Game of Thrones (Spoiler Alert)

Apparently, despite all the past experience, lots of people were shocked by the latest developments in Game of Thrones. Still, not everyone is willing to wade through 700-page volumes just to avoid being surprised by a wedding episode on their favorite show. So, as a public service, I’ve listed, over the fold, all the important and exciting developments in Volumes 4 and 5.

20 thoughts on “Game of Thrones (Spoiler Alert)

  1. George R.R. (he copied that double initials idea from Tolkien) Martin is far too prolix for my taste. I gave up halfway through the second volume as the narrative wandered slowly all over the place. I enjoy his basic narrative ideas and gritty gruesomeness but he is just too long-winded. I prefer the TV series which abridges and I believe changes things a bit (not always for the better I hear.)

    From the outset it was obvious he was taking ideas from the War of the Roses period of English history and then mixing it up with many other ealier medieval ideas (Dothraki = Mongol hordes for example) plus the swords and sorcery thing. He has plenty of good ideas and the thwarting of standard narrative expections, genre melding and wide scope is great. But his prolixity, poor writing style and the cumbersome, supposed wit and repartee which he gives his characters is tedious in the extreme.

    As a sidelight, I find the standard northern hemisphere centric view of fantasy writers tedious. The north is always wintry. The starting locale is clearly always England re-modeled. Westeros and The Shire are both really England. The M. East has Arabic style people, the Far East has clear Asiatics and Mongol hordes. The equatorial region (Africa) has black people; the Haradrim of Lord of the Rings. The climate and geography is always really the northern hemisphere disguised. Bravos is probably Italy (more or less) and Dorn is France etc..

    In Lord of the Rings, Minas Tirith is an idealised and nearly eternal Jerusalem raised and held by the “Christians”. The Orcs are Saracens disguised as ruined elves and so on.

    Admittedly, Martin has a few twists. Clearly his “earth” has a more eccentric of elliptical orbit leading to long winters and long summers. And he genre melds without limit which I find kind of fun. He has knights, sorcerers, dragons, zombies, ice demons, barbarian hordes and so on.

    The Imp is the best character by far and probably the least worst morally speaking of the main protagonists. I love Dinklage’s portrayal of the Imp. Perfect. I wonder if G.R.R. Martin always head him in mind when he wrote the character, not to play it but as a model for the book. Most writers use people they know or have seen as models for their main characters just as painters use models for portraits.

  2. The TV series is, more or less, a decently edited version of the very badly written books. A whole lot of palaver is ripped out, though there’s also some interesting back story that’s omitted. The TV series should have a website handling the back-story and character bio’s that’d make refreshing one’s memory easier. HBO is terrible at web/app.

    And classy move, JQ!

  3. @Peter Evans

    I agree with what you say. Many popular authors become too prolix and their editors aren’t brave enough to rein them in. The latter books of the H.P. series by Rowling were a case in point. Some of them could have been half the length.

    I don’t mind wordy authors if they are good. War and Peace, Bleak House, Moby Dick and Middlemarch are all long books but well worth every word.

  4. @Ikonoclast
    The Middle-Earth of Tolkien’s stories evolved over his lifetime work on it from an original concept which would have made it explicitly part of the unrecorded pre-history of our own world, a concept which he never completely abandoned. It makes sense, therefore, that there should be African elephants and black people in Harad because, in essence, Harad was Africa, in the same way that Numenor was Atlantis. Is criticising Tolkien for this any fairer than criticising a mainstream (non-genre) author for matching reality by having light-skinned people inhabiting Europe and Chinese-speaking people inhabiting the Far East? I don’t know.

    I do know that there are many fantasy works that don’t copy real-world geography in this way. Examples that spring to my mind: Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea stories; Hugh Cook’s Chronicles of an Age of Darkness; Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever; Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories; Richard Adams’s novels of the Beklan Empire. I expect with half an hour’s Web research I could come up with many more examples.

  5. @Ikonclast – the unpredictable length of winters and summers is one of the oddest elements of the series for me. It seems really doubtful that hunter-gatherers would ever have developed agriculture or mathematics under these circumstances – and thus would probably never have settled into a civilization in any form.

    Of course, I may be overthinking this.

    Btw, orbital eccentricity can’t be at the route of it (at least not if it’s on the same model as in the real world) – axial tilt is the source of seasonal variation, not distance from the sun. Maybe some sort of random precession in the tilt of the planet’s rotational axis? No idea if this is even possible.

  6. @J-D

    I am not sure I was criticising him (Tolkien) negatively, I was just pointing things out. I have read Earthsea. It has a Pacific archipelago feel to it and also an islander/anthroplogical feel. Not surprising as Ursula Le Guin’s father was anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber. I haven’t read the others. There is only so much fantasy I can stomach.

    For the record, I regard George Martin as lowbrow albeit interesting in certain ways. His deliberate and sustained thwarting of narrative expections is quite avant-garde. Tolkien I regard as middle-brow. His style experiments in LOTR are cumbersome and obvious when compared to James Joyce. Nevertheless, his Ent passages (prose and verse) are a minor masterpiece of whimsy. Tolkien’s best mode in fact is whimsy. The Rohirrim sections are well handled with consistent and effective alliteration in the prose and verse passages. Some of the descriptions of landscape, though appearing too often, are very evocative, with the land itself almost becoming a character. The caves that Gimli admires are described in a paragraph of which any great writer would be proud. The attempt to use a King James Bible English style in Return of the King is clumsy and obvious; too many sentences starting with “And”.

    An interesting point about LOTR is that military tactics and strategy (outside of the sorcery and magical beasts element) actually make a lot of sense. The cavalry tactics used in cutting off, surrounding, harrying and killing the Isengard Uruk-Hai infantry (with Mordor orcs in tow) are very accurately and realistically portrayed. I mean in the book not the movie. Again in the book, Theoden makes a number of strategically correct and consistent decisions. He leaves orcs behind him on his bypass ride along the old wain road. He says more or less “If we win on the field of the Pellennor then they will be cut off. If we lose, we all die on the Pellennor and the orcs behind us will mean nothing.” Equally, he ignored the Cair Andros crossing of the orcs as he stated that that flank was guarded by the fens of the Entwash.

    I could go on but this is an obscure obsession of mine: the consistency of infantry and cavalry strategy and tactics in LOTR. Tolkien knew his stuff in this regard.

  7. Thanks for the heads-up, I don’t think I’ll bother with the books or the TV series – I’m pretty sure there are a few Cliff Hardy yarns I haven’t read.

  8. @Ikonoclast
    You did write that you found to be tedious the repeated use of a particular real-world (or supposed real-world) model by fantasy writers. I was merely pointing out that it is not in fact the case that the use of this model is universal or near-universal in fantasy, so that one particular criticism you made was incorrect. I was not otherwise offering any evaluation, positive or negative, of fantasy in general or of Tolkien or any other fantasy writer in particular. I now suggest that fantasy is variable in quality and also that, independent of quality, the genre (like any other) is not to everybody’s taste. If a particular reader has no taste for fantasy (or any other particular genre), even the best of it, this is not a flaw in the reader, but it is also not a flaw in the genre.

    Personally I find that I would now rather reread Tolkien’s Farmer Giles Of Ham (which is whimsy all through) than The Lord Of The Rings. (It is much shorter; whether this is an advantage is again a matter of taste; some prefer longer stories and some shorter ones.)

  9. @J-D

    Point taken. Of course all literature must model the real world in some way as it must include materials, energies and living entities. Without these components, literature would be incomprensible and could not touch on anything existent or metaphysical. Mind you, some literature is incomprehensible anyway.

    For the record, I subscribe to the “Primacy of Existence”. Here it is well explained by by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands;

    ” “Nature to be commanded must be obeyed” – Francis Bacon.

    Francis Bacon knew that in order to command nature, one must act according to its rules and identity. The statement Reality is Absolute is the explicit recognition of the primacy of existence. This means that reality is not subject to wishes, whims, prayers, or miracles. If you want to change the world, you must act according to reality. Nothing else will affect reality. If you evade this fact, your actions will most likely not have their desired effects. Your failure will be “metaphysical justice”.

    The primacy of existence states the irrefutable truth that existence is primary and consciousness is secondary. Consciousness is the faculty which perceives and identifies existents (things that exists). For two reasons we say that existence is primary, that consciousness requires existence, and that there is no consciousness without existence.

    Because consciousness identifies existents, there can be no consciousness without something existing to perceive. Nothing can have an identity (to be identified) without existing. The fact that something is identified necessarily implies its existence which necessarily implies existence in general. Thus there is no consciousness without existence.

    Because consciousness identifies existents, consciousness itself must exist in order to do the identifying. Along the lines of Descartes cogito, to be conscious (to identify), a consciousness must exist. A faculty cannot operate and not exist at the same time. A verb without a noun makes no sense, and the noun must exist in order for the verb to take place.

    Consciousness is not responsible for creating reality or creating an individual reality. It is completely dependent upon reality. Existence is primary because it is independent of, makes possible, and is a prerequisite of consciousness.

    All forms of mysticism derive from the false premise of the primacy of consciousness, which is demonstratively false. Also, the assertion that existence somehow requires consciousness, sometimes called the Interdependence Theory, is arbitrary at best without objective basis.”

    End of Quote.

    The above teeters close to tautology and self-reference in parts but this is always difficult to avoid when discussing basic ontology. On balance, I think the above views are reasonable and most supported by science and empirical observation. Other metaphysical and religious explanations of existence require the outright ignoring of much empirical evidence and faith (meaning blind belief without evidence) in all sorts of fanciful and inventive explanations for existence.

    Of course, to assert the primacy of existence does not explain existence per se. At this point, I prefer the almost flippant answer “Things exist because nothingness cannot exist.” The EXISTENCE of nothing (NO EXISTENCE) would a fundamental contradiction. Nevetheless it is diverting that a faculty of higher consciousness is fantasy. The invention of non-existent things that become existent but as ideas only. Material inventions (say a car) come from ideas which can be made existent because said ideas work with real materials and energies.

    The potential of what can exist is not exhausted. The cosmos has the property of emergent phenomena. Its a complex area of thought which I have only scratched the surface, indeed I am only capable of scratching the surface I am sure.

  10. I haven’t seen the show but it’s level of exposure and the un-ironic way it is lauded as if it represents a paradigm shift in TV quality marks it as something to be avoided. IMHO the only paradigm shift in TV was ‘Twin Peaks’. An extraordinary achievement in both its conception, execution and audience reception. Nothing has touched it for over 20 years. I think this assessment stems from the fact that I’m turning 50 this year and I’m getting to the ‘things were better in the old days’ stage.

  11. My favourite fantasy author is Mervyn Peake. Titus Groan is a largish novel that covers the first year of Titus’ life. Not a lot happens, and it happens slowly, but somehow the tension is sustained.

    Only a few murders, no weddings, no rapes, no incest. Certainly no chance of being made into a TV series…

  12. The “Ice and Fire” books are remarkable. Kind of like “Home and Away” for grown-ups who like mindless violence. There is no discernible plot development; an enormous cast of characters comes and goes in pointless fashion (for example: the dwarf guy TOTALLY DISAPPEARS from later books after he kills his father, with no explanation of what happened to him); there is no unifying narrative whatsoever.

    Thank god for Usenet, so I didn’t have to pay for Martin’s turgid rubbish, but I still resent the time I spent wading through most of it before I realised it was never going anywhere.

  13. PatrickB @ 14. TV drama paradigm shift = ‘Edge of Darkness‘ BBC (1985)?

    John Brookes @ 15: ‘Gormenghast‘ BBC (4 episodes) 2000

  14. @Patrickb
    Haha. From the general gist of these comments, I’d say you aren’t the only one!

    (Yes I have read the books and enjoyed them. I find if you approach most fantasy series without much expectation you can often be pleasantly surprised.)

  15. What is the obsession with this.. on the odd occasion I’ve tried to watch it, it has come across as utter bull-feathers.

    Thank Christ for the internet.

    At least there is company, even if it is only a NSA monitor.

  16. You’re a talker Quiggin! Listening to talkers makes me thirsty and hungry.

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