Ed note: this review was written in 2007 for a now defunct livejournal account, long before GoT was the phenomenon it is now. Funny to re-read such a flippant review of what has become a cultural phenomenon.
A Song of Fire and Ice Series Book 1
George R.R. Martin
Spectra Reissue, 704 pages
I always thought of science fiction as speculative fiction that looked forward and fantasy as speculative fiction that tried to imagine some idealized past. Since I like to think of myself as a forward thinking person, when I have read genre fiction, it’s been sci-fi.
But lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time alone, and with no TV to entertain me; I thought it might be fun to give one of those crazy huge fantasy novel series a try. If it was good, it’d make for diverting reading after a day spent in law books, if it sucked, I’d just move onto something else.
Friends who are fans of fantasy novels have been telling me about this series for a while and when I read the good review Cosma Shalizi gave the books in his fascinating notebook on fantasy, I decided to give it a try. And now I am totally hooked.
Game of Thrones set up is pretty standard: noble nobility in semi-magical world fight evil nobility for control of the land. What sets Martin apart from others is the strength of his writing (you can tell right away, this isn’t a first book, the plotting is tight and the writing topnotch) and the darkness which permeates the story.
People say they enjoy Martin’s works because they are “realistic” whatever the fuck that means for a book that has dragons and magic in it. The book does portray humanity in all is awfulness, and the violence feels real and visceral. It’s a dark world where favorite characters are killed off all the time and really nasty shit happens to those who stick around. I found it compelling and I’ll definitely read the rest.