Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Game of Thrones-My New Bad Habit
I would like to thank (curse) my good friend Dawn for (destroying any chance I had at accomplishing anything for the next month by) lending me the first in the George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series.
Game of Thrones kicks some serious chain-mail-clad booty. It is incredibly (addictive—like crack, only worse) engrossing. If you have ever considered writing a book from multiple points of view, this is your master class in that endeavor. Each segment ends with the reader panting to know what comes next. Then you’re shoved on to another scene.
Cliffhangers at chapter endings are nothing new. In fact, they may be a requirement these days. The brilliant part of Martin's writing is getting you quickly engaged with the next scene. So, even though you left your favorite character on death’s doorstep, you can let it go because you desperately need to know what the despicable villain is plotting in the current scene. For 800 plus pages, Martin leaps from character to character without dropping the reader—a feat equal to someone skipping a stone across a lake fifty-plus times.
Another talent of Martin’s is world building. Game of Thrones is rooted in medieval times with fantasy creatures—dragons and zombie-like ‘Others’—rumored to be dead for hundreds of years, but on the rise. Outside the familiar parameters of castles, kings, swords, horses, brothels, squires, and whatnot, very few things are unique to Martin. But you wouldn’t want an author to reinvent and rename everything; the burden on the reader would be too great. Small touches make all the difference from ‘Ser’ instead of Sir, to ‘lion-lizard’ for alligator, and the ‘dire-wolves’—a breed of large, deadly beasts supernaturally loyal to their masters.
One alteration, in particular, caught my fancy: winter and summer don’t come in predicable cycles or last for a few months. Teens have lived the bulk of their lives in summer. ‘Winter is coming’ is spoken with equal parts dread and reverence for an event that may last for several years up to an eternity.
As a former scientist, I just had to figure out how this might be possible. I know, it’s a fantasy. Why quibble over the length of summer when bloody dragons are sucking milk from the heroine’s breast? But still, the story inhabits a world with one sun and one moon—a world with a cold north and a warm south. The characters observe their yearly name day. Day and night occur just as they do for us mere mortals, so how could this crazy weather happen?
To be continued . . .
See, I told you cliffhangers were obligatory!