SPOILER ALERT (for those of you who have not read or watched the Game of Thrones certain elements of this post reveal the plot)
Game of Thrones, or rather Song of Ice and Fire, the seven book series by George R.R. Martin (of which there are only five written to date) has, as Maggie puts it, “consumed my life.” The medieval, fantasy narrative is enthralling, weaving together story lines from Seven Kingdoms and beyond, deeply exploring characters from age seven to over 100. It’s a very well-written series, and I do spend at least an hour reading it every night in bed. My best man, Sean, who gave me the books to read had it described to him as, “Cormac McCarthy meets J.R.R. Tolkien.” Loosely based on the War of Roses with many fantastic or supernatural elements thrown in, the sheer size of the epic (over 5000 pages at this point with two books to go) is Tolkienesque. The dark worldview and gritty description of rape, incest, battle, murder, greed, gluttony, lust, and torture is very much in line with McCarthy.
This however, is not a book review. Nor is the blog meant to review books. Many more people have written much more eloquently about The New York Times #1 Bestseller and its sequels than I have. What intrigues me however, is how it easily it engrosses me. Its treatment of religion is agnostic with numerous polytheistic religions worshipped in different kingdoms with many faithful and unfaithful in power. I still don’t know what to think about religion in the books and I doubt Martin quite knows what he is doing yet either with it. What Martin has [SPOILER ALERT] is this great knack for killing off my favorite characters, the honorable Ned Stark, or his always victorious son, Robb Stark, and then redeeming what might be thought of as unredeemable characters like “Kingslayer,” Jaime Lannister.
Martin creates morally complicated characters. Sometimes characters do things out of self-interest, and then turn around and do something out of honor or vice versa. He creates a universe where I’m not sure who I should hate or who I should love. Or sometimes I find myself enjoying the narratives of characters I had previously found abhorrent and being bored with the morally upright characters.
As I’m still reading the books, I’m still processing. I haven’t even begun to watch the television show, which I’m sure is also quite entertaining. Maggie is quite tolerant when it comes to my late night reading (when medieval fantasy novels are best read) and for that I am quite thankful. I’m curious to know who else has read the books or seen the TV show and what they think. Martin’s books are definitely NC-17. I couldn’t imagine reading this book in high school. I could imagine parts of it being awkward to discuss in college. Nonetheless, Martin has too many readers escaping into his world, not to discuss this bloody, and at times disturbing masterpiece. Questions that Martin raises through his characters:
Is power earned or inherited?
Do humans have an inherent need to both “bend the knee” and “be free”?
How does God (or in Martin’s case the gods) interact with the geo-political landscape?
Is a lie told to achieve a good end, morally okay?
Does power isolate?
How much does physical appearance affect political standing?
Are certain people “born to rule”?
I’m not sure where Martin is going to go with this, or if he will kill off everybody and essentially make the point that we all die in the end, but his process of getting there is more than just diverting, it’s enveloping.
Thanks for letting me keep the light on, Mags.