate, and hate to love and everything in between.

    I wasn’t disappointed – I love the series and have pre-ordered the next book. My biggest fear – that Martin won’t finish the series. He’s not a young man, and there’s alot left to tell of this story – I dread to think that he will either (a) grow bored with telling this epic and just stop or (b) he’ll die before he finishes.

    I was fortunate that Brandon Sanderson is helming the last three books of The Wheel of Time and has breathed some serious life into what I was afraid was a floundering storyline. I’m not sure we’d be so lucky if the same happened with Martin and Game of Thrones.

    I’m excited that the series is getting so much positive feedback – HBO is a great venue for it, as I don’t think the story could be told effectively through a 3 hour movie. I don’t have HBO, so I’m going to have to wait till it comes out on DVD/Netflix, but here’s hoping the great casting and editing make this something I enjoy watching as much as I did reading.

  12. OMG – If you though book one was slow just wait til you get to book four in which GRRM moves from chapters that run 10 – 20 pages per person to 40+ page chapters where everyone has to recite back the history of minor hedge knights dead for 500 years or so… Talk about an author who could have used a better editor. I dread book five but feel the compulsive need to keep reading. I just can’t see how he can finish the story if he keeps getting lost adding in (seemingly) unnecessary details. The first two books have much better pacing.

  13. A friend of my husband’s told him to read the books years ago… however he only got interested after watching the show. We ordered the 4 books from a bookstore in UK as if we were to buy them in our mother tongue, Greek, we would have to pay 4times the money we payed. They have cut each book in 2, glad to know France made it worst though (LOL).
    Haven’t started reading the books yet, only the first chapter of the 1st book and liked it.
    I don’t know about the slow pace of the books, my husband will hate it, but me, being a huge fan of Stephen King ( currently reading “The regulators” ) and Tolkien, I guess I can bear with it.
    Also I would like to say that I adore your blog, and although I’m not a mom yet (but still a little bit geeky with a geek hubby) I read it every day.

  14. Nicole, I am so glad to see someone else saying exactly why I didn’t enjoy the book. I have a very good friend who told me I needed to read the series. Since we usually agree on books I took her advice. I couldn’t get through the first one. I got so slogged down in all the detail I just couldn’t get a handle on the story itself. I am just glad I bought it at a used book store so I didn’t feel like I wasted too much money.

    1. I only wish I’d borrowed it from a friend or bought it at a used bookstore. Unfortunately, it was my first purchase on my shiny new color Nook. Although the book bored me, my new gadget has me hooked!

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