There’s a bubbling undercurrent of insanity that’s been churning in Hollywood and bookstores across America.
Refreshingly, it has nothing to do with the Kardashians or teen vampires. It concerns something much more original and layered, a craze that’s been building for 15 years and counting.
Fantasy and science fiction writer George R.R. Martin started it all. He pulled the cork out of his brain and let his imagination come spilling out. It splashed out onto thousands of pages and became a tale of power, sex, war, deceit and everything else the world’s most prominent religions warned us about.
I only just completed “A Game of Thrones,” the first book in the five-part story arc, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and basis for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” TV series, but color me hooked. I’ve got four books to go and can’t wait to get started.
The story drew me in for two reasons, originality being the first.
Hard truth: 75 percent of fantasy stories are crap. Trust me on that, I’ve been reading them since I was 7. They’re the Mexican food of literature. Not that Mexican food is bad, but really, when you break it down, every dish has the same seven ingredients dressed up with different names.
Wizards, dwarves, elves, warriors, prophecies, castles, magic. Put in blender. Frappe. Ship to publisher.
And with that formula, characters and their development are often left behind. A recent conversation with someone at Iguana Comics – yes, we were nerdy enough to be talking about ‘Game of Thrones’ in a comic shop – summed it up nicely.
ME: “With fantasy stories, it’s rarely ‘Invest in my characters and how they develop.’ It’s more…”
OTHER GUY: “‘Look at this world I’ve created.’”
“A Game of Thrones” was different. I’ve been describing it as Lord of the Rings + King Arthur – any in-your-face supernatural references. It’s like King Arthur and his knights if they were all transported from Great Britain to the fictional world of Westeros and given different names. And not just that. Martin took care to include everything else important to a society: religion, culture, tradition, economics, environment.
But even with all that, the dozens of key characters and their personalities, flaws and vulnerabilities are not lost in the fray.
Which leads me to the second reason ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ yielded its 10 millionth fan or so: it’s clearly a personal story, one that matters to Martin.
I found myself drawn to a couple key characters, especially Jon Snow, a child born of an extramarital affair who joins the Night’s Watch, a dark military group that’s tasked with guarding the north lands at the base of a great wall of ice. There were several moments during the story where I found myself nodding at his decisions, statements he made. They were familiar and right. Every so often, they were something I’d do or say
I think characters that can hold a mirror up to readers are the best kinds. They’re tougher to forget, almost impossible.
Martin draws not just one character, but several with the same brilliant execution.
So, all that said, Mr. Martin, congratulations; on having ideas and sharing them with fervor. Also, on making me almost give up on fiction writing altogether.
Your book was that good.