15 September 2011

Post 426: A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. ISBN: 9780553897845 (eBook).

Spoiler...ish? Alert: I will be talking in vague terms about what happens to various characters, in the sense of, "unnamed bad things happened to Specific Character." Some people have weird ideas about what constitutes a spoiler, so just in case here's your damned alert.

The characters in this book are awesome and rat bastards and/or whiners. Which I have to admit is something that most novels, especially fantasy novels, seem to lack. The entire book is composed of grey area characterizations. There are characters we are pretty obviously supposed to like even though they are annoying, and characters we probably shouldn't like but do anyway, or at least we can understand their motivations and their behavior.

For instance, I like Jon Snow and Arya Stark. They are just about the same character, really. Not in a bad way; they are more like companion characters rather than exact duplicates, they share many of the same issues and by reading about one character we can easily learn more about the psyche of the other. Maybe this sounds like sloppy writing, but in a supposedly 7-book series in which each book is 800 pages (or more), having characters who have similar backgrounds and personalities, who are also related to each other is as much a blessing to the audience as it is to the author. And though they start the story from similar places (black sheep in an otherwise uptight vanilla family), they end up in completely different places. The same is true for their opposite siblings (Robb and Sansa), who are also paired in the sense that they are "perfect" children who adhere to their assigned roles. Sansa is ever the lady that Arya cannot possibly be, and Robb is lord of the manor and the legitimate son that Jon can't be, no matter how good of a son he is, since he is a bastard. Meanwhile Sansa ends up in a less than desirable state due to her obedience to social norms, mostly because she was not mindful about her obedience.

On the other hand we have Catelyn Stark and Eddard Stark, the parents of the Stark children, who also echo Sansa and Robb, but in the opposite manner. Eddard ends up in a not so great situation, whereas Catleyn fairs relatively well. Catelyn is your typical dutiful mother and wife, but she also understands what she has given up to be that. Meanwhile Eddard turns a blind eye to what his king and friend has become and makes poor decisions about who he trusts because he trusts who he feels he's supposed to trust based on duty.

Meanwhile we have the "villians" who, while villainous, also have some fairly understandable motives. Let's look at the biggest asshole of the bunch, Viserys. There are pretty much no redeeming qualities to Viserys: he is whiny, a bully, and has entitlement issues, but who among us wouldn't have a deep seething rage if our home, family, and promised future was taken from us? The fact that Viserys takes it out on his sister and has a laughable catchphrase only makes him a douchebag, which in some ways makes him even more pitiable. Because in the end we feel he deserves his fate, and that in itself is somewhat sad.

Even conniving bitch Queen Ceresi has understandable reasons for being a conniving bitch. Let's face it, how many of us would be happy in a marriage to someone who has a great deal of influence, has become fat, drunk, and frittered away most of his responsibilities, whores around, and still carries a torch for a woman who's been dead for 20 years? If I were stuck in that marriage, I might try to weasel my way into a better position and then off my husband too. Granted... my way wouldn't involve some of the dirty, dirty things Ceresi did, but Martin seems to have a thing for the whole brother/sister pairing. Which is fine, because there is totally precedent with the Ptolemys, but I have been raised with the social taboo and a brother I greatly dislike.

I could go on with the character analysis, but let's be honest, if you aren't interested in reading the book by now, you aren't going to continue to read this blog post. And if you are interested in reading the book, chances are you have already left this page so you can find a copy.

One of my favorite bloggers, Trish over at eclectic/eccentric has been tracking her thoughts through the book, she's only half way through, but here are her updates: one, two, three. A fairly good review is over at the wonderfully named Stainless Steel Droppings.
LibsNote: Library copy via Overdrive Media.

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