Tonight, I watched the final episode of Season 2 of Game of Thrones, and with it, I have reached the conclusion that I need to stop reading the books.
(Spoilers for Season 2 of the TV show and book!)
In an earlier post, I stated that I found the first episode of this new season rushed, and wondered sincerely if it was going to be intimidating for new viewers. Well, now that I’ve seen the season, and Game of Thrones has become the most downloaded TV show of the year online, I think I can safely say that viewers have flocked to the show in droves. If anything, it’s more popular this season than it was last season.
Not that I think this season was without flaw- the whole season felt to me like the producers were tripping over themselves to tell the story as quickly as they could, and to cram a much larger story into a very limited time. There was almost no time for anyone to even breathe this season, as events just piled on other events, and the whole thing rushed towards its fateful conclusion.
I’m not too worried about that next season, however, as the producers have decided to break Book Three into two seasons, and give themselves and the story room to maneuver- a very smart decision.
Regardless, as Book Two closes, I have reached two conclusions:
1) The television version of Game of Thrones is actually superior to the prose version.
2) I’m going to stop reading Book Three, which I’m about a third of the way through at the moment.
As a writer, it pains me to say that the written version is inferior to an adaption, but in this case I truly believe that to be true. This show has taken Martin’s original story and gotten rid of almost all the fat (of which there was apparently quite a bit), and tightened it up in ways that make it truly superior.
Take Arya’s storyline, for example. In the book, there must be at least a hundred pages spend on Arya running around, getting captured, becoming a servant, and her eventual escape. But, in the book this was very much a solo story, and it only served to further Arya’s character. In the TV version, the pre-capture version of the story is cut down to a minimum, and when she does become a servant in Harenhall she’s the servant of Tywin Lannister.
Now, suddenly, we have her story intersecting with a largely neglected character from the books, and we get two stories out of Arya instead of one. Not only that, but her exchanges with Tywin are some of the best bits of the season, and we grow to respect and fear him in a way we never really feel about the mysterious senior Lannister in the books. (At least not by the beginning of Book Three.)
And it doesn’t end with her, boobies aside, some of the best material of the season was material written for the show that bares only a slight resemblance to the original books. John Snow’s storyline with Iirgit now makes much more sense, and plays out in a more natural and interesting way than the original book’s endless natural trail adventures.
Even Dany’s tale is more interesting, developed, and just plain deep than the plodding, wandering story that it’s based on. And this is saying quite a bit, as I dislike Dany and consider her and her storyline a waste of screentime!
So, based on this, and a desire to actually experience the show as something other than a reflection of the novels, I’ve decided to put my copy of Book Three on my shelf and let it sit there unfinished. I might finish it someday, but it won’t be until long after the seasons based on it have aired and I’ve gotten to enjoy the show as a fresh experience like those who haven’t read it have. Perhaps I will never touch it again, and that’s okay too. I don’t seem to be missing much, and if anything, I might be gaining by not reading the books.
There is another reason, of course. I also know that Book Four and Book Five are, to put it mildly- a mess. I’ve heard Book Four is basically what all the boring characters spend that period of time doing, and Book Five tells what the people we actually care about did during that same overlapping period of time. Rather than have to plod through that, and not knowing when Book Six may come out (if ever), I think it’s better to let the TV show producers sort it all out and serve it to me on a golden platter.
Sure, the show may get cancelled before then. But, if that happens, I’ll just read the books.
It’s win-win either way!