Sunday, April 6, 2014

Game of Who Cares?

Or as the Iron Sheik might say, "Game of Who Gives Fuck? More like Game of I Fuck You and Break Your Neck Like the True Bubba." He gets a little carried away but you get the idea.

I've read all the books AFAIK. I'm pretty sure the appearance of a new one would be big enough to get through the wilderness to my own private hermitage. Remember this series was started something like twenty years ago. To be honest I can't say for sure why I read through them all. Something about Martin's voice and the pacing was compelling, I guess. That got me past the first chapter. And the characters I found to be pretty solid, mostly. They aren't super-complicated but they're not cardboard cut-outs either, so that helped keep me going through literally thousands of pages. That and Martin's refusal to use most of the tropes of so-called "High Fantasy" fiction, instead modelling it on midieval history, and his willingness to put everyone at risk, but those are things most readers wouldn't give a damn about. They just put him in the history books.

But I just can't care about the show. I can't remember what season it was but I gave up before they had the big naval battle. Somehow the show, even though it pays close attention to the books and has Martin as a close consultant and even writer (which I think is great), manages to highlight only the flaws of the books. I guess, when you look at my list up there, most of it is about the quality of the writing (NOT the storytelling), so I think that's why.

And the books do have many flaws which are carried over very well to the TV show:

1) Scene-chewing dialogue that Shatner would feel silly saying

2) Just about every really interesting or compelling character is destroyed in one of the following ways:
2a) killed
2b) extremely minor involvement with the overall plot
2c) gets put "on the bus" and is gone so long you no longer care about them
2d) is measured against the dwarf Tyrion and looks less awesome as a result

3) There is no hero. Books like this need heroes. Protagonists if that's a loaded word for you. Everyone you want to root for dies, except Tyrion. Yeah that's kind of  "realistic", it also means by book 57, "Dead Body Booglaoo", no one gives a damn because by that point Tyrion has to have died. More on that later. Everyone left behind doesn't have the muscle to carry the plot around or isn't hero material as their scope and interests are too limited. Killing off the characters people like is a cool trick that made for a shocking ending to the first book, but it's a trick that Martin keeps pulling out of the bag. And like a guy who cuts off a finger as part of his act, you're blown away, but at some point he runs out of fingers, and by the time he gets to the other hand you're over it.

4) Martin's sheer balls, while his greatest strength, are also his handicap, because he takes a lot of chances and not all of them come up winners for him. Flashbacks, things going on simultaneously that take many many pages to describe, switching POV every chapter, etc etc.

5) Exposition is hard and boring, but must be done when you have such a massive plot with so many moving parts. Martin's only tricks for this are having characters discuss things over overly-described dinners. The show turns this into "sexplanation" or "sexposition". Titties are nice and yes we do need to know some of the history but a tighter focus would've meant we need to know less of it.

6) The usual fantasy book claptrap. Stupid names for things that don't need them just to make the world sound foreign and historic. Clunky book titles like "A Song of Ice and Fire" that sound generic to the point of being computer-generated. This is par for the course and Martin succeeds despite these needless burdens.


(Yeah, there are counterpoints to some of these, I'm talking about the flaws here).

If I had been this guy's editor, I would have totally ruined these books, because let's face it, as they are they are mighty successes and I should be so lucky to get to eat the salty peanuts out of Martin's shit. That having been said, here's what I think:

The hero should obviously be Tyrion. Everyone loves him, and why not? He's an underdog, everyone hates him but he comes out a winner most of the time, his dialogue is the best, his education and physical deformity make him very easy to identify with for the average fantasy novel reader. My memo to George would've started with making Tyrion the main character and sticking with him throughout. What he doesn't see, we don't necessarily need to know about, but if we do it won't take much time before we're back to him.

I will get interested in this show when it gets beyond the books, which seems likely. Even then I don't have much hope, but at least it will be some shit I won't be reminded of reading.

You guys realize that Tyrion pretty much has to die, right? Did he already? I can't remember but I don't think so. But yeah. Remember what I said about Martin's balls, about his willingness to put EVERY character at risk? I could be wrong, of course, but Martin is at a decision point here. Either he realizes the dwarf is the hero and gets more traditional  ... or Martin's balls will overwhelm him with hubris and he will pull the trigger. This to me is the central question and is most interesting and debatable.


I really need to do a thing on spoilers.

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