First published 1996 by Bantam Spectra/Voyager.
When I look back over my book list, which I have kept since I was 12 – 31 years ago, in any of those years the reading has been pretty girly. So this summer, after finishing AWW 2014, I have been reading books by blokes. I have read books by Alexander McCall Smith, George RR Martin, Monty Don, Graeme Simsion, and have some Tim Winton and Cormac McCarthy lined up.
I also tend to read mainly memoir with a little general fiction on the side, so to tackle something like A Game of Thrones was to take a giant leap out of my reading rut. This book sat on my e reader for six months after my son downloaded it, and there was something about the cover which made me feel excited and happy just looking at it. After all, this man has created a world loved by millions, which then became a TV series. Isn’t that every writer’s dream?
A Game of Thrones is the first book in a series called ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, on which the TV Series ‘Game of Thrones’ is based. This book deals mainly with the series of upheavals suffered by the Stark family, after the father Eddard is chosen to be the Hand of the King. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different member of the family, with some characters getting more chapters than others. There are also perspectives of a couple of other characters thrown in: Tyrion Lannister the Imp (played in the TV series by the short man from Death at a Funeral); and Daenerys Targaryen, the last of the Targaryens, the dynasty overthrown 14 years before the book begins. Her story is separate from that of the rest of the characters, as she is on some odyssey across the other continent with its Central Asian style steppes and Genghis Khan inspired husband. I liked the way each chapter title simply bore the name of the character which it was about; this straightforward setting out was quite necessary given the number of characters in the book.
Straight away we are dropped into the stark world of the Starks, a world completely different from our civilized western one, a world from which Christ is absent, although at different times and places, we humans have had to live like this. My ancestors also once lived like this. While not many people acknowledge it, the cushy lifestyle that we currently enjoy with all its freedoms was founded on Christian principles. And then there are these diehard atheists who would like to remove these foundations. But I guarantee it, if one of those said atheists were to be actually sent to Westeros or the other continent, they’d last until lunchtime before wanting to come back home to here!
So to read this book was to go in with my teeth clenched against all the darkness and gloom, but then something nice would happen and I would go “awwwww.”
I had never heard of Game of Thrones until Julia Gillard lost her Prime Minister job to Kevin Rudd. Then Twitter went mad with everyone saying Australian politics was “just like Game of Thrones”. Uh, maybe without the killing, they should have said, but perhaps 140 characters was not enough space to add that. All I know is, as far as I know, Julia and Kevin still have their heads – at least for now.
I have read that all the political wrangling is based on fact, the war of the roses etc, and influenced by the historical novel Ivanhoe. I was also reading the Bible books of 1st and 2nd Kings while reading this book and guess what – it was just like Game of Thrones! Martin’s use of old-fashioned words had me head frequently to the dictionary to determine whether they were from English or made up ones, but the odd Americanism also snuck in.
I might have become bored with simple fighting and bloodshed, but in the background lurks a greater threat that none of the political players are even aware of, and this is what kept me interested. Winter is coming. This is the motto of House Stark, a family that I related to in several ways, as I’ve always been big on integrity and like living 300km north of the nearest city. That mysterious atmosphere of the coming winter and the undead things that live beyond the Wall kept me hooked, and I became so drawn into this world that I had to put the book down over Christmas or risk missing out on Christmas altogether!
Pick it up again I did, telling myself that this would be the only book I had time to read – if I’d gone on with the series it might be weeks before the kids got their next decent meal or bath. But the book is not a standalone thing to just put down. A battle has been won, but as one minor character puts it, it is only the beginning. And like any good soap opera the book ends just when things are getting interesting.