By: Dave Odegard 86
It’s now been just over a month since HBO’s Game of Thrones finished up its second season, so you’re probably fully feeling the effects of withdrawal from the highly addictive and critically acclaimed fantasy TV series. And it doesn’t help that they’ve just started shooting season 3 and casting rumors are hitting the Internet. Hopefully you haven’t dressed up in chainmail and challenged neighborhood kids to swordfights, singling out the ones that look like Joffrey Baratheon.
But more than likely (if you haven’t already) you’re thinking about breaking down and buying one of the massive paperbacks displayed in Barnes & Nobles with the Game of Thrones logo on it. But let’s be honest, you’re not sure if you’ll like reading George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the official series title. While both the TV show and the books pretty much tell the same story, they’re two different styles of media – each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Here are a few reasons to help you decide if you should or shouldn’t read the books.
Why You Should Read the Books
Song of Ice and Fire is more epic than Game of Thrones.
George Martin has so far written five books in his planned seven volume series, each clocking in at about a thousand pages. To turn them into a TV show with a 10 episode season corresponding to a volume - though reports state the third book will be split into two seasons - the producers/creators trimmed subplots, merged characters, and abridged the action to save on time and money. That means that everything that happens in the book is on a much MUCH grander scale. Fights are battles. Meals are feasts. And a tense conversation between rival characters is showdown. It’s awesome (Except for anything dealing with the character Sansa Stark. She comes across just as annoying in the books as in the show).
The books are more in-depth.
In that same vein of trimming down the action and characters to adapt Game of Thrones and Clash of Kings into the first two seasons, the producers had to walk a tough line of subtly hinting to viewers the intricate mythology of this elaborate world. So while the show will leave it to the audience to figure what exactly is up with the Night’s Watch or the theological intricacies of the different religions (I would argue that this what many viewers enjoy about the show), Martin has no trouble explaining it to readers. So if you’ve ever wanted to know more about the “Mad King” or about when characters talk about “the First Men” on the show, the books go into it, a lot.
The characters are thoroughly developed.
Like the epicness of the story and the intricately imagined details of his fictitious world, the major characters in Song of Ice and Fire are way more developed than in the show. A lot of it has to do with trimming down for adaption. But the biggest part has to deal with Martin’s narrative style. The books jump between major characters’ perspectives with each chapter. That means you see it all through the eyes of Tyrion Lannisterr, Arya Stark, Jon Snow, etc., along with the “inner action” of their thoughts. So if you love the main characters from the show, you’ll get to know them more thoroughly (Be warned: Martin includes Sansa Stark in this roulette of perspective. She slowly becomes less annoying, but it takes a while).
You don’t have to wait until next season to find what happens next
Probably the main reason to read the books. If you’ve seen up to season two, then you can pick up right with the third book, Storm of Swords. Though you should the Wikipedia entry for Clash of Kings to be aware any differences in the show and the book. (Also, don’t be afraid to run to Wikipedia to look up any anything you don’t remember from the show). And you’ll satisfy your Game of Thrones fix.
Why You Shouldn’t Read the Book and Just Watch the Show
Song of Ice and Fire is more graphic.
It may seem a little oxymoronic to explain, but one of Martin’s great strengths in writing the series is his dedication to realism, the realism of a medieval world. The fact is that warfare is brutal and chaotic and when it’s fought with swords, lances, and arrows, it seems more so. Martin depicts torture, hand-to-hand combat, and rape…and boy is there’s a lot of it. In the show, it’s all toned down and polished giving the storytelling a gritty sexiness. But in the books, it can be off putting and downright nauseating at times. So if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing, you might want to stay away.
The books are waaaay more complex.
Every group of friends into Game of Thrones has that one member that just can’t follow along (They’re also usually fans of Sansa Stark). They can’t keep the characters straight, mix up names, totally miss the subtext and importance of key scenes, and then ask out loud to the group “Wait…what’s going on?!” in the middle of an episode. It usually takes a couple minutes of discussion and some rewinding for them to fully grasp what’s going on. Yeah, if you’re that person – and you know if you are – then you probably shouldn’t read the books. Why? Scroll up and the first few reasons in the above.
Peter Drinklage can’t act for you.
If you love the show, then that means you love this guy:
Peter Dinklage’s portray of Tyrion Lannister, AKA The Imp, has garnered him praise, fans notoriety, and, oh yeah, and an Emmy. The role has been defining for both himself and the series. Unfortunately, it doesn’t transfer over to the source material. Yes, Dinklage’s Tyrion is very much based on the one from the books, but like all good actors he makes the character his own – think Sean Connery as James Bond. And sure, you’ll imagine as Dinklage, but it won’t be the same…unless you can get him to come into your home and act out the scenes for you, which if you can we say “Go for it!”
You have to wait until the next book to know what happens next.
The latest book in the series, Dance of Dragons, was only published last year. In fact, it’s still only available in hardcover and as of yet, there’s no word on when the next two volumes are due. So while you’re freeing yourself from the confines of the production speed of a TV show, you’re also becoming prisoner of a writer notorious for projects spiraling out of his control and blowing deadlines. Seriously Martin, HURRY UP!!