Friday, May 20, 2016

Diving Into the Deep End of Popular Fiction

I have started to read the Game of Thrones series.

I’m on page 4.  So far it’s pretty good.  Nobody has died yet, but I am told that I can expect that to change shortly if for no other reason than statistical probability.  It’s one of those series.  I’ve seen the little meme where someone stuck post-it notes in the books every time someone was killed and it looked like a neon-colored fringed buckskin shirt.  There will be blood.  But so far, so good.

Reading these does represent somewhat of a change of heart for me. 

Not the fact that I’m reading the series at all – oh, no.  This is my genre, after all.  There was a period of my life where I read The Lord of the Rings annually and could write in two different modes of Tengwar.  I can still do one even now.  And when I’m not reading books that have footnotes and bibliographies, I’m generally reading SF/F.  Sometimes even the SF/F has footnotes, but that’s a whole other problem. 

I actually bought most of the series a long time ago with the intent of reading it.  It looked interesting on the shelf in the bookstore – the HBO series hadn’t come out yet, at that point - and Kim eventually picked up the most recent one when we were in Sweden back in 2012.  The European version (yes, in English) was printed on slightly nicer paper than the American version was, which meant that it was about half-again thicker.  Schlepping that wood pulp brick across the Atlantic was just one of those heroic feats that get lost in the general shuffle of one’s life, I suppose.

Those who know me already know why I haven’t read them before now.  I like to read complete series, and I read too many books to memorize them as I go. 

The last book came out four years ago.

The previous book came out six years before that.

The one before that one came out five years earlier.

The next book has been rumored since 2012 and may well come out sometime before Lauren graduates college, or may not.

Each of these books is roughly cubical and contains more words than all of the cumulative performances of Hamilton to date, including the announcement about turning off your cell phones.

So what we had here, in other words, was a linear foot of novels of notably complexity coming out roughly once every presidential term, with the concluding novel being continually pushed out at least two and possibly four novels into the uncertain future, the whole thing written by a man who is in his late 60s and who is, by all appearances, not a health fanatic.

I thought to myself, “Well, I’m just going to hold off until he is either finished or dead, whichever comes first, because there is no way I’m going to go back a decade from now and reread all of those novels so I can remember what happened when the last one finally crosses my doorstep.”

And I’d been doing pretty well with that resolve. 

It’s not like there is a shortage of good books to read in this world.  My to-read shelf is pleasantly full, in fact, and since I am extraordinarily easy to shop for (“Another Amazon gift card!  How thoughtful!”) it continues to grow no matter how much I chip away at it.  Life is good, in other words.

Also, I figured that by the time I read it, the HBO series would be long gone and over and I could buy the whole set for $19.99 at a discount store somewhere and watch it then.

But Kim has wanted me to watch the show with her for a while now.  “It’s a great show!” she says.  “It’s got great writing and lots of action and all that good stuff!  You’ll enjoy it!”

“It’s got boobs!”

I confess that every time I walk through the living room when the show is on I see only blood, not boobs, but she assures me that were I to take the time I would indeed see plenty of boobs.  This, Kim feels, is sufficient enticement for me to watch the show.

She knows me well.

But she feels you can’t really watch the show without reading the books, and I agree – the books are always better.  Well nearly always.  I read the first twenty pages of The Bridges of Madison County once, and I cannot imagine a movie that could be more painful than that.  But as a general rule, the books are the place to start.

So I have started.

This may take a while.


Jon Z. said...

Hey, I'm with you in theory. In practice it seems I'm stronger. I like George R.R. Martin -- among Fantasy genre writers he's a keeper. If you want a good example, read his short story collection called Sandkings (the title story is very well done). I picked up the first book of Game of Thrones around when it came out, then realized it was going to be a trilogy; then picked up the second and realized it was going to go on for some indefinite time. So it's been over a decade while my children have been growing up and I've been waiting for George to finish. The books are on my shelf and I'm still waiting. I'm pretty sure I can wait longer than he can, and the TV series doesn't tempt me in the slightest.

BTW, The Bridges of Madison County movie wasn't bad. With Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep you really don't need much else. I never went near the book. In any case, movies do superficial way better than books.

David said...

My wife makes a compelling case ("boobs!") though...

For most of these series I do tend to agree with you - I like to plow through them all at once, if I can, though I have no trouble buying them in order. Sometimes that works (Jay Lake's Mainspring books were worth the wait). Sometimes it gets me into all sorts of strange places (Sean Williams' Books of the Cataclysm series never did find an American publisher for the final volume so I ended up getting one from Australia, direct from the author). And sometimes I just read them as they come out (Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles are worth the tortuous wait for each succeeding volume). Apparently Martin's series has jumped from the first category to the third. It makes my wife happy, though, and that's worth it. :)

There are movies that are better than the book, on occasion. The Princess Bride comes to mind (it was a lovely book, but a classic movie). But not even Meryl Streep could tempt me to see Madison County - anything worthwhile that came from that book would have to bear absolutely no resemblance to the book at all. But I am the first to admit that my taste is not to be trusted when it comes to movies.