Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pity me, for I am weak

I have never read any of The Song of Ice and Fire series, nor do I watch A Game of Thrones. I have great respect for what George R.R. Martin is doing and I have no doubt the books are the modern classics his fans believe them to be. However, I have always been a little intimidated by the series with its bewildering number of characters and off-balancing attrition of protagonists. Still, I always thought I would eventually get around to reading them, perhaps when my kids were a little older. I'm not so sure about that anymore. I've never been much for excessive violence. The cartoonish violence of Friday the 13th or Conan the Barbarian is fine. The sanitized violence of the old war movies is fine. But the visceral, hateful violence we often call torture porn these days, I just have no stomach for it. The response I have seen on the internet lately over the so-called "red wedding" scene in A Game of Thrones leads me to believe that I probably wouldn't enjoy it. It all sounds a bit too nihilistic for my tastes. From what I can determine, the most honourable characters in the series are all destined to suffer a horrific fate, while the schemers and betrayers are rewarded for their treachery. This may be reflective of reality, but it doesn't make for a particularly satisfying reading experience. Am I missing something or am I just out-of-touch with today's fashion?



Jay said...

First, let me say that I too have a weak stomach for "torture porn" in movies. It's the main reason why I can't watch a lot of (more recent) horror flicks. That said, I think you may have misconceptions about Game of Thrones. There's really not that much--compared to the totality of the show--that's taken to that level. There's a great deal of violence, much of it graphic, but I'll say this for G.R.R.M. it's always punctuating conflict. Never for it's own sake.

Which brings me to the "schemers and betrayers are rewarded for their treachery." That's just not true. There are several characters--even in these last few episodes--in which the opposite is true.

Essentially it's more complicated than the black and white assessment you're mentioning. It's not good guys vs. bad guys, it's human beings with all of their flaws, trying to maintain power or keep it from overtaking their corner of Westeros. Bottom line, you really can't judge anything unless you've given it a fair shake, can you?

On the matter of reading vs. watching: definitely watch the show. Maybe read the books, I hear they are great--but the show does give a more "digest" form of the story. It also does a lot for making the characters relatable and easier to keep track of (friends who've read it tell me this). The author and producers work closely together to really make the characters the focus. Though, one of my favorite aspects is just the incredibly well-managed world building. Much of what's referenced occurred in "history" and there are no flashbacks--so very temporal in that sense.

On a side note, it's too bad that the Red Wedding was spoiled for you. The best way to watch the show is absolutely unaided. Actually, I'll amend that--it's also great binge watching since you'll want to see the next one as soon as you finished!

Rognar said...

I'm glad to hear I was wrong about the series. Oddly enough, I find I have more time for reading than watching television, although it may just be that I consider the former a more worthwhile use of my limited free time and, therefore, make more of an effort to do it. I've still got two seasons of Fringe on PVR that I can't seem to force myself to sit down and watch.

Obiri said...

I still think you should read the books. You get a much better sense of the world and the people in it. One thing the show fails to do very well is give a good sense of what came before - why are things the way they are. You catch a bare minimum here and there but the show never allows the viewer to get a strong sense of how these people have interacted in the past and why they behave the way they do.

As I said before I still have all but the first book in physical form (both copies I owned were loaned out and never returned), all in Kindle format, and all of the show in Digital format (1080p). Let me know what you want.

Jay said...

"One thing the show fails to do very well is give a good sense of what came before - why are things the way they are."

I don't see that as a flaw. I really appreciate that the history is revealed over time in conversations. It feels much more real that way and it introduces with a little aspect of mystery without being puzzling.

Basically, they're two different animals each with their respective strengths.

Anonymous said...

I would guess that here are enough books on your reading list that you might well want a positive reason to tackle 4700 pages (thus far) of anything. "It's not as bad as / it's better than you think" doesn't cut it for me. If you ask your friends to recommend 10 books and they don't use 5 slots on A Song of Ice & Fire, why would you even worry about it?

Rognar said...

True enough, I probably have fifty books I would like to read. I've barely gotten started on Neil Stephenson and haven't even begun the Iain Banks collection.

Obiri said...

I am still working on Cryptonomicon. I now understand why its considered such a geek book. In terms of plotting, meanderous is being being generous. As such I put it down for days at time feeling no need to pick it up and keep going. It's a good read but not exactly compelling - not yet anyway (about 60% through).

He spends most of chapter talking about eating Captain Crunch cereal. Seriously.

Rognar said...

Sounds like it has some of the same silliness that turned me off Snow Crash the first time I tried to read it. It's odd, because Anathem didn't have any of that. It could be that Anathem is an outlier and that Stephenson's other work is just not my cup o' tea.

Nigel Ray said...

Monster Hunter International, by Larry Correia, is really awesome modern horror/action, and the guy knows his guns. Characters are compelling, both heroes and villains.