Just before the end of summer vacation, I found myself in need of a good book, so I grabbed my Kindle and began browsing. As I was scrolling through the current deals on Amazon Prime, I saw that the first book of Game of Thrones was available to purchase for less than a dollar. Several people had recommended the series to me previously, in both book and TV form, so I bought it.
Suffice it to say, it was a really good read, and I ended up finishing the entire series in short order. Before I knew it, I was already done with the fifth book, the last installment of the series that George R. R. Martin has published. Martin left almost every character on a cliffhanger.
Immediately after finishing A Dance with Dragons, I Googled when the next book was coming out. Surely it must be soon, I thought, but George R. R. Martin hasn’t give a clear or reliable answer. At first, I thought I would wait for Martin to finish the book series before watching any of the show, but then I stumbled upon a rather discouraging fact: the fifth book was published in 2011. Six. Years. Ago.
My take on the relationship between authors and their audiences, especially concerning the timing of new releases, is a topic for another day. (Six years really is a long time!)
It was at that moment that I decided to watch the show. At least, I told myself, up to where the books leave off. However, by the time I reached the end of season five (each season corresponded more or less to one book), I changed my mind. There were several places where the show diverged from the books, and a couple deviations were so enormous that I wasn’t worried about spoiling future books. The plotlines seemed to have taken two very different paths, and I found myself very excited to see how each one ended.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when a movie fails to live up to a book. Off the top of my head I can’t think of an example of a movie adaptation of a book that has ever lived up to my expectations. There is a lot of plot and character detail and complexity in books that can’t be translated in film. That was part of the reason why I didn’t want to watch the show first; I wanted to get the most out of my first experience with the series, and I was more likely to do so by reading first.
After watching the show, I was pleasantly surprised in a lot of ways (though still disappointed in others). There were a couple characters that weren’t given much depth in the books that became some of my favorites in the show. I loved the new dynamics and importance these characters were given and wished that the books had treated them in a similar manner. On the other hand, I felt the show did a couple characters some disservices. For one character in particular (I will not name names because no one likes a spoiler), I thought that the show neglected to properly address their character development, which was frustrating, as that character’s growth was one of my favorite elements of the plot. The show also killed off some characters earlier than they were eliminated from the books (if they died in the books at all), which was especially aggravating.
Overall, I did really like the show, even with all the deviations from the books. As strange as it is, the huge splits that were made actually made me like the show more, not because I liked the direction in which the show is going better than that of the books, but because it provides a greater capacity for storytelling. Now, instead of having one single story-line that the show would be likely to butcher, the TV adaptation can develop its plot-lines with greater independence and creative freedom. It is also fun to compare how different variations affect both the characters and plot. I’m interested to see whether the show and books closely converge in the future, or if their differences will prove to be too big to overcome.
Usually, when I’m asked whether I liked the book or the movie better, I can answer without hesitation that (of course) the books are better. With Game of Thrones, I’m a little more divided in my answer. I love different parts of both the show and the books, though I still think the books are better. Perhaps when George R.R. Martin (finally) finishes writing all the books, I’ll have a different opinion on whether the books are definitively better than the shows, or vice versa. For now, though, I’ll take advantage of every opportunity to immerse myself in such a complex and well-written story.