(This article contains mild spoilers. Welcome to the Internet.)
So, after hearing references to it day in and day out (oh the difficult life of a nerd) I finally decided to bite the bullet and attempt the Game of Thrones books. I’ve never seen the show, so, luckily the books would be something new.
Now, as I’m a man who works in a cubicle and have a new born baby at home, reading a physical book would probably take me another decade or so, so I went with Audible. And luckily, the man who reads it is incredible at doing various voices. A god send considering that Game of Thrones has more characters than America has Wal-Marts.
I’m about 20 chapters into the first book. I think I made some progress into it and I’m definitely liking it. The world is amazing and complex. The families, though they are the medieval tropes we’ve seen for years (I’m the guy with the axe that loves my mead! Well I’m the clever fell who makes mentions to my cleverness for my weapon is wit!) they’re made interesting via well crafted dialogue and the occasional interesting twist.
Honestly, the thing that suckered me in was the mention of the “dire wolves”. I am such a sucker for these, and considering one of them, the wolf named Ghost, is silent and pure white, just like my husky/eskimo mix. Also, the pictures of him in the show seem to be pretty damn close to my dog, Kai. So…that had my interest. (Plus the talk of dragons later because, come on, it’s fucking dragons).
But, here’s the part where all the fans come down on me with all the weight of the combined kingdoms. I have a problem with the story telling.
George R. R. Martin has managed to some how make medieval fantasy exciting again. Even though I honestly thought there was nothing left to do in the sword and sorcery realm to interest me, I find myself pulled into the world. But there’s one thing that just sits there, spoiling it for me, and, ironically, the bad thing is the villains.
I’m going to go on the record and say unless the book undergoes an incredible change at some point, Martin cannot write an interesting villain to save his life. I haven’t seen this much “mustache twirling” since The Princess Bride (though, PB can get aware with it since, essentially, it’s a type of satire). Only it’s much more extreme than Princess Bride.
There are no complex villains. There are no characters that make you wonder who’s side they’re on. If a character is a villain you’ll know right away. They’ll be overly abusive, they’ll be practically clawing into people. Hell, they’ll straight up (and this does happen) rape women and murder babies (in detail I was not ready for).
Listen. Martin. I’m not an idiot. I think if anyone can follow a book with that many characters, realms and sideplots, they’re clearly not idiots. So don’t just hand us these villains. Let us discover it on our own without making them practically wear black hats. It’s disappointing.
It reminds me of what got me out of Marvel in the 90’s. Magneto would suddenly show up and be like, “you know what? I’m gonna flip the planet.” Or Apocalypse would take control of the Earth and just…kill Japan. There were never these moments where a character was torn or doing something that could possibly be seen as good in the right light. No, this is just straight up tying women in the train tracks shenanigans.
I’m sticking with it. Well, unless they go into more detail on the baby killing, since, as a new father, few things can make my stomach churn. But, man, it really takes me out of the book because I’ll get into these characters and then suddenly Snidely Whiplash shows up and chews the proverbial scenery.
My question, before you get on here and destroy me, is just tell me, does it get better? Do they eventually introduce characters that teeter on the edge of good and bad? Because I honestly am enjoying these books it’s just I constantly find myself not carrying about the villains because they’re just so over the top. Feel free to chime in and let me know.
Also, seriously. Dragons. Love ’em.