Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin -- Book Review

Photo--Paperback copy, and the one I read, from its Wikipedia page.

A very good book, but not as good as its predecessors.  This has been much remarked upon, so I won't belabor what's already been said...

Except to say that Martin has to try something different, and focus on different characters, doesn't he?  Readers forget that the writers themselves also have to be entertained (as U2 reminded its fans when the band made techno-pop stuff the masses hated); I would imagine that after approximately 4,000 pages (which probably means up to 8K to 12K pages, edited and often deleted), Martin felt that, to stay sharp, he would have to focus on different characters--many of them not the major ones--and also do little things, like refer to characters by their new status, or tongue-in-cheek nicknames, in the chapter headings.  This doesn't always work, and is at times confusing, but you've made it this far, through 5K or so pages, so you'll get it before long.  He did this a bit in the previous book, perhaps less successfully and more irritatingly, but you got through that, right?  So will you here.

And you'll like this one more than the last, I think.  It really picks up in the second half--maybe the last third, if you're picky--and it goes by in a rush after that.  Like Stephen King and maybe a few others, Martin's writing is compulsively readable, even when its not at its best, so you'll find yourself sailing along, even if you're not completely thrilled with what's going on.  This is a must, if one is to read about seven thousand pages before it's all over, so it's a good thing he's able to do this.

By the end, you'll be far further along than the Game of Thrones series on HBO, so you'll have to be quiet about what happened.  (Notice the lack of a summary of any kind here.)  There won't be another book in 2015, or so said Martin recently in an interview, so we'll have to make do with the show for now.  I expect the show to drag out quite a bit of what happens here, unless they want to finish with the show before Martin finishes with the books.  (He'll share his outlines and notes of the last two books with the show's creators, I would assume.)  If so, this would be a rare event.  Normally the book(s) end first for the movies and shows (a la Harry Potter) to drum up even more interest in the movie and successive books.  That may not be the case here, as J.K. Rowling was a quicker writer than is Martin.  But who knows?

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