Tuesday, July 26, 2011
George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones
I went to a panel with Orson Scott Card, one of the leading voices in science fiction and fantasy, and he kept speaking about writing and I remember hooting and hollering in support. I've heard since then that Card is quite a bigot, but his every word about the craft that I studied in college was golden. One of the main things he said that I agreed with was that J.R.R. Tolkien did nearly everything wrong while writing his Lord of the Rings trilogy, and yet the series is brilliant anyways. His point was that fantasy writers should not follow the story-telling methodology of Tolkien. It's a great way to make a train wreck of a novel.
Over the last year I've had several conversations with people who love fantasy fiction about why I dislike most of what the genre has for me to read. I'd repeat lines from Card like, "The actual story of Lord of the Rings doesn't even start until the Hobbits get to Rivendell!" I'd throw in riffs I'd learned in my writing classes about the formulaic nature of genre fiction. What I was looking for in fantasy fiction is a book or series that is good on the sentence level just as much as it is on the overarching story level. It needs to be fantastic regarding character development. It has to follow all of the rules that literary fiction follows, rather than the cookie cutter rules of many fantasy publishers. Josh Toulouse of Fat Train said to me, "George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is exactly what you've just described to me. You have to read those books."
It took Amy reading A Game of Thrones for me to really be interested, however. I remember her sitting on her bed, obviously excited about something she'd read, but also frustrated that we couldn't talk about it because she didn't want to spoil the book for me. So I started reading the book, and it is now one of my favorite books of all time. A reviewer called George R.R. Martin the American Tolkien, and I agree with this description if you are talking about the scope and impact of the two writers' best series. I would prefer to call Martin as an American Tolkien who happens to know a heck of a lot more about writing, human psychology, and just about everything other than the evolution of Elvish linguistics over the centuries.
A Game of Thrones, the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, is one of the highest quality books I've ever read. If you're looking for a great story or if you're looking to learn how to write better, this is the book where you will find what you're looking for.