You may look at the title of this post and assume I’m about to go off on Kingdom Hearts or World of Warcraft or some such.
No. “Nay, nay!” you might say. I’m talking about the Game of Thrones.
I probably sound like some hipster d-bag, some anti-pop-culture moron, a sour grapes whiner. It is quite likely that I am all those things. But I’m still sick and tired of hearing about it. I just don’t care. The fandom surrounding it, which seems to be made of roughly 99.9% of the Earth, with the remaining .1% scurrying for cover and craftily impersonating members of the fandom while surreptitiously reading Wikipedia synopses of the HBO series to stay somewhat current and blaming any continuity errors on “being tired.”
I’m just not seeing what everyone else is seeing. Attempts to explain it to me leave my brain a jelly mold, assuming the conversation proceeds rationally and doesn’t devolve into repeated shrieks of your chosen House’s motto. The way folks idolize Mr. Martin and his creations, deifying him and his writing, only puzzles me further.
Now, before I really get the hate lasers turned on me, I’ll say this: If you like A Song of Ice and Fire (and random question here, but why does no one call it that? They almost always just call it Game of Thrones, which is just one volume of the series. I get that HBO called the TV version that, but I suspect it had more to do with existing name recognition, so I’m just puzzled, here.) more power to you. Go ahead. Read them, devour them, build your secret altar to Jon Snow in the basement and sacrifice neighborhood dogs to it, if that’s your thing. That’s cool. That’s all your business. Unlike some series/books which shall remain nameless, I don’t have any particular view of you or your lifestyle, good or ill, just because you’re a rabid GoT fan. If you’re down with the television series, even better; I find it much more enjoyable than the books, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment.
But here’s what I see as the issues, and why I just can’t get behind the “greatest fantasy series evah!”
The language. Not the archaic old form he drifts into, not the made-up words he uses – it is swords and sorcery fantasy, after all – but the sheer number of words that seem utterly wasted on things that have little to no relevance. Now, some will say this is important for making a believable worldbuilding exercise, that the depth of detail in everything is what makes the stories work. Again, if that’s what turns you on, more power to you. But for myself, I can think of better things to do than read four pages about random chair B at Table-in-the-Corner (TM) of Inn-We’ll-Never-Visit-Again. If there were four pages detailing the Iron Throne, that’s one thing. But the chair a random soldier sits in does not need this kind of detail. The same can be said for weapons and armor; Jon Snow might need pages of epic detail about his ancestral heraldry. Bob the Pikeman, who will say one line and be absconded with by White Walkers and who is wielding an utterly unremarkable knife strapped to a stick, does not.
This is one reason I find the show more tolerable; they show us all the pretty set pieces, but don’t zoom the bloody camera in on the edging of a carpet for three minutes before Tyrion says something interesting. People complain that Martin writes too slow, that it takes forever to get each successive volume on the market? Then go tell him to stop telling us stuff we don’t need to know. We can imagine a chair, a sword, a book, thanks. Unless they’re very important to the plot, we don’t need them lovingly described as though Interior Designers of Westeros is looking for guest bloggers. I could care less how many twists Cersi has given her braid today, or how many tassels are hanging on Robb Stark’s shirt, unless those things have significance. This is made even more ridiculous by the fact we’re several books in; okay, fine, if in book one we needed to know just what a Greyjoy-forged sword looked like, I get it. We’re new, eh? But we don’t need five pages of repeated description in Book Six, as we’ve probably gotten the idea the last eighteen times you told us. If we haven’t, then the exercise is pointless, anyway.
Dune is a good example of doing it right. The first volume’s a bit of a monster, with hard-science explanations of just what an ornithopter, krysknife, or weirding module is and how they work. By the time we’re into the sequels and prequels, they don’t bother unless they’re important to the plot or somehow different in design or function, because we’ve read ten bloody books and know what a freakin’ ornithopter is, now let’s get to some sandworms eating people and evil clones plotting diabolical sociopolitical religious schemes, already!
The “plot twists.”
It’s becoming a bit of a joke, really. Perhaps at first, the logic of “no one is safe” was refreshing and different. Any character might, at any time, bite the big one for any reason, no matter how big or small. But now it’s almost become a caricature of itself. People are killed off for no sensical reason other than “Hey, nobody got ganked this chapter! Shit, better off someone, then.”
Second, it’s a lie. And it ties to the biggest issue i have with the series. But there’s at least one – and potentially three – characters who I severely doubt Martin will actually kill. Or, if he does, will stay dead. Absolute best case scenario is that they die in an amazing pyrotechnic display that gains them a pyrrhic victory, or that two of the potential immortals die while the third claims the prize. But the illusion that “no one is safe” is dispelled, time and time again, by stupid blind luck and deus ex machina. Now, that could happen. Not saying it couldn’t. But these three keep getting plucked from scenarios that would almost certainly have killed anybody else, for no better reason than, seemingly, “Nah, they’re my favorites, they don’t die yet.”
Now, if Martin actually kills one (or maybe all three) of these characters off in a pointless, “shit happens” sort of way as he regularly does with nearly everyone else, big or small, named or not, then my esteem for him and his magnum opus will probably jump through the roof. I’m not seeing it happen, though.
Which brings us to issue #3:
The Holy Trinity of Daenerys, Jon and Tyrion. Now, what’s funny to me is that I actually like two of them. I may dislike the way their stories have been told, I may dislike the fact they’re still standing just because it reeks of Mary Stu-dom rather than any indicator of actual skill or ability on their part (or rather, any skill or ability beyond any other character who has been disposed of), but Jon and Tyrion, at least, are entertaining to me. They’re likable, relatable and well-written, even when they’re being right bastards (sorry, Jon.)
Daenerys is a whole other kettle of fish. But my personal distaste for her isn’t why she (and her backup dancers the Bastard and the Dwarf) land her here. It’s because all three of them are constantly pulled out of the fire by plot devices, the complete idiocy and incompetence of other characters who are usually just fine when they’re trying to kill someone who isn’t one of these three, or “because G.R.R.M. said so.” About half the time, they pull through because of their skills or character traits. The other half of the time they should have been bloody dead books ago. To use old D&D parlance, they might as well have “Player Character, Do Not Kill!” tattooed on their foreheads. Or that little crown icon from Oblivion. It makes me feel like Martin is lying when he says he’s not afraid to kill people, and that how it ends is really just going to be either a three-way tie, or two serving as backup to the third who saves the world (TM).
You don’t even want to get me started on Issue #4, which basically can be summed up as “I H8 Daenerys, LOL.” So we’ll leave it at that.
But there you go. That’s why I’m sick of Game of Thrones, and why, despite thinking it is a competent – if bloated – fantasy work, it’s never going to land on my “Like” list. Now, before I leave, I’m going to drop this music video in, because i laughed way too hard at it.