Monday, 19 December 2011

Why You Should Read | George R. R. Martin

Thanks to the Little Red Reviewer's horrific theft of The Fuller Memorandum review of the day (there can only be one :P ) - that was, I insist, a joke - I've been forced to extreme measures. In other words? An article. On? This. Well, here goes:

If you're a fan of SFF, I'd be astounded if you could honestly tell me you've never heard of Martin. Whether for his short stories (including the memorable 'Tuf' shorts), or - more likely - for his bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire series, it's likely that every fan has heard his name somewhere. Not everyone, however, has read him - so I make plenty of recommendations of his novels. Well, here's the summary version: why should you read George R. R. Martin?

- Consequences. Readers tend to bandy the term 'author's darlings' about - and not as a compliment. Martin is likely the one author who'll never have characters like this - because in ASOIAF, protagonists drop like flies. Maybe you don't like that, but since all bets are off, it makes everything matter a whole lot more. Not to mention racheting up the tension...

Characters suffer the consequences of their  actions readily in Martin's novels - however tragic. So if you want your art to imitate life, if you never, ever want to think 'oh, the author will never kill him' - read Martin.

- Intricacy. If the plots you enjoy involve intrigue, Martin is likely for you. Large parts of A Song of Ice and Fire essentially are just piecing together the various gambits. Subtle clues? You bet - and some of said plots go on for entire novels. Fans of Erikson's convoluted clue-collecting apply here.

- Low Magic. Normally we don't go into fantasy for mundanity. But the world of A Song of Ice and Fire is minimally magical - and done really, really well. Firstly, what does appear is mysterious and genuinely atmospheric: the kind of Tolkienesque magic. Secondly - and a big benefit - you don't have to worry about a protagonist winning his or her conflict with a magical firestorm instead of an actual, you know, conclusion.

- Flaws. Not in the writing, but in the characters themselves. I've always been a fan of profoundly flawed characters, and Martin manages this. We might not love our heroes here - or even like them - but they are real people. And they won't become perfect: no author's darlings, remember?

- Scale. Like Erikson's, A Song of Ice and Fire is an epic written on a scope unlike almost anything else. Not about the fate of the world, but definitely about the fate of dynasties, ASOIAF spans more than a continent - with a huge cast of viewpoint characters. The benefit of that cast is that there's sure to be some protagonists you're rooting for. Or maybe just like to hear from. Or hear scream. At any rate, on such a huge scale, you will find plotlines you love. Why? Because there's a lot of them.

So here are my top 5 reasons to read Martin - though of course many more exist (not least because of Petyr Baelish, who is a walking moment of awesome).


  1. Great post! I'm finishing up my re-read and about to dive into ADWD and I can't wait!

  2. "Not least because of Petyr Baelish, who is a walking moment of awesome" - Yes. All the way.

  3. @Cursed Armada: Thank you! Is this a reread of ADWD, or a first time through it? There's a -lt- of Tyrion, but notso much Seven Kingdoms.


    Glad to hear agreement there - I love the moments where you catch a glimpse of his plans. f curse, there's his line when he finally gets to shine in A Game of Thrones as well...

  4. I haven't read ADWD yet. I had to re-read the first 4 so everything was fresh... I almost forgot how LONG ASOS was, but that last chapter with Arya giving the Ship's captain the Bravos Coin sent chills up my spine... I keep hearing bad things about ADWD, which sucks but I only have AFFC then I can open up that first page;) VALAR MORGHULIS!!!

  5. Totally agree - you've got to love the Faceless Men, and Arya's scenes are some of my favourites. Well, the main problem with ADWD is not that it's a bad book, just that it doesn't move that far.

  6. That's what I keep hearing... which is a real bummer. Oh well I'm still excited to see where it goes, and to find out about these "Cliffhangers" I keep hearing about;)