Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Game of Thrones (and 10 reasons I disliked it)

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

Or as I call it, A Game of Endless Unlikable Characters

My husband DEVOURS these books. When he's immersed in one of them, he doesn't pay attention to much else. He loves them.

Then my 17-year-old son, who used to be such a great reader but in recent years has been deterred by electronics, also read the whole book and is now watching the show.

Plus one of my close friends, who doesn't usually go for fantasy, became obsessed with the show and the books, and she told me that I should give them a try.

So I gave Book 1 a try, and I will not be reading any more of the series. Remember, I finished Book 1 of the Lord of the Rings series and gave up during The Two Towers. Fantasy is not my thing, unless it's something fun like Harry Potter. I can take the violence, and I have read many dystopian sci-fi novels. It's just that this didn't hold my interest.

I should have known better when in the beginning, every single chapter was told from the perspective of a different character. I have a 50-page rule (ala Nancy Pearl). I was about to give up, but then on Page 49, we returned to a character that I had seen before. So I plowed on, thinking I might become more engaged.

When I took a break at around Page 625 to read The Chaperone and enjoyed it much more, I should have known better. 

I also should have considered that my husband never thought I would like these books. 

But I was determined to finish the book, much like I felt that I needed to read Twilight. It's such a part of our popular culture, and I wanted to know why everyone seems besotted with it.

So here are the 10 reasons I wasn't crazy about A Game of Thrones:

1. Far too many characters!
I know Martin provides lists at the end of the book, but honestly, why did there have to be so many? I lost track. Many of the characters are mentioned in passing only once or twice. Why include them at all?

2. Lack of character development
Very few of the multitude of characters are fleshed out fully. Even the primary characters...we get very little back story on how they became who they are, with only a few exceptions.

3. Lack of sympathetic characters
The only person I cared about in this book was Arya Stark. That's it. I didn't care what happened to anyone else. Daenerys was interesting, but she was brutal too. Ned was better than most of them, but even he was not loyal to his wife and had a dark past. Nearly everyone in this book lacks morals, compassion, or kindness. These people are unlikable!

4. Rape and brutal treatment of women
I had heard that Game of Thrones had lots of sex, but I didn't expect the huge amount of rape and horrific treatment of women...constant child bride rape, incest, gang rape, and forced prostitution. Is this typical of fantasy? No thank you. I'd heard that this series has more strong female characters than other fantasy books, but even those strong female characters are often powerless in such a patriarchal, misogynist culture.

5. Too much detail
Martin goes way into detail about political posturing, history of various families, and geography, while sacrificing real, valuable information. And then there's the endless, repeated titles of royalty, such as "King Joffrey, the First of His Name, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm," blah, blah, blah. 

6. Way too long
I am not scared of long books. In fact, I loved Vikram Seth's 1,500-page long A Suitable Boy. But you've got to keep me interested to make me feel like the length is worth it. This book could have used a good editor. (See #1 and 5.)

7. Endless plots
From what I understand about this series, each book does not just goes on and on into more books. I need closure. 

8. Lack of geographic perspective
I needed a map, like Tolkien provided. I am a visual person. Where in the heck is "The Neck"? How does the wall divide the kingdom? So much of this book and series is about place and kingdoms. I didn't know where the heck anything was, except sometimes "north" or "south."

9. Does not compel me to read any more
I'm not interested in seeing where this series continues. 

10. Very sad outlook on humanity
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote wonderful villains and complicated characters and had redemption in his books...the friendship in the fellowship of the ring, the rip-roaring fun in the Shire, the wisdom of Gandalf, the great adventure, the beautiful Elfen many more things to like about that series, even though those books were not my cup of tea either. As one reviewer wrote, "I have bums and alcoholic friends that blaze like Gandalf the White compared to most of Martin's characters." That reviewer went on to say "It is a story mired in filth and obscenity and shines the light on the worst conditions of human experience and offers them up as plot lines, dialogue and personal, social and political interactions."

As I mentioned above, I've read my share of dystopian literature (The Hunger Games series, The Road, A Handmaid's Tale, etc.), but even those types of books have some redemption in them, usually in the relationships between the characters. If I'm going to read a dark, dark book, I need to get some satisfaction out of it. 

My apologies to the Game of Thrones lovers!

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