I began reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire last November and watching the HBO series A Game of Thrones at the same time. I forgot how exactly I got into the books and the TV series, probably the buzz on Twitter was good (and I trust my tweeps). And I couldn't resist the advertising on the ass of the bus. Damn you Sean Bean, who sat on the Iron Throne.
Why do I want to talk about my experience with A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones? Reading is always an interesting topic to me. Good thing I have a blog, which kind of works like as a journal. I found myself once again in a position where I was deciding whether I should watch the show first or read the book first. It happened to me before -- Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire; J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter; Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code; JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings which took me five years to pick it up and read it by the way. It happened to me every friggin time.
I know a lot of people prefer to read books and not watch the TV/movie adaptations; or the other way around; or to do both. I can't really pinpoint my position on books vs movies. With Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire, I was too chicken shit to watch the movie because I just wasn't sure if vampires were my kind of entertainment and Tom Cruise's vampire look was creepy. I figured text didn't scare me as much as visual no matter how descriptive it was. Harry Potter was different, because everyone was reading it, readers were just emotionally attached with the characters and story. Good story sells! And it was the first time I cried while reading a book. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code has a really interesting story and it was probably the first time I got into a suspense thriller. And reading and finishing Lord of the Rings was an epic journey on its own. I just found it very hard to get into the language, and it was way too advance to me. But after watching the first movie which I loved, I took the opportunity to go back to the book, and I was immediately hooked. I finished all three books in one go over probably 4 to 5 weeks time.
So, how does my usual pattern (if such thing exists) compare to my Game of Thrones/ A Song of Ice and Fire experience? I tossed and tossed for weeks. I had a handful of shows I'd like to start watching including Falling Skies, Once Upon a Time and The Walking Dead. They are all very different shows from A Game of Thrones which stood out because of the cast, I was doing a rewatch of Stargate Atlantis and I was just wondering how Jason Mamoa was doing after Conan and I actually didn't realise he was cast in GoT. I probably started watching some clips of the show and decided to watch the Pilot and see how I went.
BOOM! I finished GoT season one over a weekend.
I was just immediately hooked by the story and characters. But as ambitious as Game of Thrones/ A Song of Ice and Fire, multiple rewatches are required to catch every details. And then I realised watching is not enough AT ALL! I started my research on the books, there were a few good reviews on Amazon (you know who you are) about the books and what I should expect if I read it. So, I thought what the heck, I went ahead and downloaded the first book and then all of them... And now, I kind of don't want to start reading A Dance With Dragons, because who knows how long I need to wait for the next installment?! It could be another five years for all we know! And for pie sake, just tell me who Jon Snow's parents are.
Back to the reading of the books, it usually took me awhile to get into an author's writing style and the language of the book. The visual of the TV show really helps to get into the zone. I am glad I was watching A Game of Thrones and reading the book at the same time. It wasn't like I was comparing the book and the TV series, but what the TV series couldn't give me, I could easily pick up the details from the books. I am one of those readers/ viewers who would turn to internet for resources. If I want to know more about the ravens, for example, I jump online to search for more information to help me to go forward. If I care enough to Google it, it means I am already hooked.
A Song of Ice and Fire has more characters than people going to my Lebanese friends' wedding. It's not like I can't keep up or I get confused, as the structure wasn't written/ designed to confuse you. It's just that there are so many details and you just don't know when and where they will pop up and who will tell the story from their POV. The ways the POVs are organised was epic. For example, I think there is none better than Jamie Lannister to tell us about Areys Targaryen and the Sack of Kings Landing, because he was there and he was the Kingslayer. And we don't get to read Jamie's POV until book three and when I read his chapters, I just look at him differently. And this is something I don't feel yet from watching the TV show, partly because we are not there yet to see Jamie's complexity and bitterness. Or will we ever get to know Jamie better on the show?
I don't why I started with Jamie Lannister, but it was a good example I guess about being a POV character in the book. You see details not only about the character but also his world view. And the layers of details are not something you get to experience in the TV series. The TV series is good in a way that we can SEE it, their lives and stories are projected on the screen, hopefully the way readers see it when they read the book -- at least the landscape anyway. And I feel physically cold whenever I see the Wall on my TV. I am loving the visual, the design and the dialogues presented to me.
And back to the book, the first read is always in a linear fashion. But the second involves skipping certain chapters and to concentrate on things I care about the most and to catch details that I miss. GoT is one of those books, you catch something new everytime you read it. The third read is to read all POV chapters of a few characters -- Jon, Dany, Tyrion and Samwell. I'd read all Jon's chapters from book 1 to 4, and Dany's etc.. I love Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen the most. I think they are the ice and fire of the story. And I'll leave the theories to another day..but yeah, I am a big supporter of the theory about Jon Snow as a Targaryen. Dig that!
So, a lot of details on the TV show are different from the books. And that's when the fourth read comes in handy, just to make sure I am not confusing the books with the presentation of the TV show. The fourth read is a reminder about details. Changes are fine and I am ok with it. But the overall consistence with characters is worth a mention. Let's take a closer look at Dany and Jon.
Like Dany's prophecies and all that stuff happened in the House of the Undying in A Clash of Kings, were omitted in season two and I thought everything was building up to her visions in the House of the Undying in book two. When I watched the finale of season two of GoT, I was like..I swear her dragons weren't stolen and I was really hoping to see Rhaegar to appear in the House of the Undying. Despite this kind of differences, I still think Dany is one of the most consistent characters on the show based on her journey in the book. Both the TV show and the books are consistent to show her hero's journey.
Whereas with Jon Snow, his presence is so prominent in the books -- he is the bastard, he wears the black, he fights and protect and he is a leader -- Jon's story is a very good 'from boy-to-man' story. And I hope all things are leading to his real purpose, where his parentage will hopefully play a part. It's a popular fan theory that Jon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This is remained to be seen, but there are clues in the books just got your thinking about Jon's background and purpose. The whole Nights Watch arc is a stand-out story of its own -- you got the always mysterious Benjen Stark, Aemon Targaryen, the Others, zombies horse, Ghost, ravens, magical objects and books about dragons -- the Wall is the last line of defense for Westeros as we know it. The Wall itself is Hogwarts. The epicness of the Wall and Jon Snow are lacking a bit on the TV show. I feel they are the side story, and they are certainly not!