As most of you, I’m sure, know, George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones novel, the first in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, was turned into the HBO series Game of Thrones last year. The TV show promises to continue for many more seasons (one book per season so far), which raises a dilemma for those of us who are book and fantasy oriented. The books are quite long and the TV show is being adapted with Martin’s contributions, which has made a strong case for watching the TV show even if you haven’t read the books yet. What’s a fantasy book lover and HBO fan to do???
Option 1: Read the Books (First)
If you were lucky (unlike me) and discovered (ie listened to your friends!) the awesomeness of these books before the show came out, then you might have a head start on reading the series. As I said above, each book is quite long and there are five so far. This means that unless you have a whole lot of reading time on your hands, it could take you awhile to get through each book, and while you are doing that you are yelling “NO SPOILERS!!!!” to all your friends who are talking about the show. The old book lover’s advice is to read the book before seeing the movie because the movie will ruin the book. This is not really the case with A Game of Thrones however, because the show is very good and won’t make you hate the story at all. If you are okay living under a rock however, while each season is running, or you got a good jump start, then this is an option for all you book purists out there ;-). If you have any interest at all in fantasy TV shows, however, you should definitely give the show a try eventually.
Option 2: Watch the Show (First)
Full disclosure here: this is the option I went with so I’m undoubtedly biased ;-). If, like me, you didn’t hear/listen to your friends about the book series until the show came out, waiting can be hard. It’s a lot of fun to watch the episodes as they come (if you are lucky enough to have HBO…) and with your friends/family (not the kiddies though D: ). This then begs the question: is it worth reading the book after you’ve seen the corresponding season of the show??? The answer is yes, as long as you tend to enjoy epic fantasy and longer books. I found it very helpful to already know all the names and places in what is admittedly a rather complicated story, and it’s really nice to get a text explanation of complicated scenes that are difficult to catch all the details of in the show. Also, the show deviates and skips over a bit from the first book and more from the second. This means you’ll get little “deleted scenes” by reading the books :). It’s important to understand, though, that the major plot points are the same so you are reading for the details, which can make the books a little more boring than they would be if you didn’t already know how things were going to end. Finally, if you have watched, say, all the episodes currently available and must know what happens next (OMG meh!) then reading the books is perfect since you can get five years ahead :D.
Option 3: Neither :(
While this may seem like a strange option to include, I find it important to point out that there is a significant group of people who really hate these books and show. The graphic nudity, incest, rape, violence against women and children and general grittiness of the books is only amplified in the HBO show, because, well, that’s what HBO does. I generally disagree with most of the criticisms that the story is overly sexist or racist (and by overly I mean once the medieval setting is taken into account), but that doesn’t mean that you or someone you know won’t be offended. There are also times when watching the show that I hope no one sees because I’m worried they’ll think I’m watching soft-core porn…. The graphic material is definitely something to take into account, but you know what they say about judging a book by what someone else hates about it… (I think I might have that saying a bit off ;-) ).
So, what approach have you taken? Please comment, I’d love to see what everyone else is doing!
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