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A Song of Ice and Fire

I don’t have cable or satellite, so I was not able to watch HBO’s Game of Thrones until it came out on DVD. It was quickly apparent that Game of Thrones is good fantasy — a rare thing. The HBO series is based on five books (so far) by George R. R. Martin:

A Game of Thrones (1996)
A Clash of Kings (1999)
A Storm of Swords (2000)
A Feast for Crows (2005)
A Dance With Dragons (2011)

HBO broadcast a second season of Game of Thrones this spring. It is not yet available on DVD. A third season is now filming.

Of course I had to buy the first book and see if Martin’s story reads as well as it films. It reads even better. I’ve read the first three books, and I just started on book four.

It’s impossible not to compare this fantasy world with Tolkien’s. In my opinion, no fantasy writer has come close to equaling the depth of Tolkien’s story or the maturity of Tolkien’s prose. But Martin comes closer than any fantasy writer I’ve ever read. Most fantasy writers are unbearably terrible writers, but Martin almost hits the mark. I often find myself wishing that Martin had an editor, someone in England with an education like Tolkien’s, who could give Martin’s writing the tweaks it needs to hit the mark. Books these days are poorly edited, and Martin’s books are no exception, though clearly they got more work than most books since they’re a guaranteed money-maker. They are long books. I’m reading the Kindle editions. Books one and two are about 900 pages; book three is 1,200 pages. Don’t be intimidated. After you’re hooked, you’ll be glad there’s lots of it to read.

All the ingredients are there — appealing worlds, highly lovable characters, highly hatable characters, a complex plot with lots of twists and turns, writing that is easy on the ears, and atmosphere. I could do without the zombie theme, but it seems that’s a theme every writer must include these days if he wants to sell books — that or something about vampires. The zombie theme notwithstanding, these are novels good enough for adults.

When good books are made into movies, it’s always best to read the books first. So you have almost a year to get started on these books and get ahead of HBO.

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