Why you need to re- read GOT

IT’S the big­gest TV sen­sa­tion of the decade and ev­ery­one is hotly await­ing its fi­nal sea­son next April. To­day, learn why you should read the Game Of Thrones books, by HarperCollins Aus­tralia Head of In­ter­na­tional Pub­lish­ing Michael White

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

IT’S the big­gest TV sen­sa­tion of the decade and ev­ery­one is hotly await­ing its fi­nal sea­son next April. To­day, we ex­plain why fans need a re­cap of the orig­i­nal books be­fore sea­son launch.

HBO’s adap­ta­tion of Ge­orge RR Martin’s Game Of Thrones pre­miered in 2011 and quickly be­came a global phe­nom­e­non un­like any­thing view­ers had seen be­fore.

But, for any­one who had read the books, the suc­cess of the tele­vi­sion show came as no sur­prise. Epic, ad­dic­tive, multi-lay­ered and to­tally un­pre­dictable, A Game Of Thrones, the first book in the se­ries A Song Of Ice And Fire, was al­ready a best­seller in the genre and yet un­like any­thing read­ers had read be­fore.

The se­ries has now gone on to sell over two mil­lion copies in Aus­tralia alone.

Ge­orge RR Martin grew up ap­pre­ci­at­ing film and tele­vi­sion and in­deed spent much of his ca­reer as a screen­writer.

He brought this ex­pe­ri­ence to his writ­ing — each book un­folds like it was des­tined for the screen, with twists and turns and in­fu­ri­at­ing cliffhang­ers that leave read­ers pow­er­ing through the pages and clam­our­ing for more.

Some read­ers are so des­per­ate for their next fix that Neil Gaiman took to Twit­ter a few years ago to ask ev­ery­one to give Ge­orge a break! Iron­i­cally Ge­orge has said that one of the rea­sons he wanted to write Game Of Thrones was that he was frus­trated by the con­straints of writ­ing for tele­vi­sion, of hav­ing to con­stantly cut back char­ac­ters or scenes due to time or bud­get con­straints.

Ge­orge has a wellde­vel­oped sense of pace and his char­ac­ters be­come real to the reader just as much as they are to the viewer — per­haps even more so be­cause of that mag­i­cal lit­tle piece of alchemy that hap­pens in your mind when you’re read­ing some­thing good — re­ally good. There’s an im­mer­sion that hap­pens when you get lost in a book.

It can be a sur­prise to look up and dis­cover that you’re not ac­tu­ally at Win­ter­fell.

There may be a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween good and evil in the over­all story, but Ge­orge likes the grey char­ac­ters; the in­hab­i­tants of his sto­ries are fully hu­man in their de­sires, fears, greed, love and am­bi­tion. It’s what makes them so won­der­ful to read.

No one em­bod­ies this bet­ter than Tyrion Lan­nis­ter. He is one of the main pointof-view char­ac­ters in the books, with a wicked wit, an en­thu­si­asm for wine and whores and a com­plex re­la­tion­ship with his fam­ily — es­pe­cially his fa­ther, a re­la­tion­ship which un­folds in the books in a fas­ci­nat­ing way and which the TV ad­dresses only briefly.

He is also emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent and a book lover, thought­ful and with a con­science (rare among the Lan­nis­ters).

Read­ers al­ways strug­gle to rec­on­cile what they pic­ture in their minds with what is on screen. It is dif­fi­cult now, even for the most hard­ened fan of the book, not to see the ac­tor Pe­ter Din­klage as Tyrion Lan­nis­ter.

He is per­fect for the role but is he what we imag­ined be­fore? Who can re­mem­ber? It’s all so meta now. Ge­orge cre­ated such well-de­vel­oped char­ac­ters in the nov­els, there was al­ways a risk that the se­ries would not be able to cap­ture them — Tyrion be­ing the most dif­fi­cult — but they did it spec­tac­u­larly well.

To add in­sult to in­jury for the poor reader who has had their favourite char­ac­ters taken out of their head and ren­dered into flesh and blood, we now have the un­usual sit­u­a­tion where the TV has moved be­yond the books.

Where book read­ers pre­vi­ously watched episodes, look­ing for­ward to non­read­ers’ re­ac­tions to events like the Red Wed­ding, now no one ex­cept the cast and crew (and Ge­orge) knows what to ex­pect.

The fi­nal se­ries will be screen­ing in April on Fox­tel next year.

I can only imag­ine what sort of pres­sure this puts on Ge­orge as the writer, to stay in his own head and not be in­flu­enced by the TV. But there are so many tan­ta­lis­ing dif­fer­ences — en­tire sub­plots or char­ac­ters that the TV could not ac­com­mo­date, such as an­other miss­ing Tar­garyen alive and well and poised to ri­val Jon Snow’s or Daen­erys’ claims to the Iron Throne — that The Winds Of Win­ter, the next in­stal­ment of the book se­ries, will be hugely re­ward­ing.

It will stand in an in­ter­est­ing and unique re­la­tion­ship to the other books in the se­ries and to the reader, giv­ing us an in­trigu­ingly par­al­lel ver­sion of Wes­teros. Both se­ries, the TV and the books, will likely end in a sim­i­lar place, but the jour­ney each takes us on has be­come quite dif­fer­ent.

Ge­orge has al­ways had his own vi­sion and his own story to tell in his own won­der­ful way, epic but grounded.

Know­ing Ge­orge, the story will take many more un­ex­pected twists and turns be­fore the end. I think it’s safe to say that what we have read so far is only a taster of the epic books to come.

Emilia Clarke stars as Daen­erys Tar­garyen in the lat­est sea­son of Game of Thrones.

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