A Game of (Too Many) Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Warning: Contains spoilers.

Caveats: I come from the sci-fi (not fantasy) side of things (and I like hard sci-fi). I have never seen the TV show. I like history, science, and learning new vocabulary. I had to try 3 times to make it past the first 150 pages (because people kept telling me what a great book it was, if I would just keep reading.)

Pros:
– world-building (if you don’t care about science and history)
– The Imp: although typecast, I really liked this character (very clever dialogue)
– Medieval tropes: I enjoyed the vocabulary and ideas taken from that age

Cons:
– Too many characters (and most of them don’t matter.)
– The story takes too long to get going (we get character dumps for 150 pages), and the prologue contains cheesy magic/fantasy.
– There are multiple chapters that don’t move the story forward (and make the book drag), and three chapters in a row (toward the end) with dream sequences that are painful to read (enough with the ellipses already). Where was the editor?
– The world-building is good, but where’s the depth & thought (i.e. science & history) behind it? WHY do the summers/winters keep changing lengths? WHO built the wall and how? Where did all these humans come from (Earth, obviously, given the medieval vocabulary, but how and why)? Maybe the author addresses these questions in a later book, but I just slogged though 800 pages (of fake medieval history) and that wasn’t a sufficient amount of space to explain even a little bit of the science?
– A couple of the (huge number of) main characters are well crafted, but most seem rather flat or stupid: Eddard Stark is so blinded by his high morals that he doesn’t anticipate Cersei’s treachery, even after he knows the truth (She tried to kill his son! Her children were all fathered by her brother not her husband! She poisoned the last King’s Hand!)? And then he throws away his morals in a wasted attempt to save Sansa (trusting the same jerks who double-crossed him at least thrice before)? Is the man stupid?
– The author builds up characters and then kills (or maims) them, almost with glee (like he as something to prove?). I find that painful because he keeps dropping us with more weakly developed characters.
– Cheesy magic: Isn’t the story strong enough without adding random cheap magic (zombies, a woman that doesn’t burn, baby dragons that breastfeed from a human? etc.) This was the final nail in the coffin for me. I don’t plan to continue reading the series.

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