Song of Ice and Fire

Hurrah! Today is A Dance with Dragons day. Almost 5 years ago, George R. R. Martin released the 4th book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Feast for Crows, saying that originally it was too long! A Feast for Crows was split into two books, and the next one should be out fairly soon. 5 years, all the fantasy nerds waited and waited and waited. While it did take longer, the day is finally here.

And Fuck me this book is huge.

As mentioned in my article a few days ago (click here!), I finally started reading A Song of Ice and Fire as recommended to me by numerous friends, colleagues, and other random people. And I've made the joke several times that each book in the series I read becomes the longest book I've ever read. This is literally the case.

A Game of Thrones -- ~700 pages (hardcover)
A Clash of Kings -- ~750 pages (hardcover)
A Storm of Swords -- ~975 pages (hardcover)
A Feast for Crows -- ~750 pages (hardcover)

I've only made it to A Storm of Swords at the moment. I'm looking forward to A Feast of Crows which finally breaks the damn cycle. But again... Fuck me.

A Dance with Dragons -- 1040 pages (hardcover)

While these books have been described as addictive page turners, I find myself incredibly exhausted. SO exhausted. All the novels and books I've read before have been around the 200 or 250 park mark, with one or two hitting 300. The last time I had a reading binge, I think I read 7 or 8 books before my motivation began to die. Given that I'm almost 200 pages into A Storm of Swords after finishing the first two books, I think I've hit my limit :(

These books just keep going on and on and on and on. There are two main stylistic choices that George R. R. Martin has chosen for A Song of Ice and Fire, and he is utterly stuck with these choices.

Character Focused Chapters

At first, A Song of Ice and Fire is written in third person. Each chapter is named after a character in the story, and each chapter focuses on specific events surrounding that character. As the story progresses, the third person take becomes more of a first person perspective written in third person.

This is good for me, as I have difficultly establishing connections to characters when everything is written in third person. A first person story gives me information about the character's thoughts behind the action, and allows me to understand why the character is doing what they're doing. A Song of Ice and Fire goes to great lengths to make this possible, but in the third person writing style.

A Game of Thrones is a fantastic book where things happens in one character's perspective, and then the view changes to another character and you get the other side of the story. You get all (most) sides of the story and begin to understand that there are no villians in the story. Each character has their motivation, and are completely consistent in what they do. It all makes sense.

This style works well when all the characters occupy the same space. But, it falls apart in the second and third novels when all the chapter-characters are separated, and all have their own plots. While A Clash of Kings does have an overall plot, several characters are not participating in that plot. Main characters are now side characters. ...but they're still treated as main characters since they have their own chapters. Each chapter begs for my attention, but so much of what's going on doesn't really matter. My interest is split up into 7 or 8 concurrent storylines going on at once.

This is why I'm getting exhausted by these books.

Flashbacks

Flashbacks are good, but they aren't so good when they're used to play catch-up. Unfortunately, while I'm reading about one character's plot, shit is still going on in the world to the other characters. So how do we make up for this? Start off a character's chapter with a flashback explaining what they were doing while you were reading about the other characters.

That's really what I was going for with my previous post (click here, again!). It's hard to advance the story of a character when you have to make up for all time you missed covering the other characters. The present timeline of the chapter seems to hang there. The story usually catches up halfway through the chapter, THEN we can doing stuff in present time.

While it IS annoying, It's pretty seemless how he integrates most flashbacks into the character's chapters. But overall, it really seems like a side-effect to doing character focused chapters to begin with. I think the suggestion I've heard the most from people complaing about this is that he should've just made a book all about Bran. Then a book about Arya. Then so on and on and on. But TOO LATE, you're stuck with it.

Reading... ugh

Looking at my numbers above, there are 4215 pages to Song of Ice and Fire (at the moment). And I've read about 1650 of them. Nearly 40%! I'll try to continue reading, especially now that my friends and colleagues have started diving into the new book. But I don't think I can handle more than 100 pages a week. Maybe I should start skipping certain chapters, and just read the cliff notes online...

Happy Dance with Dragons day, everyone!




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