Friday, October 2, 2009

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin (1997)

Reviewer: Elle Ewok

Rating: 3 Pierogies

Review: Now that our countdown to the 5th Installment of A Song of Ice & Fire is down to less than a year, I thought it would be nice for the Yinzer Bookclub to review the four books that have been published to date.

First up is A Game of Thrones. I feel supremely dishonest only giving this book 3 Pierogies because the truth is I could not put it down and immediately went out and bought then next book in the series. This book is ridiculously entertaining. It is a fantasy novel although in reality, the series thus far is much more oriented with political intrigue than anything else and is very Rated R. There are numerous plots lines going at once, tons of characters with great development, multiple perspectives and a very unconventional blur between good/evil. This book is also awesomely unpredictable. Unlike most authors who would feel compelled to keep characters that their readers have bonded with around, George R.R. Martin is perfectly content to cut your hero's head off out of nowhere and throw it in your lap. It is actually kind of awesome.

The plot revolves around a realm called the 7 Kingdoms. Various ruling families control the various kingdoms with absolute power consolidated with "The Iron Throne." The plotline is based on England during the War of the Roses with the Stark family representing the Yorks and the Lannister family representing the Lancasters. In A Game of Thrones, the main conflict is between the Stark and the Lannisters as both families attempt to seize control of the Iron Throne. A secondary plotline revolves around a mysterious and cold realm north of the 7 Kingdoms and separated there from by an ancient wall. The wall is necessary as barbarians and supernatural vampire/wraiths roam the northern lands...and it seems they are on the move. A third plotline follows the princess of dragons, whose father sat the Iron Throne before being deposed years earlier. She loves among pillaging horse nomads apart from the 7 Kingdoms and begins to plan her family's reconquest of the Iron Throne.

Now to explain why I am giving this book 3 Pierogies. Well, the reason is the author is clearly a pervert and needs to be punished by getting less pieorgies than he should. Considering how chubby he is I think this is a severe punishment. There are some seriously graphic sex scenes in this book - with strange gratutious detail. Now that in of itself is not so bad, although personally I really don't like graphic sex scenes in books. The problem is that the sex scenes almost all involve a 13 year old girl and to say she is being statutorily raped by an adult stranger is about the most generous spin you can put on it. Now unless you are Roman Polanski, or one of those "enlightened" & "propressive" Hollywood morons defending him, chances are reading about the forcible deflowering of a child in graphic detail is going to make you want to puke.

Another problem I had with the book was the constant rape and violence towards women. I realize rape and misogyny are part of the world (and fantasy worlds apparently), particularly in times of war, but the amount and detail was hard to stomach. While the male characters, both good and bad, generally die or get injured bravely in battle the women are systemically humiliated before dying unceremoniously. They aren't just raped, they are gang raped. And not only are they gang raped but Martin loves to give you the unnecessary, gratuitous and humiliating details. If you can believe it, things get even worse in the second book.

This hyper-sexual violence towards women combined with the constant womanizing of the main characters, the constant put downs related to the worth of women relative to men and after a while it makes you start to wonder; has Martin created a world filled with systemic female degradation because he is laying the foundation for an ultimate commentary on oppression, violence and human dignity? Or has he created a world filled with female degradation because that is what he likes writing about? I haven't finished the series yet but I have a suspicion it is the latter which is where the icky feeling I have towards this book comes from. Hopefully, it turns out I am wrong although subsequent books have done little to relax my suspicions.

Even though this book left a bad taste in my mouth in some respects, it is otherwise totally engaging and entertaining. Indeed, HBO is supposedly turning these books into a series. Hopefully, child pornography laws will prevent them from interpreting this book too literally.

UPDATE: Rumors are circulating that Sean Bean (Boromir from LOTR) has been cast as Ned Stark. I'm very pleased with this casting decision as is, presumably, every other woman on the planet.
"I would have followed you, my brother....My captain.... My King" LAME!! I forgive you Sean Bean.

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