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Old 04-28-2013, 07:46 AM   #1
Haramu
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Question Is a Song of Ice and Fire better than Lord of the Rings?

Discuss? What are your opinion about this cause I've heard many people say 'Game of Thrones' is much better than Lord of the Rings . In my honest opinion I don't consider it so because the book contains too much profanity and adultery and other stuff that just churns my stomach
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Old 04-28-2013, 07:53 AM   #2
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This is an easy one. No.

I have enjoyed reading GRR Martin's series, but it is in no way better. The story COULD be better had Martin written the entire series before it's release. As it is, Martin does not even seem to know the END of his tale. And because the first 5 books are already out there, he cannot change anything already written so that the story as a whole fits together better.

I have eminent respect for GRR Martin and his story, I look forward to see how it resolves, and I LOVE the HBO series. BUT, it is NOT better than The Lord of the Rings.
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Old 04-28-2013, 07:58 AM   #3
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I'm going to go way out on a limb and predict that the answer you'll get on this, a Tolkien discussion forum, will be a unanimous 'no'.

As for me, of Martin's series I've only read A Game of Thrones, and I found it quite disappointing. The prose was rather poor, I thought, and the practically pornographic material was off-putting.
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Old 04-28-2013, 08:07 AM   #4
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I must say that I enjoyed the first book very much, the second and third too, but the fourth was already getting a bit too spread out, and the fifth was completely dragged on and disappointing. Too many characters and too much stagnation. LOTR, on the other hand, combines in itself many plotlines from different time periods without dragging it on with unnecessary inaction.

I remember saying once that GOT has some of LOTR's maturity and HP's addictiveness, which makes it an interesting book to read. Unfortunately, A Dance With Dragons did not preserve this feeling. It brought more complications but did not move an inch forward. I have many favourite characters from the first three books, and, although new characters were brought in to replace the dead ones, I only had one favourite character alive by the end of the fifth book.

So, if the question was just about LOTR vs GOT, I would have said I like them both despite their differences. However, since the question is about the entire series, well, I found ADWD a tad too disappointing, so LOTR wins.
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Old 04-28-2013, 11:08 AM   #5
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On many points, I would basically second Galadriel55 here:
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I must say that I enjoyed the first book very much, the second and third too, but the fourth was already getting a bit too spread out, and the fifth was completely dragged on and disappointing. Too many characters and too much stagnation. LOTR, on the other hand, combines in itself many plotlines from different time periods without dragging it on with unnecessary inaction.

I remember saying once that GOT has some of LOTR's maturity and HP's addictiveness, which makes it an interesting book to read. Unfortunately, A Dance With Dragons did not preserve this feeling. It brought more complications but did not move an inch forward.
I would only disagree slightly about the Dance with Dragons, I still liked it more than the fourth book and I think it *did* contribute something to the storyline, but I think it's in many ways akin to the fourth book. The plotline spreads too far to too many ends.

I think ASOIAF is much better on second re-read than on the first, though, since now I am re-reading it and there is much more to focus on.

What I think is the problem with ASOIAF from the "enjoyability" perspective is that it fulfils the dream of most book-readers: you get to learn a lot in detail about various characters in various situations. The sort of thing you have when you finish reading LotR and you pity there isn't more about what Fatty Bolger did when Frodo was in Mordor, why there isn't more about Dįin and Brand's battle in Dale against the Easterlings, why there isn't more about some more random characters who we would have found interesting and more about their personal struggles and thoughts etc...

G.R.R. Martin did exactly that. But it waters down the general plot of the book as it is and makes it full of long sequences - on first reading especially - where you are like "hey, I don't want to read a chapter about what Forlong the Fat had for breakfast and about the fight Farmer Maggot had with his neighbor before learning whether or not Frodo's Ring is The One Ring". You have a ton of "random" stuff - the writer could have just cut it, made it, say, three books and focus only on several main characters and some main plot, but instead you have an equivalent to "what Dįin, Farmer Maggot, Haldir and Ufthak were doing while Frodo was on the way to Mordor". (On top of that, you aren't even sure which of the plots is more important, whether the one about Mordor or the one about Bag End, but that does not seem to be the point of the books.) But exactly this makes the books much more enjoyable on second reading, when you can focus on the gazillion of minor characters, or even the details about the main characters which have eluded you before.

So that is one thing. And the other big thing is, in my opinion, the sort of "lasting value". I am not sure, despite its brilliance in terms of really big complex plot, detailed characters etc, whether ASOIAF has that. I think LotR is the kind of thing that many people can relate to and we can sort of identify ourselves with the characters in LotR or the "underlying conflicts" and, as Tolkien says, it has the "eucatastrophe", and I agree with him that that is one of the big things that makes stores great and lasting, that they reflect something of our lives and also give us the hope for the future. Despite liking many of the main characters of ASOIAF, having pity for the more villainous ones and so on, I would not want to spend much time together with either of them, and the story itself is not really very, well, hopeful, is it? It makes a good spectacle, it has interesting plot twists and so on, but again, the lasting value - I didn't really see it so far. It does not try to play anything, it is a story with its own value, but LotR just has something else to offer, too. Somebody could possibly write more stories akin to ASOIAF, given enough time and so on, but LotR requires more depth.
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Old 04-28-2013, 07:30 PM   #6
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As I've said elsewhere, I read A Game of Thrones a couple of years ago and had absolutely no desire to continue reading the series. I didn't hate it but I didn't especially enjoy it either. I found it incredibly middle-of-the-road. I also found that all the titillation (sex, violence, intrigue etc) got in the way of the more fantastic elements that I found somewhat interesting, but I guess that appeals to a broader audience more than a straight-up supernatural focus.
It was actually one of the novels which has largely contributed to my growing antipathy for non-Tolkien "high Fantasy" in general. There's so much fan hysteria around the series (and its television adaptation) that I think it was wildly oversold to me. There's so little room for moderate discourse surrounding all these modern, popular "geek franchises" that I've become rather wearied with them in general.
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:31 PM   #7
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While I enjoy the whole GoT series, violent soft porn that it is, I consider it inferior to LoTR, and am somewhat dismayed by folks who consider GRRM to be "The American Tolkien" as such a comparison does JRRT a severe disservice.

I find GOT to be interesting as a sort of "retelling" of our historical Wars of the Roses in 15th C. England in a fantastical world. The characters are often quite interesting, and the writing is overall pretty good. It does drag, but not nearly to the extent of Robert Jordan's irritating "Wheel of Time" series, which I thoroughly despised. Ultimately, though, GOT lacks the "spark" (for lack of a better term) that makes Tolkien's Middle Earth so compelling and "alive" - literally like a real place that exists or at least existed at one time. Moreso: a place that I would like to live in if I could. I don't really have that vibe for GOT; even if I could go there, I don't know that I would want to (at least not without a BAR and several thousand rounds of .30-06 ball, among other things)

I will say that I like the fact that the HBO series actually follows the plot of the books fairly closely - would that PJ could have done the same for his LoTR and Hobbit movies! (not that PJ had to follow the books exactly; I just detest his ad libs where he thinks he's better than JRRT when it comes to storytelling. Turns out he's not...)

Of course, it's easier to follow the books when you can devote approximately 10 hours per season to each, as opposed to a mere 3 hours per LoTR/Hobbit movie. Also helps if one doesn't add one's own bizarre innoventions to the basic plot of the book...
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:26 AM   #8
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While I enjoy the whole GoT series, violent soft porn that it is, I consider it inferior to LoTR, and am somewhat dismayed by folks who consider GRRM to be "The American Tolkien" as such a comparison does JRRT a severe disservice.
I think it is also a sad generalization that you can read on the back of always any fantasy book, since the publishers seem to generally want to appeal on the wide public by equating fantasy with Tolkien, no matter the fact that thematically the fantasy in question can be completely different. I can see that GRRM is perhaps closer to Tolkien than many when it comes to complexity, but certainly not in the spirit.

Quote:
Tolkien's Middle Earth so compelling and "alive" - literally like a real place that exists or at least existed at one time. Moreso: a place that I would like to live in if I could. I don't really have that vibe for GOT; even if I could go there, I don't know that I would want to
Yes, that basically sums up my opinion as well. There are many lovely fantasy worlds I wouldn't mind to visit, but however interesting and rich GRRM's world is, I would not want to live there, because it is terrible.

Once again that comes back to what I sort of wanted to point at in my previous post - if you take the criteria for "good stories" from Tolkien's On Fairy-stories, that is, it seems to me, what ASOIAF is not. I am not even sure if it has any great eucatastrophe coming (I actually somehow think that even if it did, I would feel it might not really fit, because the tale itself is a portrayal of quite merciless world), even though it has to be said it has its merry moments, but it is more like the Children of Hśrin than the Lord of the Rings. Further speaking of criteria for good stories, even just reading GRRM's books sometimes reminded me of Frodo's famous quote "Shut the book now, dad; we don't want to read any more."

Quote:
I will say that I like the fact that the HBO series actually follows the plot of the books fairly closely - would that PJ could have done the same for his LoTR and Hobbit movies! (not that PJ had to follow the books exactly; I just detest his ad libs where he thinks he's better than JRRT when it comes to storytelling. Turns out he's not...)

Of course, it's easier to follow the books when you can devote approximately 10 hours per season to each, as opposed to a mere 3 hours per LoTR/Hobbit movie. Also helps if one doesn't add one's own bizarre innoventions to the basic plot of the book...
Also absolutely agreed on this. Recently in a debate Nogrod actually said about the same... and that led me to imagine if GoT was filmed by PJ, then probably all the sense of subtlety would have been lost (without further spoilers, imagine various people who later turn out to be turncloaks dressed all the time in huge spiked armors, having really menacing look, horses with glowing red eyes and so on). But yes, having a team such as GoT had for doing LotR or the Hobbit, they could have cut a lot of unnecessary rubbish and kept more faithful to the spirit of the tale.
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:09 PM   #9
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and the practically pornographic material was off-putting.
So it's alright to describe someone being killed with a sword or axe, but not describe sex?
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Old 05-05-2013, 03:52 AM   #10
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I doubt that is what she meant. Writing about sex does not automatically equal pornography though some do think that way. Most people would distinguish between a medical text and Sade for example. Similarly violence can be written or portrayed differently. I haven't read enough Martin to comment on him particularly though I have read reviews which chime with Aganzir's comments. I am more bothered by violence personally. Both are subjects where suggestion rather than depiction can be more effective in fiction.
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Old 05-05-2013, 03:56 AM   #11
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Well what would be better? Vague references like "I enjoyed our visit to my bed last night."?
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Old 05-05-2013, 05:35 AM   #12
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Possibly. There is a reason why there is an award annually for bad sex in fiction. I have read Sade and it is highly explicit but utterly tedious. My dissertation was on horror stories and there too letting the imagination work is scarier than describing the monster. A lot depends on context: consenting adults or abusive, fact or fiction. Alice Sebold's Lucky and the Lovely Bones are good exampkes of the same author handling the same subject matter very differently in novel and autobiography. The several harrowing pages of fact would have been gratuitous in the novel where she uses one perfect metaphor. There is a middle ground between all and nothing. But a lot is individual taste and there may be general gender differences in how things are perceived.
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Old 05-05-2013, 07:55 AM   #13
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I suppose that there's always the option of showing the bed but not explicitly showing pornography, which would avoid the awkward comments and complete inappropriateness, but Martin wrote in pretty explicitly pornographic detail.
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Old 05-05-2013, 08:43 AM   #14
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So it's alright to describe someone being killed with a sword or axe, but not describe sex?
It's okay to describe whatever one wants; but both violence and sex have the potential to be gratuitious, vulgar, or immature.
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Old 05-06-2013, 06:16 PM   #15
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I find GOT to be interesting as a sort of "retelling" of our historical Wars of the Roses in 15th C. England in a fantastical world.
Yes! Thank you.
A friend and I were discussing this very thing, way back when the first book came out and I've since then mentioned it to other people and usually just gotten a blank stare.

But I think it's very similar (although embellished to the Nth degree) and quite entertaining.
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Old 05-07-2013, 08:31 AM   #16
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I think one major difference needs to be mentioned as well... and that is the difference between a classical moral-tale and one that is more "realistic" (if not a bit cynical as well) and thusly morally more ambiguous.

I mean in the LotR you have good and bad guys, there are challenges and adventure, but you know already in the beginning that the good will prevail in the end.

In the SoIaF the people you first think are goodies have their darker sides and those you deem the baddies in the beginning become understandable and even decent when more of them is revealed - and many main characters are openly ambiguous to begin with, like we people are.

Both writers are children of their times (like we readers are as well). I may get some nostalgic vibes from Tolkien's moral universe but I must admit that I find Martin's world more interesting and fascinating.


That said I have no doubt Tolkien will be remembered as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century and LotR will stand in time as a great piece of literature and the initiator of a whole genre of writing. Meanwhile George Martin will more probably become a footnote in the histories of literature, maybe as an example of how phantasy literature changed in the turn of the millenia or something.

That has to do with the relative merits both stories have as literature aka. storytelling, the usage of language, the relation to the time they were published etc.

I mean Martin really stalls at times and has clearly taken up a project he can't handle any more as it spreads too far and wide - so one of the things that made it special and remarkable to begin with seems to turn out to be it's undoing...

I do still love the richness of the characters, the richness of detail, the unexpected things happening ever so often, and the almost overwhelming scope of "reality" in the SoIaF - and I do think the moral ambiguity and insecurity of it is much more interesting and stimulating than the black or white morals and foreknown endings of classical stories.

But still... Tolkien is the writer, the author that will be remembered. For a reason that he is... well, the Writer of the two.
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:10 PM   #17
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I think one major difference needs to be mentioned as well... and that is the difference between a classical moral-tale and one that is more "realistic" (if not a bit cynical as well) and thusly morally more ambiguous.

I mean in the LotR you have good and bad guys, there are challenges and adventure, but you know already in the beginning that the good will prevail in the end.

In the SoIaF the people you first think are goodies have their darker sides and those you deem the baddies in the beginning become understandable and even decent when more of them is revealed - and many main characters are openly ambiguous to begin with, like we people are.

Both writers are children of their times (like we readers are as well). I may get some nostalgic vibes from Tolkien's moral universe but I must admit that I find Martin's world more interesting and fascinating.
...
I do still love the richness of the characters, the richness of detail, the unexpected things happening ever so often, and the almost overwhelming scope of "reality" in the SoIaF - and I do think the moral ambiguity and insecurity of it is much more interesting and stimulating than the black or white morals and foreknown endings of classical stories.
This is mostly true but I would disagree about the implication that Tolkien's characters were strictly good or evil. Smeagol/Gollum is one obvious exception, as is the fact that even the "good" Frodo ultimately claims the Ring. Indeed, even Gandalf says of Sauron that he was not in the beginning evil (or words to that effect), and even the creation of the Rings of Power was not entirely an act of evil on Sauron's part - on some level he did indeed want to help the elves and heal the damage to Middle Earth. But his pride and arrogance that his was the only way, and all should follow his command perverted this ultimately into evil. And even though good "wins" by defeating Sauron, much is lost and the real "magic" of Middle Earth ultimately fades away forever. Sauron losing may be a foreknown ending, but the great loss and diminishment that came with that victory is not.
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:33 PM   #18
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This is mostly true but I would disagree about the implication that Tolkien's characters were strictly good or evil. Smeagol/Gollum is one obvious exception, as is the fact that even the "good" Frodo ultimately claims the Ring. Indeed, even Gandalf says of Sauron that he was not in the beginning evil (or words to that effect), and even the creation of the Rings of Power was not entirely an act of evil on Sauron's part - on some level he did indeed want to help the elves and heal the damage to Middle Earth. But his pride and arrogance that his was the only way, and all should follow his command perverted this ultimately into evil. And even though good "wins" by defeating Sauron, much is lost and the real "magic" of Middle Earth ultimately fades away forever. Sauron losing may be a foreknown ending, but the great loss and diminishment that came with that victory is not.
I'd say that the example I find the most appropriate is the First Age stuff. First you think all these Feanorians are good, then you think they're bad, then good, bad, good, etc., and you don't know who to cheer for anymore. The only thing that's still certain is that Morgoth is for sure evil, and will ever be so. It just occured to me that The Sil, while still being distinctly different in both style and plot, is a storyline that could have been written by G.R.R. Martin - except that he would have concentrated on the specifics rather than the overall epicness of the tale, described in explicit detail where each character goes and what he does there, and probably have taken up a good score of volumes. The basic storyline idea, though, resembles ASoIaF more closely that I previously thought.
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Old 05-31-2013, 05:22 AM   #19
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Long time no see, fellow Downers.

Many people in answer to this question were saying 'no', but I find it difficult to answer. If it is a matter of preference, I easily prefer LotR. I think the atmosphere is better, the prose is better, and the world more evolved. When it comes to characterisation, though, I think Martin wins hands down. I love Tolkien's characters more than Martin's but I don't think they're, objectively, more well-rounded.

What makes matters more complicated is that I read LotR before ASOIAF and have a natural preference for the former. It might or might not have been the other way around if I had read Martin's story first.

I think both books/series are at a very high level, to the point where you can't really say which is better save by mere opinion. At least, this is the case for me. For some reason, though, I agree with Nogrod who said that Tolkien will be remembered as one of the greats while Martin will be squashed into footnotes, one of the reasons for this being that he took on a project that is perhaps too vast even for him, to the point where things get confusing instead of interesting.
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Old 05-31-2013, 09:54 AM   #20
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I can answer this question by pointing out that Tolkien never used the phrase "as useless as nipples on a breastplate." Case closed.

Now that is not to say that I don’t enjoy ASOIAF because I do very much and I also greatly enjoy the TV series.

Quote:
The story COULD be better had Martin written the entire series before it's release. As it is, Martin does not even seem to know the END of his tale. And because the first 5 books are already out there, he cannot change anything already written so that the story as a whole fits together better.
I think there is much merit to this statement.

Martin claims to know the ending of the story in broad strokes and to have some sign posts between where he is now and the end but he doesn’t have the entire story mapped out in his head (and I think that is pretty much how he phrases it).

I think he is being honest when he says that he knows the ending he is working toward. However, I think the not knowing how he is going to get there is what is getting him into trouble.

Also he has been working on this series for decades now. Over the course of that time he has changed as a person and as a writer, and as a writer in my opinion he has gained skill in creating detail and lost greatly in plot advancement. I’ve read both of the preview chapters of The Winds of Winter that he has posted on his website and the Theon chapter I thought was pretty good. The Arianne Martell chapter he posted I thought was cringe-worthy and ghastly, to me it felt like it was summing up all the horrifying aspects of A Dance with Dragons and plopping them down into one chapter. It was very discouraging to me as to what Winds is ultimately going to be like.

There is a lot of speculation among his fandom that he needs to get a new and a more critical editor, a contention I agree with.

There is also a lot of speculation among his fandom that deep down inside he has lost interest in telling the Song of Ice and Fire and would rather spend his time telling shorter stories fleshing out the world he has created. I obviously cannot speak to what is going on in the nether reaches of his desires, but based upon the recent evidence which I can observe I can say that writing shorter stories of world building would certainly seem to suit his current skill set better.

As far as world building goes, Tolkien is vastly superior to Martin. Tolkien’s world building was superb or excellent in almost all aspects. Martin’s is pretty good in some places, mediocre in some, and horrible in others. Personally I can pretty much narrow down my greatest complaint against the world building in ASOIAF to one of scale. Martin’s sense of scale is ridiculously outsized in a number of aspects of his world…which is kind of odd in one particular aspect because I read an article that said based on what we know so far the world of ASOIAF is actually smaller than our own. However, being an incurable pedant with a firm historical grounding it sticks in my craw every time I think about how the Seven Kingdoms are supposed to be approximately the size of South America (if not a little larger) and are held together in a loose feudal structure. That structure didn’t work too well in France or the Holy Roman Empire which were much, much smaller. I’m willing to accept that with the aid of dragons one could quickly conquer the majority of a large continent in a medieval setting and level of technology (although the inability to conquer Dorne with those same dragons when you have conquered the rest of the Seven Kingdoms is just bizarre, and Martin knows that now because every time in the story that he tries to explain how in the world that happened he stumbles badly). However, once the dragons are dead there is no way a kingdom of that size could be held together under one dynasty and monarchy via the system described in the book. It’s just preposterous. And I’m not the only one who has noticed this. From a couple things in the TV show I think the show producers have noticed some of the problems as well.

Then we have Essos, which taken as a whole is cover-your-eyes awful and incoherent in so many ways that it would take too long to list them all. That being said, paradoxically I am pretty weird when cut against most ASOIAF fans in that I actually like a number of aspects of Essos much better than I like some aspects of Westeros. I think a lot of it is that I find the cultural and political diversity of Essos more plausible and appealing even with all its risible foundation and conceptualization than the great monolithic sameness of Westeros. For example, I actually enjoyed the descriptions in Dance of Braavos and I also enjoyed the Volantine Freehold (although maybe I just have a taste for the improbably exotic...let’s face it, it is probably that. I would probably just go all to pieces if we were ever taken to Asshai).

I think the reason why I enjoy that level of description and detail in the setting is because that is where Martin’s skills shine the brightest, even though it can stagnate the storyline. Martin excels at fleshing out the details of his world. However, the world as a whole collapses because much of its conceptual foundations are so absurd as to be laughable. Martin is, I think, at bottom a small scale writer and he has gotten himself out of his element with the scale of the world he is trying to write about and doesn’t have the skills (and possibly even the desire) to credibly get himself out of his mess.
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Old 05-31-2013, 12:01 PM   #21
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Also he has been working on this series for decades now. Over the course of that time he has changed as a person and as a writer, and as a writer in my opinion he has gained skill in creating detail and lost greatly in plot advancement.
This seems to be a condition which afflicts so many Fantasy authors, terminally in the case of Robert Jordan, with his series finished by Brandon Sanderson - and his massive The Way of Kings is meant to be the first in a ten-volume series! Why? Why do they have to be so long? I also think it has the unfortunate side effect of making Fantasy look less 'credible' because the long series' look more 'commercial', whether they are or not, but I confess to being skeptical that a lot of these series' really need to be longer than Ą la recherche du temps perdu or something of its ilk. At the risk of generalisation most modern genre fiction across various media seems in my mind to be concerned primarily with the two As, Action and Angst, and I'm rarely convinced that what they have to say cannot be expressed without a series of numerous thousand-page volumes.

I apologise if this comes across as curmudgeonly, but it's something that puts me off most modern Fantasy, with authors churning out book after book, usually into an enormous series or two, to little apparent purpose - apart from making a living, of course, but I find it curious that readers are content with reading more and more of the same matter as well. I think verbal diarrhea is something which many Fantasy authors struggle with, and I do believe that one of the strengths of The Lord of the Rings is that despite the nature of its publication it is fundamentally one long book written across a decade (and then some). I think the tension between Professor Tolkien's prolixity and his perfectionism is an interesting one: without the former, there might be no Unfinished Tales or History of Middle-earth and without the latter there might be a truly definitive Silmarillion - but it wouldn't really be Tolkien without both elements, would it?

Having just read Volsungasaga, which has all that juicy incest and murder which Martin and his peers love, but is much more brief, I think there's a curious disparity between this idea that a Fantasy, in the vein of its traditional literary forebears (sagas, heroics, epics and the like), must be grandiose, and the fact that this was traditionally, in some cases at least, accomplished in a much more concise form.

I am, however, reminded of Professor Tolkien's own remark in the Foreweord to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings: that of any deficiencies in the text, he would "pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short."
On the one hand I feel as if I agree with him; I feel as if the momentous events surrounding the Fall of Sauron, diabolus of the later Ages, are far too significant to primarily take place over the brief six months in which the major action of the story takes place, that the War of the Rings has too few battles, and that events generally move too swiftly: this may be what he meant. If he meant that it needed more detail, or characterisation or what have you I can appreciate this as well. On the other hand, however, I'm not convinced that these things were necessary, and that the relative brevity of the book works in its favour especially in terms of overall subtlety and pacing, especially in comparison to your average modern-day Fantasy colossus.
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Old 05-31-2013, 02:38 PM   #22
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This seems to be a condition which afflicts so many Fantasy authors, terminally in the case of Robert Jordan, with his series finished by Brandon Sanderson

-and-

but it's something that puts me off most modern Fantasy, with authors churning out book after book, usually into an enormous series or two, to little apparent purpose
It does seem to have become more science than art in recent years.

It puts me in mind of this thread from the golden days of yore on this site.

Unfortunately, the commercialization of writing I think is something we will have to live with.

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On the other hand, however, I'm not convinced that these things were necessary, and that the relative brevity of the book works in its favour especially in terms of overall subtlety and pacing, especially in comparison to your average modern-day Fantasy colossus.
I agree with you on that. There needs to be a balance between world building and advancing the story, and over all in the tale itself it is best to advance the story. I say this as somebody who loves world building. I think Tolkien did it right in putting much of his world building into the appendices.

Then of course there are volumes of his work that also do a lot of world building that were published after his death.
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Old 05-31-2013, 04:13 PM   #23
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ASOIAF is for people who enjoy certain kind of literature, Tolkien for those who appreciate another kind. Still, if people who have read both had a vote, I'm pretty sure Tolkien would come out on top. GRRM is enjoyable, true, but Tolkien is the one you go back to time and again.

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As for me, of Martin's series I've only read A Game of Thrones, and I found it quite disappointing. The prose was rather poor, I thought, and the practically pornographic material was off-putting.
I found A Game of Thrones disappointing too, enough so to put me off the series for a year until the HBO series came out and I picked up the second part. The latter books (with the exception of the last one) are much better.

I tend to enjoy profanity, adultery and porn, but Martin doesn't write sex well. It's sometimes so detailed and naturalistic that he sounds like a teenager who has just discovered there's something between his legs, if you excuse the metaphor, and it lacks style. Mith put it quite well already, though.

When it comes to moral ambiguity, Tolkien does it in fact better. I feel Martin needs to spell everything out, and although his characters may do conflicting things, there's more poise in Tolkien's characters. What allows Martin to have such morally ambiguous characters is that they fight each other so you can see both sides, unlike Tolkien who has an ultimate villain in the story. But there's little of Tolkien's internal struggle in Martin's characters.

Also, while Tolkien has few female characters, Martin's writing is at times plain sexist. Just sayin'.
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Old 06-01-2013, 04:42 PM   #24
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Martin also wastes countless pages on pointless derping around and travelling in crisscrossing circles. Tolkien does a fair bit of travel-writing, but it's always to a point.
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Old 06-02-2013, 01:10 AM   #25
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Being I only managed 7 chapters into Game of Thrones after several attempts in reading it, I have to say no.

SIF was written to make a decent TV mini-series. No need to read it.

that said, I think that the mini-series treatment of Lord of the Rings would have been better than those PJ abominations.
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:56 AM   #26
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Agree with what everyone else is saying here with an addendum:

All of the characters I liked in the first book (and kept me reading through the parts about characters I didn't) either have since died or their plotlines have faded into unimportance or seeming irrelevance (Arya, Bran). A handful of characters have gotten more enjoyable for me to read about (Jaime) but for the most part I have just stopped caring. I finished reading all of the currently out books maybe a year and a half ago? but have no intention of reading the new ones that come out. Maybe a plot synopsis because there is a part of me that would like to know who ends up winning, if only because I invested so much time into getting to this point.

A lot of people like the series because it's gritty and realistic but I find it really dull to read hundreds of pages about characters I don't like. And after a point, the sorrow of a character I liked dying started to become something more like, "Are you kidding me? He killed off xxx too?" and none of it was ever matched by the utter devastation I felt when I thought Frodo lay dead in the Pass of Cirith Ungol.

So I guess that comes back to what other people have been saying. For me, Game of Thrones completely lacks the beauty of LotR that really made me fall in love with it.
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Old 06-03-2013, 11:40 AM   #27
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For me, Game of Thrones completely lacks the beauty of LotR
I think that is part of the point - and part of the reason some people really love Martin's epic.

One of the reasons I'm personally still willing to also defend tSoIaF to an extent is exactly the point that the characters you like or whose stories look interesting end up dead and their stories don't continue, while some others you have barely noticed before come to the forefront by time. So you can't take the stance in the beginning that "well, this is Ned Stark, the good guy I'm going to relate to, and who will prevail through all the hardships the author will throw on his way".

One could say it is breaking the obvious traditional narrational rule that you build up those characters you are going to make the heroes (or villains) of the story and leave the statists to their places (look at any old adventure or war-movie and you can tell from the introduction who will die and who will live through the ordeals).

That said, I fully agree that Martin can be boring at times (Arya's wanderings, Brienne's mission to find Sansa!) and that he has lost the grip of the story a long time ago... it was a mission impossible from the very beginning I'd say, but a brave try.
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Old 06-03-2013, 01:45 PM   #28
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but for the most part I have just stopped caring.
A stinging condemnation of a series if ever there was one.

I think that is the fundamental problem with a lot of these newer, darker series. If everything is continually dismal all the time sooner or later readers will grow apathetic about the outcome of the story, especially if you kill off the beloved characters in the story to the point where there are only characters that people hate left.

Quote:
One could say it is breaking the obvious traditional narrational rule that you build up those characters you are going to make the heroes (or villains) of the story and leave the statists to their places (look at any old adventure or war-movie and you can tell from the introduction who will die and who will live through the ordeals).
When reading contemporary fantasy I have reached the point of assuming that anybody who is built up to be likable or a hero type figure that A) they will die, B) horrible things will happen to them before they die, C) there is a better than even chance they will renounce all they orginally stood for, and D) they will die horribly. So in my opinion, it’s not so much a matter of you can't tell who is going to die, it’s just that the more likable characters will.

In a slight aside, GRRM gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly that was released after the show last night.

Most of it was stuff that is widely available but the interviewer asked one very interesting question. Robb was never a POV character and Cat was as stupid as a bucket of dead fish. So then why were people so upset when they were killed? I don't think too much of GRRM's non-answer to the question. I think a lot of it has to do with the underlying brilliance of the idea as part of the story. More than the characters I think people were invested in the Stark family's quest for revenge. The typically expected mode for this revenge quest to be accomplished was gone when the Red Wedding happened and everything went pear-shaped. As far as actually wiping out the Lannisters goes, that option is still on the table. So it was really more a matter of GRRM messing with his audience from a story perspective and not a character perspective that made it all too shocking!
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:16 PM   #29
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So you can't take the stance in the beginning that "well, this is Ned Stark, the good guy I'm going to relate to, and who will prevail through all the hardships the author will throw on his way".
And I was okay with that for a while. But I think the red wedding was sort of the turning point for me, retrospectively. I just didn't really know who to root for anymore.

I mean, I love a good interesting villain. They're some of my favorite characters to write. But a lot of the characters left disgusted me in some way and even if they started to become sympathetic they never became likeable for me.

I completely understand why some people like it. It's just not for me. And I guess it's frustrating how popular it is and how so many Top X Fantasy book lists rank it so highly because I don't really see it. I tried, but I guess that's how it goes sometimes.
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Old 06-04-2013, 07:19 AM   #30
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I completely understand why some people like it. It's just not for me. And I guess it's frustrating how popular it is and how so many Top X Fantasy book lists rank it so highly because I don't really see it. I tried, but I guess that's how it goes sometimes.
Right now it is a bit of a fad and benefiting from a lot of hype from pop culture. Once the series is finished, one way or the other, time will allow some perspective. As Nogrod said, I suspect in the final analysis Martin is going to end up something of a footnote whereas right now he is viewed as a literary titan.
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Old 06-04-2013, 09:10 PM   #31
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Fad versus epic

I agree with the "fad" comment. Much of what is published (book, movie or music) today is to appeal to a mass culture that also has a relatively short attention span. So arguably gratuitous inclusions in these works are present to stir quick interest rather than add to the foundational motive of the work. That's why the classics stand the test of time...they are rooted in the author's desire to tell a good story, make a point or promote a lesson. LotR is much more than a simple fantasy novel...behind the mythology, situations and characters lies a tale of redemption, of honor and the idea that good works in the hands of common folk can change history. That is what endures the test of time while all these other disposable attempts at entertainment fade from memory as the next ten come along behind. My idea of a similarly well done epic series (though a completely different genre) is Stephen King's Dark Tower novels. It's gripping in the same way as LotR because it promotes excellent storytelling and time-honored lessons behind the fantasy elements of the work. But take my opinion with a grain of salt, as I am one to favor Clint Eastwood's westerns over "Cowboys & Aliens" any day of the week!
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Old 06-05-2013, 02:13 AM   #32
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Medieval times WERE dismal. And since we're talking
about a period after peacetime, in a Medieval war,
why would you expect much happiness as opposed
to cruelty, betrayal and suffering?
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Old 06-05-2013, 11:30 AM   #33
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Personally, I started reading Game of Thrones, and the plot wasn't bad, but it was half adultery and half violence. So, no. I couldn't finish it because it was too heavy with the details, both sexually and gory. Oh, and the incest was DISGUSTING. Who the heck sleeps with his or her TWIN?
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Old 06-07-2013, 10:06 AM   #34
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Boots Upon further review, I decided we needed further review

After a little reflection on the subject, I would like to take back (sort of) a bit of what I said before about Martin ending up as a literary footnote.

I have now come to think the possibility for Martin to become a genuinely important literary figure from the perspective of history does still exist. I think it all revolves around how he handles the ending of ASOIAF. If he does a good job then I think his place could be cemented, if he does a poor job then it is Footnote City at best.

What I mean by this is Martin has made his name as a writer who subverts the supposed tropes of what has come before. I'm not entirely a fan of this but it is a valid way to go about things. He has already successfully done this in a number of ways and I think one of the existing primary character arcs is ultimately geared toward doing this as well on a fairly grand scale. If my idea is correct and Martin does it well, Martin could well be worthy of future study and remembrance.

However, A) I might be wrong in guessing his intentions and B) given Martin's seeming decline in writing skill he has every chance of botching the whole thing no matter how he tries to end the story, and it could very well be botched already because of Martin's underlying approach.

All that being said, Tolkien will still be better no matter how ASOIAF turns out.
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Old 06-07-2013, 07:02 PM   #35
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I hate Game of Thrones. I mean hate. I almost threw people out of my apartment once I hate it that much (there's a very long story). I read the first book and thought it was ok until about halfway through. It just took a huge downward turn around the time Dany gets pregnant.

LOTR can be long winded and dry at times, but I at least feel a connection to some of the characters. I root for the Hobbits. I root for the men of the west.

I like LOTR because it shows the corruption of man, but also the redemption. Boromir falls to the power of the Ring, but his brother faces it and stands tall. It'd have been more boring if Faramir fell too, proving that men are wicked. Instead he shows a strength that was different from that of his brother. Gollum, though corrupted, still shows flashes of who he was. There is hope that he may yet come back from the brink.

When a character I love dies I get upset. I still tear up when I read Theoden's death. I cry when Sam and Frodo cling to each other on the steps of Mount Doom. I get none of these emotions from Martin's work.

If there's not one character I can relate to, that I want to succeed, then why would I waste my time reading the book? Ned Stark died. I didn't care. If a major player dies I should feel something. Anger, sadness, relief, anything. There is no alleviation from doom and gloom. No show of humanity. Everyone just kills everyone else.

The story of Fire and Ice is pretty interesting. I really did want to like it. I like history turned fantasy. I like darkness and shades of gray. Making main characters suffer is usually a pretty interesting read. But when the character suffering is completely detestable to me, well, I'm just not interested. The things that I liked about GoT did not outweigh the things I hated. Whereas the things I don't like about Tolkien don't overshadow the things I love. Almost everyone I know loves GoT and hates LOTR. I personally don't get it.
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Old 06-08-2013, 11:25 AM   #36
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I find it weird that people can 'hate' SoI&F.

There more I research individual characters, like on the wiki http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Main_Page, the more interested I get in each storyline.

If you do that, say when it comes to the first book, you notice how some of the conspiracies intertwine. Martin was good in making many look coincidental & pure luck for each conniving schemer. And more broadly, the detail and effort Martin has made for history, characters, etc, is quite breathtaking.

I'm almost halfway through Feast of Crows and now feel a fanatic, because I've researched ahead more than when I read Tolkein or CS Lewis. Martin does have his +s that the average sci-fi writer clearly would just skip or not think of.
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Old 06-08-2013, 06:39 PM   #37
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Some of the latest points made make me feel like reading them thusly: the characters in the SoIaF are not ones whose trials and tribulations one would wish to follow... (and there seems to be two main concerns here) because.



1) the interesting characters die away and there is too much all things "crude".

Well, enough of this has been speculated on the deahs of "wannabe main characters" I think. And it seems G.R.R. Martin is only too happy to "re-awaken" some of them as a literary means...

Life is not always nice and people are capable of great atrocities - as they are able to show the greatest kindness. And yes, trying to close one 's eyes on things that go against one's own moral standards is lying to oneself about reality. The attitude one has to things narrated one doesn't like is more or less the dividing line between reading for escapism and reading with interest in real life.



2) there is no redemption, no role-models or idealised goodies, or baddies (well maybe some of the latter kind, yes...)

This I'm afraid means that the SoIaF disturbs people because it doesn't give one the easy black-and-white - and that there is a yawning for that simple world-view.

But just think about it seriously... (I have not read the last book - I will do it this summer though - so forgive me for my possible shortcomings here) I'll take four examples.


Stannis, is he good or bad? He's weak on some crucial points and easily led astray from what would have been decent (known only by the half-omnipotent reader, not by Stannis as a characcter) - but he also has a high view of justice and righteousness. A most intresting - and a most human character! That's what we are...

Theon Greyjoy is a baddie? Well walk in his shoes for a moment... taken captive and raised by the enemies of his family and coming back (in high hopes for himself but also for the good of all) only to be scorned by his own - he realizes he has no one and belongs nowhere - and he tries to show he's one of his own - and just overdoes it (under some pretty strong pressure) as he is not at ease with the life of his generic family and the values they hold close. So with Nietzsche's words "human, all too human"?

The Hound? Clearly a bad man? While at the same time he's one of the only few who treated both Sansa and Arya with respect and basically helped them. Surely there is no way to defend him from the POV of the moral standards of the 21st century general Western culture, and he is a violent opportunist... but he is human as well: tryig to get along in a world that is violent and is based on power and personal toughness (see what happens to Jaime after he loses his sword-hand - he's not the "one to be honoured" any more - that turn actually is one of the greatest I think Mr. Martin made!).

Tywin Lannister? Well he must be the bad man above everyone else? And he surely is not your ideal loving and liberal father... nor is he the benevolent ruler who loves the people he rules. But even with him, you can see humanity shining through - his father's almost catastrophic errors of judgement that almost took their family down, his feelings for Tyrion after he "killed" his wife at the birth, the (true) rumours of his children's incest... he's really having tough times with the values and the world he was born into.



I'm not intending to raise anyone of the above as my "heroes". That is actually the total opposite of what I'm trying to say. I dislike them more than I like them as characters.

But I do love the fact that Mr. Martin gives us characters of such complexity to read.



The initial question was between the LotR (not Silmarillion fex.) and the SoIaF. In regards to the humanness and believability of the characters - and thusly to how real vs. "phantastical" they are I must say Martin scores the points for narrating real humans. If one doesn't like it, that is okay.

On other questions the scores would be different - like who is the greater writer, or who has created a more profound world with consistent mythologies etc? BUt those are other questions... it just seems peolple are centering on the issue of whether the charactyers are likeable or ones they'd be interested to follow - or somehow "worthy" of following...



For some reason both series are called "phantasy" literature.

Well, I think I know why that is - or why it is a good term for both.

Tolkien's view of the world is phantasy because he seems to believe in providence that is guided by some supreme power(s) - aka. phantasy.

Martin's view of the world is phantasy because he seems to be willing to only describe people at dire straits with more or less only their bad side showing up. In reality we are a much better and kinder species - and Martin I'm afraid likens cynicism to realism; where he is wrong in a grand scale.
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Old 06-08-2013, 11:54 PM   #38
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Life is not always nice and people are capable of great atrocities - as they are able to show the greatest kindness. And yes, trying to close one 's eyes on things that go against one's own moral standards is lying to oneself about reality. The attitude one has to things narrated one doesn't like is more or less the dividing line between reading for escapism and reading with interest in real life.

...

This I'm afraid means that the SoIaF disturbs people because it doesn't give one the easy black-and-white - and that there is a yawning for that simple world-view.
Even as someone who's no fan of A Song of Ice and Fire I agree that the fact that it treats life in a harsh and brutal way doesn't somehow denigrate it; so much of the canon of "literature" deals with exactly the same things, the more unpleasant parts of life. It's hardly inappropriate content. Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is a completely arbitrary example I might give of a well-regarded novel that puts certain horrors of human life in intense focus and is moving and profound for that very reason.

My main problem with A Game of Thrones was that the parts I found interesting, which had the supernatural elements, were brief teases, while all the political scheming I find utterly tedious and reminds me of the horrible 'church politics' diversions in David Eddings' Elenium series.

In defence of Professor Tolkien, I would argue that his allegedly less 'realistic' characterisation and more conservative presentation of violence and sexuality are indicative of the notion, in both my opinion and that of the Professor himself, that The Lord of the Rings is, in textual terms, a Romance and not a Novel: "My work is not a 'novel', but an 'heroic romance' a much older and quite different variety of literature." (Letter 329) I suppose that might seem like a defensive or apologist view to some but personally I think it is extremely significant in understanding why The Lord of the Rings is, arguably, painted in broader strokes than the conventional modern Fantasy 'novel'. That being said I would persist whole-heartedly in my belief that the characterisation and character development in The Lord of the Rings is simply abstract and subtle, not limited.
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Old 06-09-2013, 12:32 PM   #39
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Almost everyone I know loves GoT and hates LOTR. I personally don't get it.
You must know very weird people. How can anyone hate LotR??? Because I can understand people hating ASoIaF, I think that's pretty normal...

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I find it weird that people can 'hate' SoI&F.
...I can understand it very well. Whereas I enjoy it, personally, I can see what people can see as flaws or what they might not like about it. We have heard quite a few things here already, and I consider these objections relevant, even though I do not mind some of them:
- the prolonged and tedious narration not everyone may enjoy (see my previous posts for my thoughts about those),
- the "naturalistic" (to use a very mild word) portrayal of some things,
- the fact that too many supposedly "main good characters" die,
- the fact that there is nobody who we can identify with. Personally, that might be the one thing that I would see lacking the most, but with this kind of literature it does not bother me.

And with the last point, I get to a sort of response to Kitanna's post and further. I am fine with rooting for certain people or group of people, even though I would not really see them as "likeable" in reality.

Because it is only a fantasy.

In 99,9% fantasy books (or movies... that even less), I do not find myself "identifying myself" with the goals or attitudes of the characters I root for. But I can like people because they are "cool". Imagine, for example, Darth Vader - even discounting his redemption, most of the people found him "cool" the moment he stepped on the screen. You enjoy seeing him, even though you do not want any evil empire to rule the galaxy in reality, right? Something like that. The same way, I can, for instance, enjoy reading about some horrible people in ASOIAF.

Is it a kind of literature to find "role models" in? Certainly not, but surely that goes without saying? It has nothing to do with reality, it is, like Nog said, and I agree, very much cynical. But the big tale is still interesting for what it is: the big epic tale.

And, just a remark about the "cynism", still, there are the bittersweet tones which make the tragedy moving. I do pity characters who lose their family, their limbs, or all sorts of other things, like their sanity, for instance.

I enjoy reading about those people, I wish them success, because, fortunately, the world they live in is not our world and it is not even the reflection of our own world (unlike Tolkien's). If injustice is done, unless it's absolutely terrible, I am fine with it in the book, because without some trouble, there is no plot (remember what Tolkien says about good times when telling about Rivendell in The Hobbit).

I even enjoy reading, for instance, H.P. Lovecraft without believing in supernatural horrors eating people on U.S. East Coast in reality. Now I wanted to write that the same way I don't really "believe" in Elves dancing in the woods at night, but, truth be told, I do. But that's not the point Anyway, Tolkien's world is much nicer to believe in, so maybe that's what brings it closer. But, what I meant to say, is again that I can follow stories and see them for being only that, stories. Even if they end bad. (And all that said, we don't know how GRRM's story is going to end. Yet.)

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Originally Posted by Nogrod View Post
Martin's view of the world is phantasy because he seems to be willing to only describe people at dire straits with more or less only their bad side showing up. In reality we are a much better and kinder species - and Martin I'm afraid likens cynicism to realism; where he is wrong in a grand scale.
That's basically what I would say. I would say GRRM is sort of "overdoing" the postmodern point of "disillusionment by/of humankind", which appears to be appearing also in literature more than before. Sure, no surprise about that. After the Enlightement's overdone belief in humankind, and exposure to reality that humans are after all only creatures like any other and their "reason" is not merely a tool to use for betterment of humankind, but also capable of making up rather disgusting stuff like gas chambers and atomic bombs, the cynism is obvious and expectable. But the "sober realism" today probably would mean exactly more stress on, for example, Tolkien's "hope". That's why I understand many people might not enjoy GRRM so much, because they may be exhausted by negative visions of reality from their surroundings. I, personally, perceive the world still as, however full of problems, a nice place to be in, and therefore I am fine with a bit of unhappy endings in my fantasy. When it is not utterly tasteless, of course. But I think GRRM has very many good qualities to counterbalance problems.
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Old 06-09-2013, 03:30 PM   #40
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I do not hate or even dislike ASOIAF - I loved the irst three books, but was not very impressed with the fourth and fifth. One reason: all my favourite characters are gone. #1: Arya - reduced to obscurity. #2: Jon and Bran - reduced to obscurity and whining. #3: the Hound* - dead. Unless it's one of the typical Martinesque plot twists where he says everything to lead the reader to assume the character's dead, and then shatter that assumption. Anyways, instead of bringing in and developing more interesting characters (not that they aren't interesting, but they're much more tedius) he dissolves the story among too many POVs that are very stagnant and whiny. Second reason: the plot got too whiny and stagnant. While every plot detail does carry its significance, just about the only truly important part of ADWD was the last chapter where Dany finally understands the mysterious message of going back to go forwards. The rest was just too drawn out.

I, personally, don't mind that much the disillusionment part or the lack of rolemodels. It just got a bit boring towards the end.

*Just a note here: Sandor is such a character that he needs the realism bordering on cynicism that is not found in LOTR to develop, so while I adove his character in GOT he would not be able to exist in Tolkien's world.
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