Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 1

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

For all the talk of how different this season would be from the books, the episode got off to a start that pretty much paid homage to A Feast for Crows. One of AFFC’s strongest attributes is the intimate look it gives the reader into Cersei’s thoughts/backstory, as it’s the first book to feature her as a POV character. The flashback with Maggy the Frog is certainly foretelling of things to come for the Queen Regent.

This episode largely played catch-up, setting up the plots for the season. GOT premieres and finales are tricky as they generally involve the entire cast, which makes screen time problematic. Balance wasn’t much of a problem as the episode allotted a fair amount of time to just about everyone.

I particularly enjoyed the Varys/Tyrion scenes. Varys disappears from the tail end of A Storm of Swords all the way until the epilogue of A Dance With Dragons and it would have been a waste for the show to abandon him for that length of time. My mouth did salivate a bit at the thought of future Varys/Daenerys scenes.

I haven’t written at all about my thoughts on scrapping (f)Aegon from the show, largely because I approve of it. The last thing this show needs is more characters and this season will already introduce Dorne and the rest of House Martell. Condensing Tyrion’s long and problematic voyage to Dany seems to be in the best interest of the show.

The Castle Black plotline also seems to be accelerating rather rapidly. Parts of it aren’t caught up to A Storm of Swords while others are well into A Dance With Dragons. By the time Mance was “burned alive” in the books, Jon had already been elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. That plot was hinted at, but played a backseat role to Stannis’ need for more troops. I did find it odd that the idea of legitimizing Jon Snow wasn’t brought up, though I imagine that’s coming fairly soon.

Like many, I’ve criticized the show’s handling of Stannis, who’s affectionately known as Stannis the Mannis to many. Stannis and Jon develop a mutual respect for each other in ADWD that makes the often quite boring Wall chapters far more enjoyable in the books. The potential bromance will undoubtedly be called in question after Jon mercy killed Mance, though it’s unclear whether the show will follow the books with what happens to The King Beyond the Wall.

The Littlefinger scheming is also very interesting and so different from the books that comparing the two almost seems silly. I sort of gathered that they could be heading to Essos, which makes me wonder if Littlefinger will head to the Braavos to consult with the Iron Bank or try to throw in with Dany. I really liked the way that Sansa has grown as a character, treating him like more of an equal than a protector.

Dany’s plotline was mostly like the books, though I detest the show’s love affair with Grey Worm, who isn’t really all that interesting in the books. A certain large eunuch by the name of Strong Belwas would have been useful when the fighting pits were brought up. I can’t be the only book fan who thought of nothing but him during those scenes.

The pacing of the King’s Landing plotline was pretty flawless. The show took its time setting up the inevitable Cersei/Jaime conflict and the reintroduction of Kevan and Lancel Lannister without biting off more than it could chew. I also like that it kept the Mountain/Qyburn stuff for another episode, though I’m sure viewers are wondering what is up with Frakenstrong.

It remains to be seen what Brienne is going to do with herself, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see her involved with Sansa in some way if for any other reason than she doesn’t appear to have anything else to do. This was a strong opening episode that did everything it needed to do to set up the season. The changes were welcomed as they all appear to work toward translating the often uneven plot progressions of AFFC/ADWD to television. As a fairly hardcore fan of the books, I didn’t have a problem with any of it, though I am concerned that the show will try to villainize Stannis, who will soon turn his full attention to the Bolton’s, who are the actual bad guys in the North. Well, them and the White Walkers.

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October 2014

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The Importance of George R.R. Martin’s Anthology Work

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

“Finish the book” is a phrase that’s become intrinsically linked to George R.R. Martin in the wake of Game of Thrones’ success in 2011. The long wait for The Winds of Winter has many fans angry, though it’s worth noting that the delays are neither surprising nor unprecedented. Five year gaps have become the norm with A Song of Ice and Fire and that was before Martin became one of, if not, the most famous author on the planet. But Martin hasn’t been away from writing while he’s traveled the world giving interviews and attending launch parties.

Since A Dance With Dragon’s release in 2011, Martin has scripted four Game of Thrones episodes, served as the coeditor of five anthologies (also a contributor to two), and as a coauthor of The World of Ice and Fire, which comes out next week. He’s also released several TWOW chapters, though it’s still pretty unclear as to how far along he is with the book. For a man in his sixties who famously detests writing on the road, that’s a pretty heavy workload.

As expected, his work on other projects takes a backseat in the media to ASOIAF. That’s what happens when you author a worldwide phenomenon. While anthologies don’t create the kind of buzz that garners much mainstream attention, it can be easy to overlook the value of the work he’s doing on them.

Martin’s rise to fame is much different from other celebrity authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, who achieved mainstream success quite early on in their careers. Martin’s first novel was released twenty years before A Game of Thrones, which in turn was released nine years before A Feast for Crows debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list in 2005, placing him in the upper echelon of fantasy writers. That being six years before GOT premiered on HBO, showing us the long and unusual journey he took to stardom.

So what does this have to do with anthologies? Let’s look at Robert Silverberg’s Legends, the anthology that housed The Hedge Knight, the first Tales of Dunk and Egg novella. It’s certainly possible to make the case that Legends has the most star power of any fantasy anthology ever written with contributions from King, Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Terry Pratchett, and Raymond E. Feist among others. Legends II includes Terry Brooks, Neil Gaiman, and Diana Gabaldon, adding to the series’ immense name recognition.

The funny thing about Legends in the year 2014 is that Martin wasn’t even famous enough to be featured on the front cover when it came out in 1998. He didn’t get that accolade until the sequel in 2003. To your average consumer, Martin would likely be placed second behind King if the book came out today for the first time.

The success of Legends contributed to the fortunes of the lesser-known writers, who benefited from the exposure that they received from being featured alongside established names like King and Jordan. Many copies of A Game of Thrones still feature Jordan’s stamp of approval. While that’s something that’s easy to overlook, that sort of quote can be a tremendous boost for unknown writers.

Which is why Martin’s work on anthologies is not only important to the literary world, it also shows his true character. This is a guy who busted his ass for decades to get where he is now. But he didn’t make his fortune without some help and he remembers that. Pay it forward at its finest.

Martin’s name recognition changes the lives of the authors in his anthologies. His name headlining collections like Dangerous Women and Rogues is huge, even for the writers featured on the back of the book, like Martin once was. The literary world is as large and dense as Westeros and it’s very difficult to get exposure for books if you’re an unknown. Being featured in an anthology with someone like Martin’s name of the cover is practically a gift from R’hllor himself.

While “finish the book” is a catchy phrase, it’s important to remember that Martin is a man who achieved his dream late in life is and doing what he needs to do to get his creative vibes in order. That process serves as a tremendous benefit to the literary world as a whole, which needs people like Martin to champion works that might otherwise go unnoticed.

The wait for The Winds of Winter is certainly annoying and perhaps even more so now that the show is starting to catch up with the books, but there are still plenty of other Martin related works to enjoy. Who knows, you might even discover a new author. Anthologies might not be what the masses want from Martin, but he’s doing work that represents his continued devotion to maintaining interest in books as a whole. As Tyrion once said, “a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, there’s a Game of Thrones category under the blog section. I also have a Facebook page and would appreciate a “like” if you feel so inclined.

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