Friday 8 April 2011

I don't know if I should punch George R. R. Martin dead in the face or thank him - or both

Based on how long it took me to read George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, I'm estimating it'll take me approximately 43 years to complete my as yet un-started Vic Lit project. I think it took me three weeks to read this fat novel, which makes me want to bow my head in shame and maybe even don a hair shirt. I am not a slow reader, and this is a fantasy novel, and this is a very compelling fantasy novel. Under what used to constitute normal circs in my life, it should have taken me approximately 17 minutes to read this 800-page beast.

Now that I am a working person whose job isn't in a bookstore, there appears to be a new normal, and that new normal is, so far, this: The ONLY time I have to read is on the subway to work, and then again on the subway home. That's 40 minutes each way, but 40 minutes of being jostled and harried and standing the entire time. I'm really really really really hoping that I will soon, somehow, begin to find more time for the books, because dammit, they're still my most favourite thing alongside hubby and menagerie of beloved beasties.

But about the book. I said a few weeks ago that A Game of Thrones is like a soap opera, and it is - but a soap opera that is actually quite well written, is full of compelling characters (except that stupid twit Sansa, damn her idiot eyes), and Very Exciting Happenings such as, but not limited to: beheadings, walking dead, incest, murder, non-incestuous sex, magic, dragons, and heads on spikes. I alternated between tearing through the novel and delaying reading it so that it would last longer. All was well, if stressful, for Martin is unrelenting in his unfolding of a world seemingly committed to the destruction of all that is good, beautiful, and just.

But then Martin crossed the line. He killed a character who was absolutely and without question the moral centre of the book, and killed him horribly. All of a sudden, I had no protagonist (I found the real one, in the end, I think - and wow, dragons - but I don't want to give too much away) - and I was steaming mad at him. I vowed to never read another GRRM book again. I thought of writing him a sternly worded but still passive-aggressive anti-fan letter expressing my disapproval. Then I realized - only a really good book can make you react as though the characters aren't characters, but rather that they're people that you love. And then I wondered: if Martin's characters seem this real to me, what was it like for Martin to write this book and the ones that follow? Is he unable to finish this series because his characters seem more real to him than real people? If so...I get it, brother. Don't finish it. Pull a Robert Jordan on the world; we'll understand.

So, in spite of my anger, I will read the rest of this series; I don't think I can help it, frankly. I simply must know what the flying eff is happening north of the Wall, and how Dany will proceed, and what the hell happened to Arya, and...Sigh.

In the meantime, I'm going to permit myself the pleasure of reading a very short, large fonted, wide margined book before I launch into the Victorians - by which time, I really hope working life will have smoothed out enough for me to have returned, even partially, to my regular readerly ways and therefore not take 43 years to read my 43 or so fat 19th century novels.


Anonymous said...

The series is great, and the HBO version kicks off on the 17th. I don't have as much time to read any more either, but I am "re-reading" the series for a 2nd time after several years break by listening to the audio books I got from on my commute to work every day on my ipod. Of course I have to drive, so actually reading them isn't an option during that stretch.

The thing I like about the books is that knowing there is no one completely safe, and that makes the danger they face even more real to imagine. Plus the characters grow thru the series, so you may not look at them the same by the time you get to the 4th book and beyond.

The above fore-mentioned. said...

I haven't read any Martin, but I partner has read them all and is eagerly awaiting the HBO production of "Game of Thrones". He is also waiting for Martin to release the next book. It seems, not matter how long it takes to read them, it takes longer for him to write them!

Anonymous said...

I just bought this book because I don't get HBO and I need something to do until the show is released on DVD... and the book cover has Sean Bean on it... what's not to love?

Stefanie said...

Husband has read all of the books and loves them. he is very excited about the impending HBO version.

Jeanne said...

I have a copy of this book waiting to be read, and now I'm at least forewarned that one of the characters will be lost to me, and that I won't be able to stop with just this one in the series.