This isn’t a review of A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin’s fifth - of a planned seven - book of the Song of Ice and Fire series. This is about something else entirely.
It’s about a reluctance to invest.
I started reading A Dance with Dragons a few nights ago - as I said, I’m not reviewing it, so I was in no rush to finish it - I got several chapters in, when I realized something. I had an epiphany, and that epiphany was thus: "I wish this was the TV show."
That’s what I said inside my head. Then, I stopped reading for a moment, set my eReader down to better analyze the comment I just heard myself think. Did I really just wish away a book in favor of a television show? I did, and when analyzed, I had good reason.
The TV show, an HBO exclusive series, which will run its second season this coming spring, and which depicts one book of the series in each season, is better than the books.
Not that the book is bad. Even that first book of the series, upon which that first season was based, was a good book. It’s just that the show is so good. It’s possibly one of the best shows in the history of television. Its production values, writing, acting, and loyalty to the source material are all spectacular.
I found myself thinking that if I read this book, I’ll be spoiling the fifth season of that show, and I would be disappointed by that. I also found that I was confused by the story in those few chapters. I had especially lost track of what was going on with Dany. How long had it been since I’d read the third book - the last place Dany is discussed? Ten years. I don’t have the time or patience to go back and reread the previous books just to catch up. Besides, the TV show will get to that point soon enough, and it’ll tell the story even better. I’m patient, I’ll just wait.
Also, I remembered after reading those first few chapters that Martin is not an exceptional writer. I know: that’s like heresy to some circles, but hear me out: Martin excels at some aspects of storytelling. He’s an amazing world-builder, perhaps the best of his generation, and he knows well how to create dynamic characters who are neither clearly good, nor deplorably evil, and then put them in heart-wrenching situations. These are the things that draw in his readers. These are the things that reviewers extol over, not his fluid prose or economy of language, because he possesses neither.
I’ve loved the first four books of the series, but I’ve never been in love with Martin’s prose. I was reading only to see what happened next.
The television is actually the best place for his brand of story. The visual medium lends itself to the grand vistas, and harsh characterizations much better than text, and the story is more fun there. Which really, that’s the whole point right? A fun story?
I picked my eReader back up and glanced at the words. It felt like betrayal. It felt like I had wronged my best friend, but I went to the main menu and started on a different book. I don’t need to find out what happens to Dany and Tyrion just yet. I’ll wait for the television version, the more entertaining version of the story to come out. Even now, while writing this, I hardly believe it myself, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me now.