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Old 06-09-2013, 04:50 PM   #41
Kuruharan
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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.
I have to admit to something weird, but I greatly enjoy reading the Westeros wiki, can literally spend hours chasing rabbits on it (yes, I am a sad and pathetic dwarf, thanks for noticing) but I have never re-read any of the Ice and Fire books and don't really have any interest in doing so.

Compared to LOTR I enjoy reading stuff about it, talking about it, and re-reading it.

I'm not quite sure what it means, but I suspect it has something to do with Tolkien being an aesthetically more pleasant author to read.
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Old 06-09-2013, 04:58 PM   #42
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I have to admit to something weird, but I greatly enjoy reading the Westeros wiki, can literally spend hours chasing rabbits on it (yes, I am a sad and pathetic dwarf, thanks for noticing) but I have never re-read any of the Ice and Fire books and don't really have any interest in doing so.
Strange. In fact, ASOIAF is one of the very few books I enjoy reading again. Also (like I said in my first posts here), ASOIAF is, in my opinion, meant to be re-read, because otherwise you have no chance whatsoever to make anything out of the minor characters on first reading. Not even of the characters who start as minor and become major (I barely noticed e.g. that any Theon Greyjoy existed in the first book). And spot all the minor clues to other things.

(That's also the reason why I don't want to read the ASOIAF wiki, because it has too many spoilers. Even though I have finished all the books, there are still things I do not know and I do not wish to know, because I prefer to figure them out all by myself. Since that at least is one of the qualities GRRM undeniably has, all the hidden clues etc.)
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Old 06-10-2013, 06:15 AM   #43
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I've been following this thread with some interest, and waffling back and forth on whether I'm in a position to comment. I've never seen the show, and I've read about half the series--in about a week and a half last August, I went through the first two and a half books in a single, fell swoop and then lost all interest and stamina.

That said, thanks to the Internet and an ancient Greek mentality regarding spoilers ("spoiler, what's a spoiler? Everybody knows Oedipus is Jocasta's son--that's what makes watching the play so good"), I know where the series has gone so far, even if I haven't read up to it. Indeed, I've had a fascination/bile relationship with Martin for years, for as long as he's been the reigning King of Fantasy.

Obviously, it isn't Martin's fault that virtually everything anyone ever says about him compares him in some way to Tolkien--that's been the standard trope for the genre since about 1956--but it has been particularly persistent with Martin, and that threw me off reading him initially, because it didn't take very much research at all to realise that "hyper-realistic, fantasy-version of the War of the Roses" is not at all what I think when I think "the next Tolkien."

But I did read him eventually--and, as I said, I burned through two and a half of his voluminous tomes in a week and a half, so there was clearly enjoyment in the process. I think it helped my desire to keep reading that I knew the major spoilers and that I knew it was a work where "everybody dies." This removed the anger that might stem from being hoodwinked, replacing it with the Greek Tragedic curiosity of "well, how did it happen?" This is where Martin's pacing was a real problem, though--and I say this as someone who didn't make it to the books that are said to be the worst in this regard.

That said, I also completely ran out of steam and interest--and I haven't picked the books up since, or been more than very, very slightly inclined to do so--and this loss of interest is tied to the reason the interest held. Reading Martin fired up my own fantastical imagination in a way that nothing has done in years--if anyone remembers that I wrote a fantasy novel last fall/winter, it is worth noting that it grew, almost entirely, out of the massive creative push that reading ASOIAF gave me last September.

But, at the same time, part of the reason I was pushed to write rather than to keep reading was that Martin consistently didn't satisfy my own tastes. In essence, I felt something along the lines of "you got so many things so close to right--but then it didn't work for me." In general, if I try to recapture that fleeting sense of what worked and what didn't, I think the world-building worked almost completely for me. I don't remember a geographical or political fact that I didn't enjoy exploring--to say nothing of the tantalising "otherworldly" hints that crept around the edges: things north of the Wall and the dragons.

This ramble doesn't have a single point, I suppose, except this: as a fantasy writer I do not claim to be anywhere near the league of either Tolkien or Martin, but I do feel indebted to them both, for they both made me want to write. The difference is that I felt pulled to write by Tolkien--his prose and his stories and his mythology had me chasing after it; whereas Martin pushed me to write, which was a rather more divided experience.



All of that said, it occurs to me to add that the popularity of ASOIAF is testimony to the fact that the reading public does NOT desire things simplified or shortened, and I am grateful it does that. However, if he never manages to finish the series (or to do so to the satisfaction of a significant number of his fans), I think we might see the ugly side of a fandom that expects a long set-up to have a great payoff.
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Old 06-10-2013, 10:10 AM   #44
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Is a Song of Ice and Fire better than Lord of the Rings?


NO !!!!!!

An over-complicated, contrived rip-off is NOT better that the LOTR masterpiece.
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Old 06-10-2013, 10:48 AM   #45
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The initial question was between the LotR (not Silmarillion fex.) and the SoIaF.
Aw but that's not fair - if it's Martin's whole series, it should also be the entire Legendarium.

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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.
You're right there. He could've left out half of Dany's chapters and it wouldn't have done the book harm, quite the contrary, and she might already be taking over the throne in Westeros. (What do you mean I'm getting ahead of myself?) Anyway, When I look back, I am lost is the only character catchphrase I don't get perpetually annoyed with.

Also, would you like me to direct you to a particular passage that might be of interest to you regarding your favourite characters?

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Strange. In fact, ASOIAF is one of the very few books I enjoy reading again.
I haven't actually reread any of the books, although I'm sure that will happen one of these days (or years, rather) - but when I eventually do, and when I occasionally leaf through the pages, it is, and will be, in search of information and little clues (because that's what I'm good at anyway). Tolkien, I reread primarily for the asthetics of it, although it's always a pleasant addition to find new interpretations for things you thought were obvious. Martin isn't the only one who leaves clues and has complex plotlines.

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An over-complicated, contrived rip-off is NOT better that the LOTR masterpiece.
I wouldn't go so far as to call it a rip-off. Anyway, you might find this thread interesting.
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Old 06-10-2013, 11:48 AM   #46
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Originally Posted by The Mouth of Sauron View Post
Is a Song of Ice and Fire better than Lord of the Rings?


NO !!!!!!

An over-complicated, contrived rip-off is NOT better that the LOTR masterpiece.
A rip-off of what, pray? Certainly not a rip-off of Tolkien. It has about as much in common with it as LotR has with the Ring of the Nibelungs. "Both rings were round," as the Prof himself had said. Heck, GRRM even doesn't have any ring, any Dark Lord, any hope, and any Gandalf, so what exactly is there that is a "rip-off"?

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Anyway, When I look back, I am lost is the only character catchphrase I don't get perpetually annoyed with.
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Old 06-10-2013, 05:28 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by The Mouth of Sauron View Post
Is a Song of Ice and Fire better than Lord of the Rings?


NO !!!!!!

An over-complicated, contrived rip-off is NOT better that the LOTR masterpiece.
GRRM and Tolkien can't really be compared. It's like comparing Harry Potter to Twilight. Sure they're both teen fantasy, but beyond that, nothing.

I understand why he's been called "American Tolkien", but I think the title is an insult to both men.

Tolkien, because every time someone with moderate success in the fantasy genre comes along they're going to be called the new Tolkien. The man deserves his praise and publishing houses should stop trying to show us the "new Tolkien" (I know why this happens, but I don't have to agree)

Martin, because he created a world entirely independent of Middle-Earth. No elves, no dwarves (Tyrion Lannister excluded), no half-lings. Men in a man's world recreating history in a fantasy realm. I may not like Martin's characters or his writing, but I am very drawn to the idea of rewriting significant historical events in a world like Westeros. And Martin at least deserves some credit for not bringing in archtypes or themes like Tolkien's, when I've seen countless other authors do just that.
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Old 08-26-2013, 03:58 AM   #48
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As both a fan of Martin and Tolkien, I find it hard to answer this topic.

My first and biggest love will always go out to Tolkien for what he created. His imagination is by far the most impressing one I've encountered in fantasy literature. Martin has also never introduced feelings as grand in me as Tolkien did.

To me, Tolkien's works are painful to the heart, because they're so tragical and utterly sad (Dagor Dagorath always leaves me in tears!). Tolkien's legendarium is far more emotional than Martin's.

But I'm literally fascinated with Martin's world, too. I've never had much trouble with sexism in his books and I am a feminist. To me, his strongest characters are by far women (Daenerys, Melisandre, Cersei, Arya, Sansa), so I don't get the issue there.

Plus, I'm starting to think I'm the only one who profoundly enjoyed reading ADWD. His description of Tyrion's and Daeny's adventures in Essos are deadly interesting; same counts for Jon and his politics at the Wall.

But Martin's world is less emotional to me than Tolkien's is. Westeros and co. is more some sort of study to me, instead of a fantasy tale. It's more realistic; there are, of course, fantasy elements in ASOIAF (dragons, White Walkers), but the whole is less imaginative than Tolkien's world.

In short, I like them both in different ways, even though I still prefer Tolkien.

Whereas Martin's imagination speaks to the mind, Tolkien's speaks to the heart. And I think that's fine.
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Old 08-26-2013, 05:06 AM   #49
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For me, I think the main difference is that LOTR is story-driven, and the characters are expressed through that, while ASOIAF is the other way around. They can both be very good approaches, but the problem with ASOIAF is that it gets too big and starts to fall apart/spiral out of control in AFFC. Yes, it's fun to see each character's personal journey, but it gets too much by that book.

That said, sometimes his dialogue is quite entertaining, but comparing his general writing style to Tolkien's can only end in sadness, though it does get better as the books go on (it's almost inversely proportional to plot strength).
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Old 08-26-2013, 05:14 AM   #50
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I've never had much trouble with sexism in his books and I am a feminist. To me, his strongest characters are by far women (Daenerys, Melisandre, Cersei, Arya, Sansa), so I don't get the issue there.
I'm not overly fond of his offhand treatment of rape, and I find his child brides kind of icky (while far be it from me to deny teenage sexuality, I'm not okay with forced marriages of 14-yeard-olds). Also I often feel that his women characters aren't active agents to the extent that the men are - with the exception of the likes of Arya, who is as tomboyish as it gets.
Still, many of the women are among my favourites, and while I personally don't like the things I mentioned here, they are not nearly enough to put me off the series. I think pretty much the only author whose misogyny has ever made me actually quit his books is Gene Wolfe, and GRRM has a long way to go to reach such depths.

I enjoyed reading ADWD too - but it took me a month (okay partly due to an intense two-week social gathering in the middle), whereas I finished the second and the third book in a matter of days.

Anyway welcome to the Downs!
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Old 08-26-2013, 05:29 AM   #51
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I'm not overly fond of his offhand treatment of rape, and I find his child brides kind of icky (while far be it from me to deny teenage sexuality, I'm not okay with forced marriages of 14-yeard-olds). Also I often feel that his women characters aren't active agents to the extent that the men are - with the exception of the likes of Arya, who is as tomboyish as it gets.
Still, many of the women are among my favourites, and while I personally don't like the things I mentioned here, they are not nearly enough to put me off the series. I think pretty much the only author whose misogyny has ever made me actually quit his books is Gene Wolfe, and GRRM has a long way to go to reach such depths.

I enjoyed reading ADWD too - but it took me a month (okay partly due to an intense two-week social gathering in the middle), whereas I finished the second and the third book in a matter of days.

Anyway welcome to the Downs!
Yes, the Daenerys/Drogo relationship quite bothered me as well, I must admit. (Is that one of the 'rape' issues you're aiming at?) Rape is, indeed, quite common in his world and I'm certainly not OK with that, but in those grimy war times, it is, alas, not that surprising, sadly.

Yes, that's what I experienced, too! There's so much happening in ADWD, a hell lot of new characters are introduced, it's quite difficult to follow sometimes. I'm a rather quick reader, but ADWD was a long, long read. Nevertheless, it was interesting.

Thank you! I love discussing Tolkien's legendarium and I'm so happy I found this place!
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Old 08-26-2013, 05:36 AM   #52
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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.
Of course. But there is a limit to what extent it makes good literature to describe violence in explicit detail. For my part, I think we should definitely not close our eyes from the violence and atrocity in the real world, but there is a fundamental difference between fact and fiction literature. I'd be ready to advocate Jonathan Glover's Humanity as compulsory reading in high schools, but I do not think it is entertainment to read about rape, torture and abuse. Moreover, I do not think it should be. And while Martin may have had lofty goals about criticizing violence and war by showing atrocities in detail (I don't know if he did), most of the time his descriptions of violence come off as if he wrote them that way chiefly for shock value or out of a desire to do something radical and different. As if he wrote that way because he thought it was somehow cool.

There is also the sexism issue Aganzir spoke about - I doubt a female author would get it in her head to write a 14-year-old forced into marriage and raped and then developing an uncomplicated loving relationship with the man soon after.

Violence and sexism aside, I enjoy parts of Martin's books, I don't enjoy others, but I like the HBO series and probably will finish reading the books sometime. But in terms of whether it is better than Tolkien - Martin has great scope and I like the ambiguity, but to me his prose lacks Tolkien's beauty, poise and literary skill. A Song of Ice and Fire makes a good read in its way, but it has none of Tolkien's depth; it doesn't carry meaning that can be applied outside the story itself. It doesn't have Tolkien's deeper themes, or else I haven't found them.
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Old 08-28-2013, 04:17 PM   #53
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Also I often feel that his women characters aren't active agents to the extent that the men are - with the exception of the likes of Arya, who is as tomboyish as it gets.
Partially playing devil's advocate here, but I am not entirely sure I agree in the case of Catelyn and Daenerys. Yes, Catelyn was as stupid as a bucket of dead fish but her actions and decisions were the driving force of quite a lot of the things that ended up happening in the story (mostly the bad stuff because, again, she's dumb).

And almost all of Dany's arc is the result of the choices she has made and the direction that she has taken her followers. However, again she is not the sharpest tool in the shed and makes a number of bad choices and her character has not improved over the course of the series. I think a lot of that lack of development reflects Martin's own flaws as a writer.

So, while both these ladies are open to charges of not having enough functioning brain cells, I don't think an accusation of their having a lack of agency is entirely warranted.
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Old 08-29-2013, 01:19 PM   #54
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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
Entirely outside of the realm of literature, in role playing games, in my youth I always played heroic characters. These days, trying to join a game at the local game store, an awful lot of players go beyond 'shades of gray' into a values system where might makes right. A few nights ago, I first had to remind another character that the Sergeant was encouraging us to take prisoners, not to slay them all. After that first success, I then had to persuade him to let her walk back rather than dragging her back by the hair.

Your statement above reflects subjectivity. A lot of younger readers are going to like Game of Thrones better. Many of them might perceive the values and themes of Game of Thrones as being more relevant and meaningful than LoTR. The Truths behind the magic and the conflict might speak stronger to one generation than another.

I'm an LoTR guy still, but I'm not going to try to persuade another who feels strongly otherwise.
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Old 08-30-2013, 05:01 AM   #55
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I've read the first book of SoIaF series and started on the second, but soon gave up on it, maybe for good. The series has many qualities that I enjoy, like the intrigues and the unpredictable plot. My main problem with it, and what made me finally put the book back in the shelf, is that it drags. There are just too many characters, with too many descriptions of every minute detail of their life, or rather, there are too many characters that I don't really care much about. It gets boring getting through those passages. Also, much of it strikes me as rather juvenile, like it was written by a teenage boy, such as the numerous graphic descriptions of sex and violence. I don't mind graphic descriptions of sex and violence per se, it's just that they're usually not very well written or conceived. Maybe my opinion has been influenced by the HBO series too. I mean, I enjoy looking at naked pretty girls as much as any other guy, but it gets a bit sad when there's no narrative purpose at all in showing at least a few pair of tits in every episode; when it's obviously just a marketing ploy.

LOTR certainly is a better book-series in my humbe opinion, but HBO wins the adaptation accolade.
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Old 08-31-2013, 11:55 PM   #56
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I've read the first book of SoIaF series and started on the second, but soon gave up on it, maybe for good. The series has many qualities that I enjoy, like the intrigues and the unpredictable plot. My main problem with it, and what made me finally put the book back in the shelf, is that it drags. There are just too many characters, with too many descriptions of every minute detail of their life, or rather, there are too many characters that I don't really care much about. It gets boring getting through those passages. Also, much of it strikes me as rather juvenile, like it was written by a teenage boy, such as the numerous graphic descriptions of sex and violence. I don't mind graphic descriptions of sex and violence per se, it's just that they're usually not very well written or conceived. Maybe my opinion has been influenced by the HBO series too. I mean, I enjoy looking at naked pretty girls as much as any other guy, but it gets a bit sad when there's no narrative purpose at all in showing at least a few pair of tits in every episode; when it's obviously just a marketing ploy.

LOTR certainly is a better book-series in my humbe opinion, but HBO wins the adaptation accolade.
I agree it oes tend to drag on in sometimes irrelevant story angles. I for one have skipped the Dorne arc.
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:08 PM   #57
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Why I don't think ASOIAF is a "great" story like Lord of the Rings, plus tangents

I think the deeper question here is: What are the important factors for a great artful story/novel/epic fantasy? To me, what's most important is to have a carefully crafted story that the reader can relate to (i.e. a message about the human condition or something, a unique universe can provide a backdrop to tell unique messages, as Ursula Le Guin has emphasized before). I think the fact that Martin first said there were going to be 5 books, and now there will be 7+, is testament to the fact that ASOIAF simply is not as well crafted a story, it's not tight with precise moments of tension and resolve and that sort of thing.

However, on a different aspect, I don't think great fantasy has to necessarily copy Tolkien's PG/PG-13 tone. Tolkien's tone lends itself very nicely to metaphor and archetypal characters (like Bombadil), but I don't think that's essential to great epic fantasy. People enjoy tightly crafted non-fantasy novels at all "ratings" so to speak, and the same goes for fantasy I think. So it's cool that Martin's universe is rated R. It's convincing as a universe that way. Also, I think there are characters and situations in Martin's universe that people can relate to, so that's cool. However, ASOIAF is not tightly crafted, it "drags" as others have said. And because of that, the story gets reduced to simply a series of events rather than a great story/epic fantasy, in my opinion.

To me, great epic fantasy creates a unique universe FOR THE PURPOSE of telling a story with a message. The universe isn't an end to itself. I have read ASOIAF books, and WoT books, and have enjoyed most of them very much. But I now see that my enjoyment wasn't because the stories were enriching my life with messages to take to heart. Instead, they were simply a means to relax. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, but I read ASOIAF and WoT books excessively, because the universes were more exciting with less at stake than it was to fully engage in the real world with all its disappointments and failures, etc.. It was more predictable in it's excitement and lack of dread to follow the characters than it was to fully live my "character", my life. I used to play Diablo2 for the same reason. Most TV shows I have watched in recent years have been for the same reason, although granted not as excessively as I played Diablo 2. I see most people that live on my urban street come home every day after work, and watch more episodes from a TV show, then go to bed and start all over again. Those tv shows, like ASOIAF, are not art, not a means to enrich their lives, but a means to escape it. Again, I don' think it's necessarily a terrible thing to being excited to come home and simply follow the next series of events in Don Draper's story, or Tyrion's, or whoever. I just don't want to kid myself, I don't engage those stories in order to glean messages from them. They don't enrich my life as art. I engage them to escape.

When I see people reading ASOIAF on the train commuting to work in my city, I doubt if any are reading it to enjoy a great work of high fantasy, a great story that enriches their lives with a message about the human condition or whatever. I think they are reading instead it simply relax. Not a bad thing to relax, just not a great story like LotR.

Perhaps a great and tight story cannot exceed 1,000 pages ish. Lord of the Rings is just short enough I think that the story stays very tight. But with these newer epic fantasy's like Martin's, the total story is going to be many thousands of pages long, and there's no way that can be tight. Don't get me wrong, I agree with that other person that it would be cool to learn more about the extra details, like about Fatty in the Fellowship, for example. But I also agree with that person that more on Fatty in the Fellowship story would have made it drag.

I think story premises like ASOIAF's could actually make "great" stories, if they are done in certain ways. Some of my ideas are next.

If the ideas are written as multiple 1,000ish page stories, instead of one mother story. That way, each story could be tight (a standalone story of Lord of the Rings scale), and the presence of all the stories would make up one fascinating universe (the stories could even overlap!) There could even be novellas and short stories within the universe too! And perhaps even some stories written in a "nonfiction" style, like some of the bland (I think) but cool historical stories that Tolkien tells in some of his other books. How cool would that be?!

Sadly, I don't think this exists. So back to the Lord of the Rings I go. There's just so much that rings true to me in that story about what it means to be human in this world, I can just read it over and over, a great story...
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Old 09-04-2013, 04:42 AM   #58
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I am not sure that the fact that the Martin series will be longer than projected is a stick to beat him with on its own. Tolkien himself said that his tale grew in the telling and if you look at the material briefly referred to in the appendices or worked up post publication in Unfinished tales to see that had Tolkien been a follower rather than a fore runner writing professionally for an established market with secretarial support he might have produced many many volumes of third age histoey alone. Of course you would lose the richness of the unexplored vistas though maybe new ones would have been revealed. But Tolkien was writing one novel not a series so you do get that concentration or perhaps distillation of a long process the difference perhaps between a michelin starred meal with premier cru vintage wines to a good homecooked meal.

However sometimes a writer becomes so successful that perhaps the editing process gets less robust and the work suffers. I always feel that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix could have lost a couple of hundred pages but by that stage nopne dared tell JK R that it was baggy ...maybe that is what happened with the Hobbit films too.

However I cant say which is the case here until I have read Martin.... i have been tempted but I am waiting for it to be completed ... if I like it I know the waiting will drive me nuts..
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Old 09-04-2013, 06:20 AM   #59
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And because of that, the story gets reduced to simply a series of events rather than a great story/epic fantasy, in my opinion.
(...)
To me, great epic fantasy creates a unique universe FOR THE PURPOSE of telling a story with a message. The universe isn't an end to itself. I have read ASOIAF books, and WoT books, and have enjoyed most of them very much. But I now see that my enjoyment wasn't because the stories were enriching my life with messages to take to heart. Instead, they were simply a means to relax. (...) I don't engage those stories in order to glean messages from them. They don't enrich my life as art. I engage them to escape.
Agreed, very much agreed. That's very much my impression as well. And welcome to the 'Downs, by the way!

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If the ideas are written as multiple 1,000ish page stories, instead of one mother story. That way, each story could be tight (a standalone story of Lord of the Rings scale), and the presence of all the stories would make up one fascinating universe (the stories could even overlap!) There could even be novellas and short stories within the universe too! And perhaps even some stories written in a "nonfiction" style, like some of the bland (I think) but cool historical stories that Tolkien tells in some of his other books. How cool would that be?!
In fact, I think that's actually what happens all the time. Many, and I would even dare say most, "big" fantasy authors are suffering from something which e.g. the Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski called "falling too much in love with one's world" syndrom. He said that was the reason he never wanted to draw a map for his own books, because he would then feel tempted to set more stories into the same world, and just draining it of all the originality of the stories set in it. The premise being - authors can easily fall in love with their created universes or characters and then they can't leave them, so they publish more and more novels about the world, about the main characters, about their children and grandchildren, and while it enrichens the world (and many fans would be exactly happy to learn what Aragorn's son did, what lay beyond Lake Rhun to the east, or what did the daily life of the Lossoth look like), it also mostly "imprisons" the author and shuffles the priorities: the story is not (often) based on an original plot idea, but on the idea to exactly explore a culture which was interesting but played only a minor role in the original big story arc etc.

I said many fantasy authors do that - and I am sure you can find which ones if you look at some bookshelf in a fantasy bookshop. When you see a row of books from the same author, some of which are titled "The Sixth Volume of the Epic Wizardwar Octalogy" and "The Fourth Volume of the Adventures of the Survivors of the Wizardwar Saga", you know that it is the case. I don't usually read that stuff, exactly because I don't think it's often very good. One example I am familiar with being R.E. Feist. I have read his Riftwar Saga, but then there was exactly like thousand other books about the main characters' descendants, about some Serpent Priests who are normally playing quite minor role in the story, and so on. You can learn a lot of details about the world, but often (even if the world is interesting in the first place) it loses its charm, or ridicules things you knew from before. (If the author does not want to just write first an epic story with a great plot, and then lots of subsequent stories without much plot, but referring to different cultures in the same world, but instead wants to e.g. have some new equally epic plot featuring this time not a Hobbit, but a Wood Elf as the main hero, he might easily end up devising New World War which totally diminishes the point of the original story, since now we learn that the Dark Lord defeated in the original book was in fact only one of the twenty Dark Lords who serve the Darkest Lord who has to be defeated by the new main hero. And so forth.)

Martin, I believe, avoided some of this by stuffing the "extra info" already in his original series of ASOIAF. So, instead of having three volumes of Adventures of the Stark Family in the South, and later three volumes of The Return of the Dragon Rulers, and even later the Adventures of Jon Snow, we have everything in one place, and I think that's fine. But it is still only another manifestation of the same "problem".

...

Let me also remark, in conclusion, that I am actually glad we have only Tolkien's notes and drafts regarding all the other cultures in Middle-Earth, all the minor or major historical figures like Isildur or Glorfindel, because that may very well be the optimal course. We still have something to satisfy our curiosity about the "large world", but it does not conflict with the main story, it does not try to present itself as a story on the equal level with LotR, and it leaves still a lot to our imagination within the world itself.

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However sometimes a writer becomes so successful that perhaps the editing process gets less robust and the work suffers. I always feel that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix could have lost a couple of hundred pages but by that stage nopne dared tell JK R that it was baggy
Interesting remark. In fact, my brother stopped reading Harry Potter exactly because of the Order of the Phoenix dragging too much, he said. I haven't met anyone else who would have complained in the same way, but now there's at least you (and therefore I assume more people thinking that), so I start seeing that there might be something to that idea.

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However I cant say which is the case here until I have read Martin.... i have been tempted but I am waiting for it to be completed ... if I like it I know the waiting will drive me nuts..
I can totally understand that approach. It may be very "safe". Then again, given GRRM's progress, it could mean you're going to read it in, like, ten years... But it isn't as if there weren't other books to read meanwhile.
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:26 AM   #60
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1420!

I suppose I should reread it...since I was under pressure and pass my copy on towhichever of my cousins hadn't got first dibs on their family copy. But I felt that she introduced characters and didn't really use them and then the denouement despite the many pages was rushed and unclear. I think her main concern was getting pieces in place for the culmination of the series and so it was relatively weak and least able to stand on its own merits independent of the main story arc. But with millions of people having waited years and Rowling richer than the Queen who would actually tell her to rework it? I did start rereading the series and rattled through the first four quickly but the bulk of phoenix and the negative memory put me off. Anyway more than somewhatboff topic.
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Old 09-04-2013, 11:22 AM   #61
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I'm fairly sure I read somewhere that JK Rowling herself considers The Order of the Phoenix to be too long.

Last time I re-read it (2010 I think) I thought so too.

I think I might have observed in another thread that, in contrast to modern series' like A Song of Ice and Fire, Professor Tolkien's work tends to leave the back-story to supplementary material, which is certainly where Sauron, for instance, gets much of his characterisation.

I don't think one approach is necessarily better than the other. Professor Tolkien's makes for a more focused narrative, I might argue.

I read an article recently that was compared science-fiction and fantasy to what the article-writer called "geekery", ie spec-fic writing that's more concerned about constant world-building, exploring how characters might behave in different situations within that world and generally self-indulgence of content at the expense of form and function, I suppose. It's sort of like the difference between asking "What does The Lord of the Rings argue about the human desire for permanence?" and asking "Would an Elf turn invisible if it wore one of the Nine or Seven?" "Who would win if Aragorn fought Eorl the Young?" etc.

Professor Tolkien didn't mind a bit of the latter himself I think, his letters and other writings are full of speculation on how things might have gone in Middle-earth as if it was a real, living place (as it more or less was to him) "What if Gandalf with the Ring fought Sauron without it?" "What would have happened if the War of the Ring was more like World War Two?" But he wisely kept those things speculative and didn't make them part of the plot. When they do appear, they serve to embellish the sense of realism without dominating the narrative.

I'm not saying that George RR Martin does these things, mind you, what I read of his work was certainly above that. I do believe, however, that it's one of the ways in which the logorrhea of authors can manifest.

The films are rife with this sort of thing incidentally, in deleted scenes and elsewhere. "What if Aragorn fought Sauron at the Black Gate?" "What if Thorin fought Azog?" "What if Radagast fought the Lord of the Nazgûl?"
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Old 09-04-2013, 11:35 AM   #62
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Old 09-06-2013, 09:54 PM   #63
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I'll start by saying I haven't yet read Dance with Dragons, but do intend to at some point...as I'm in the process of re-reading ASOIAF. Much like Legate, I find myself enjoying it more on the re-read. Not that I actually didn't like it when I first read it, but just being able to focus more and seeing the bigger picture helps immensely with all the characters and winding crisscrossing stories. (more on this in a bit)

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Yes, Catelyn was as stupid as a bucket of dead fish...
This makes me wonder if Rickon's chapters (assuming he's still alive...somewhere?) will solely consist of "My mother is a fish" statements?

But seriously, I agree about Cat (and I put Lysa here as well). All the petty squabbles that plague the houses of Westeros I can tie back to the Tully sisters. Either with Cat's stupendously wrong assumptions or Lysa just being flat out crazy

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Heck, GRRM even doesn't have any ring, any Dark Lord, any hope, and any Gandalf, so what exactly is there that is a "rip-off"?
Well some might argue Melisandre is Martin's Gandalf. Some supernatural figure who serves a "Lord of Light."...prone to uncloaking and creating followers to place their hopes in her supernatural Authority entity. More to the point of the thread though...

I happen to like both stories (and their authors), and much like the Star Wars vs. Star Trek fandoms, I don't understand why someone can't reasonably enjoy both of them? It gets annoying. I mean the Tolkien fandom seems to want to say Martin is a wannabe hack, who only seeks to write gratuitous sex and violence and pass it off as a "darker/realistic" fantasy. And the Martin fandom thinks Tolkien is old and irrelevant. That somehow you need to be "gritty" and "darker" to have a good story with compelling characters. Both assumptions, I think are quite false.

My reasons for being captivated in Tolkien's world are probably the same reasons for others on the forum. The world he created, with it's histories, landscapes, races, languages and cultures are so rich and deep it's just remarkable. It is plot-driven, and even if a lot of the criticism with Tolkien "slow, descriptive parts are boring." I actually think the pacing is great for a book (trying to turn it into a movie, creates pacing problems but that's for a different discussion in a different forum).

ASOIAF is almost completely character driven. And so it's how I understand when Kit, Firefoot, or others say they don't like it because they don't care about any of the characters. It's not that Tolkien doesn't create multi-faceted characters, but on a hero/villain scale (at least when talking about LOTR) it's pretty clear. There are grayish characters, but you basically know where each one stands in the struggle of the "Free Middle-earth" against Sauron. There is no moral ambiguity. What is right is right (Gandalf - Free Will) and what is evil is evil (Sauron - seeking to dominate free will).

Good intentioned characters may stumble and make some ultimately evil decisions that lead to their falling. But in the end, you know where Boromir's morals stands...duty, honor, pride, for Gondor and his people (as well as his own pride which allowed the ring to weasel its way into his head). Much the same can be said to Denethor, only his own obsession with holding onto his seat of power led him to distrust all his friends and allies. He hated no one more than Sauron, but his own pride and despair led him to also not trust the aid of those who were needed to defeat Sauron. Gollum, the greatest thing happens, the destruction of the Ring due to Gollum's treachery. But Gollum's evil intentions in the matter doesn't suddenly make him a morally good characters because a good action resulted from bad intentions. He's a sympathetic character, no doubt. I've thought of Gollum the same was as Gandalf telling Frodo back in Bag End "It's a sad story." But again, there's nothing ambigious about Gollum's morals.

I won't beat on about all the various complex, fascinatingly ambigious ASOIAF characters. My feelings are the same as what Jaime Lannister said to Catelyn Stark about oaths. It's a simple speech about oaths, but it did marvels in developing Jaime's character, as well as serving the "wow. So completely true!" realization for me. I can only paraphrase, because unlike LOTR, I haven't read ASOIAF that many times to basically know where to find whatever quote I'm looking for...but the basic point Jaime makes is he's had to make so many oaths to his father, family, to one king, to other kings, to duty, honor...etc...what does one do when those oaths conflict? Even the great honorable Ned couldn't possibly keep all the oaths he made to this person or that person. Jaime and Cat's talk was absolutely one of my favorite parts in ASOIAF.

I enjoy all the petty politics in the series, and the constant personal struggles the characters go through to establish their power or cement it. Because I think, the Houses are so consumed in their own petty power struggles, they aren't realizing how useless and fruitless their victories of (if they've achieved anything at all). They're unable to see the largest threat isn't this king or that king, but a horde of cold zombies and zombie-bears to the North and Dany with her dragons freeing everyone across the sea.

I was watching the HBO series in conjunction with reading the books and I think that was a big reason that led to my appreciation of Martin's books. Because the TV series plays well to the strengths of the book (nearly flawless casting that captures all the complex and fascinating characters..which definitely drive the books) while also downplaying the flaws of the books. (Many of which I think have rightfully been talked about here. I'll just add if it wasn't for the TV-series and the actresses playing Sansa and Dany delivering much better and more likeable performances for their characters, I probably would not have gotten through Game of Thrones...and thus wouldn't have gotten through the entire series. The constant "stallion who mounts the word/moon of my life" was mind numbingly annoying. The TV series went away from much of that and the actresses playing Sansa and Dany did well. Once getting through Thrones both Sansa and Dany endure some pretty serious stuff that ultimately changes their characters, I think for the better...or at least for making them better characters in the story).

So, watching the series and the near perfect casting choices, while also reading the books and finding out more about all these "power" players, I think led me to appreciate ASOIAF more because I was captivated by all the characters, and their petty power struggles now. I'll sort of go with what Nog was saying when pointing out some of the characters like Stannis or Tywin.

I think Tolkien often got criticized for all of his characters being "black and white" "good or evil." In some ways I see where those characters were coming from...I mean if you're an orc, you're evil and you're stuck as being evil. There's no getting around they were created as cannon fodder to fill the armies of dark lords. Now I would argue that this isn't an entirely fair criticism because there are countless examples where Tolkien's "heroes" aren't being very good heroes at all...and his villains can strike up sympathy with a reader.

In a similar way, I think Martin gets criticized for "oh the only reason his characters seem more realistic is because they're all so vile, disgusting, and have no qualms about slaughtering 100 babies if it cements more power for them. I can see the truth to the argument with Martin, but it's also not an entirely fair criticism. I need to stop at some point, but I'll just use Tywin as an example...He is the despicable patriarch of probably the most sordid family imaginable, but his dominating presense straight up demands respect from everyone else in the room. He's a pragmatist and the most successful (and arguably the best) Hand to the King of Westeros for decades. (Alright...I also sort of found a new bro-love for Charles Dance...Tywin's scenes with Arya in Season 3 were cinematic gold. And that's stuff that didn't even happen in the books. ...)
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Old 03-08-2014, 11:12 PM   #64
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As someone said on Tolkien's forum you're not going to get "yes," and I agree with him/her. I haven't read the books, but I myself Cannot see GOT books better than LotR. Tolkien was a perfectionist and his experience in life also affected his work greatly. I can't say much right now, but I do not think Song of Ice and Fire is better than our LotR.
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Old 03-14-2014, 06:18 PM   #65
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They (LotR and ASOFAI) are good stories. They are invented histories. They have fascinating characters, plots, and places that you get caught up in and have strong reactions to. They are epic in scope. They are both well written, and . . . this is where it just starts to diverge. ALL of LotR is well written--even brilliantly and "geniusly" (gosh, he might really take me to task for making up that word, or, he may like it--?? ;o)). ASOIAF is well written in parts, but you can easily detect a formula--especially if you burn through the books as I did last summer. Introduce a character, set a situation, sex/degradation, butchery/bloodshed, introduce/revisit a character, set a situation, sex/degradation, etc. Martin piques the prurient; Tolkien piques the soul. Martin gets carried away and overwrites ("overwroughts"?) certain scenes--especially the sex scenes; Tolkien--well he just doesn't do those things.

ASOIAF is a bodice-ripper, epic and captivating, yes. But compared to LotR, Silmarillion, Hobbit, etc., they are romance novels. I would never go to Martin with life & death questions or for inspiration. I would not re-read them every 2-3 years.

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Old 03-20-2014, 09:41 AM   #66
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No it is significantly inferior in terms of character development, realism, world building and even pacing.

ASOIAF is good entertainment, but lacks the realism, the depth and philosophy behind Tolkien's world. The characters in Tolkien's world are very real. In ASOIAF you constantly have suspend you sense of belief and ignore the cheap tactics the author uses to make you like a character.
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Old 06-25-2014, 09:12 AM   #67
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Professor Tolkien didn't mind a bit of the latter himself I think, his letters and other writings are full of speculation on how things might have gone in Middle-earth as if it was a real, living place (as it more or less was to him) "What if Gandalf with the Ring fought Sauron without it?" "What would have happened if the War of the Ring was more like World War Two?" But he wisely kept those things speculative and didn't make them part of the plot. When they do appear, they serve to embellish the sense of realism without dominating the narrative.

I'm not saying that George RR Martin does these things, mind you, what I read of his work was certainly above that. I do believe, however, that it's one of the ways in which the logorrhea of authors can manifest.

The films are rife with this sort of thing incidentally, in deleted scenes and elsewhere. "What if Aragorn fought Sauron at the Black Gate?" "What if Thorin fought Azog?" "What if Radagast fought the Lord of the Nazgûl?"
This is now apt in hindsight because the TV show has now delved into the territory of "What if Brienne fought the Hound" although that is not necessarily Martin's fault.

I was re-reading this thread and I wish to re-state (or maybe elaborate on) something I said in post 41 regarding my enjoyment of Westeros but lack of desire to re-read the books themselves. Martin is good at coming up with interesting plots and events, but while he is good at creating intriguing plots to write about, to my tastes his prose is inelegant and vaguely unpleasant to read. I just find it more enjoyable to read about the stories than to read the stories themselves.

Earlier in the thread, Legate made a reference to Andrzej Sapkowski. I have over the past year started reading The Witcher series after playing the video games and enjoying them immensely. Even though I thought the games were some of the best I have ever played, I was reluctant to start reading the books because I had a fear that they wouldn't be good. I was happily mistaken about this and The Witcher stories have become some of my all time favorites.

This is relevant to this particular discussion because Martin is often praised for the gritty realism of his works. I think Sapkowski does a far better job at gritty realism than Martin even though The Witcher world is steeped in fantastical elements to a far greater extent than even Middle earth. In my opinion, Sapkowski possesses an ability to put texture in his writing that Martin lacks.

This is not to say I don't have some issues with Sapkowski's writing. He writes some very odd things sometimes, some things ring hollow to me, and I think overall sometimes Martin is better at conceiving intriguing plotlines. That being said, I still believe Sapkowski is superior at realism and world building...and the world building aspect is interesting since he made a point not to get too drawn up in his world and torched the franchise and ran. It may also explain why he has a bit of a rocky relationship with the video game series.
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Old 06-25-2014, 06:38 PM   #68
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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.
It's a disservice not to Tolkien, but to Americans*. It's a disservice not to Americans, but to fantasy. It's a disservice not to fantasy, but to metaphors.

/snark

But it's got enough truth to it, I can't call it a severe disservice.

*Not to mention Le Guin specifically.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:21 AM   #69
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I don't know how deep I want to get muddled in this discussion. A Song of Ice and Fire is not better than The Lord of the Rings, it is probably worse if you need an honest answer. George R.R. Martin doesn't have Tolkien's gift of language or pacing. (Even though to be honest Tolkien's pacing isn't the best I've read either!) Still, George R.R. Martin is arguably the best and most notable writer of the fantasy genre today. (Who else can even be nominated? There are lots of good authors out there, but none that are similar milestones and game changers for the genre.) The scope of Martin's creation is probably the only one I can think of that comes even close to Tolkien. (And I don't want to start bickering about details. Martin's languages have no history. Tolkien's people have no religion. Now don't tell me that one of them is a shallow world builder because they are not concentrating on all the possible aspects of their worlds.)

I probably don't need to tell anyone on this site that I'm a huge Tolkien fan and I've actually started to admire George R.R. Martin's work more and more in the recent years. The amount of emotional, moral and plot layers in his work is just amazing. I have my criticism against him too (as I probably would have against Tolkien too if I hadn't been indoctrinated into tolkienism since I was a toddler ), but I'm annoyed whenever people bash either of the authors, especially people who haven't read their books. You can't say A Song of Ice and Fire lacks depth if you only read the first book or if you only watch the series. I can also warmly recommend this (spoilery) interview, both to fans who want to know more about the man behind the books and to people who think George R.R. Martin is superficial or stupid or that his books are centered around mindless splatter and sex.

*refuses to start an essay about how Martin's books are anti-war and anti-revenge and how they thematically mirror Tolkien's work more than most people realize*
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:41 AM   #70
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Martin's languages have no history. Tolkien's people have no religion.
Languages must, by logical necessity, have a history; people need not have a religion. Moreover, one might wonder about what role religion, as we know it, would play in a world in which godly or angelic beings are manifest. However, there are at least suggestions of quasi-religious attitudes toward Eru and the Valar in many places (the most notable probably being the worship of Eru in Numenor), and there is also the suggestion of cults and Melkor-worship.

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Still, George R.R. Martin is arguably the best and most notable writer of the fantasy genre today. (Who else can even be nominated?)
In terms of popularity, I would say that Robert Jordan comes close, though I suppose his death disqualifies him from the 'today' part. Philip Pullman could also be nominated. Terry Pratchett has a pretty large and devoted fan-base. And though it's her only major work, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is fairly monumental. But, ignoring the 'best' part, I suppose I'd have to concede that Martin is the most notable fantasy writer today. A large part of his notability, it should be noted, is due to the TV series, though.

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*refuses to start an essay about how Martin's books are anti-war and anti-revenge and how they thematically mirror Tolkien's work more than most people realize*
Now there I agree with you. The fact that something is portrayed doesn't mean it's being praised. But I feel like even some of Martin's fans fail to realize that, much like those who completely missed the point of A Clockwork Orange or Fight Club.
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Old 06-26-2014, 04:12 PM   #71
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Will post what I have said before. ASOIAF is a fun read, but far too unrealistic and focused far too much on the soap opera life than the key things of the story.

Since it is fantasy the magic is not the problem. Rather the super human childen, the super human small person, the unrealistic distances, all characters being too flawed, the incredible plot devices guys like Littlefinger need to succeed.

It's a good book and enjoyable, but you have to constantly suspend your sense of belief chapter after chapter.

Flawed characters are okay, but when Ned and Davos look like saints compared to the rest then there is a problem. The show has actually had to whitewash so many characters to make people care about them.
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Old 06-26-2014, 07:16 PM   #72
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The show has actually had to whitewash so many characters to make people care about them.
Which has caused great outcry among the book purists. The hand wringing and gnashing of teeth about the whitewashing of Tyrion and Daenerys has to be seen to be believed.

It is almost as if some lout had invented a silly battle in Erebor between Smaug and the dwarves and then put that in a movie version of The Hobbit.
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Old 08-21-2014, 01:39 PM   #73
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I love both, but for different reasons, Tolkien has a lot of leaving things to the imagination stuff which is intriguing and mysterious, such as who is Bombadil, what exactly are Pukul men, what kind of flowers are growing round Minas Morgul, what are the Watchers, where are the Entwives. I have a million questions in my mind when I read Tolkien because some things remain unexplained, some things dwell in your mind forever, wheras I find Martins world more 'knowable' theres less mystery and ambiguity between the cracks. Martins world although fantasy is based on human greeds and lusts, its full of mud and blood, whereas Tolkien is more cerebral and spiritual and Faerie. If i went to Westeros I could end up dead on a stick, but if I went to middle Earth I could end up losing my mind with the sheer joy of being there, its far more perilous to wander into Lothlorien than Kings landing.
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Old 08-21-2014, 03:24 PM   #74
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...its full of mud and blood, ...
This is possibly the best and most concice description of ASOIAF I have ever seen.
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Old 08-22-2014, 04:33 AM   #75
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Is a Song of Ice and Fire better than Lord of the Rings?
Only if you like envisioning dystopia.

After both reading all of the books and watching the show up-to-date, I think I'm done with ASoIaF.
  • Everyone you like gets slaughtered or broken
  • Everyone you don't like gets slaughtered or broken
  • Everyone in Westeros is miserable. Without exception. There isn't one happy person in the entire world.
  • Westeros is as depressing as Oceania in 1984. It's even worse than Ohio.

I'm going to go read Cormac McCarthy's The Road to cheer up now.
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Old 08-22-2014, 06:08 AM   #76
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  • Westeros is as depressing as Oceania in 1984. It's even worse than Ohio.

I'm going to go read Cormac McCarthy's The Road to cheer up now.
My problem with A Song of Ice and Fire or something like The Wheel of Time is that any message they have is drowned in words. Using human misery as a theme is entirely valid, in my view, but compare A Song of Ice and Fire to something like Nineteen Eighty-Four or The Road. One volume, maybe one hundred thousand words or less? And they each make a devastatingly effective point. You don't need six-to-ten one-thousand-page paperbacks to do that. Even The Lord of the Rings, in three volumes as it is, can be considered one work of about a thousand pages, not unlike say Ulysses in terms of size.

Credible literature doesn't need multi-volume epics. I think one of the reasons Fantasy struggles to break into the space of such credibility is for the very reason of its enormity. People praise Martin for being 'the new Tolkien' or something to that effect but in my opinion he's substantially complicit in the culture which is holding that kind of Fantasy back.
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Old 08-22-2014, 07:34 AM   #77
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Only if you like envisioning dystopia.

After both reading all of the books and watching the show up-to-date, I think I'm done with ASoIaF.
  • Everyone you like gets slaughtered or broken
  • Everyone you don't like gets slaughtered or broken
  • Everyone in Westeros is miserable. Without exception. There isn't one happy person in the entire world.
  • Westeros is as depressing as Oceania in 1984. It's even worse than Ohio.

I'm going to go read Cormac McCarthy's The Road to cheer up now.
Seen like that it could be depressing, but I find the tv series strangely uplifting and some scenes soar. (Dany as Mhyssa springs to mind) I think its a realistic depiction of medieval shenannigans, (apart from Dragons obviously ) it was a brutal age and I look at it as I would the history of the Borgias or the Medici families etc. Its rich and ripe and not to everyones taste.

I also appreciate the way he writes female characters, he gives them agency whether they are little girls or old ladies, not just cliche feisty kick *** babes as in many tv shows. (I am looking at you Moffat).

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Old 08-22-2014, 10:49 AM   #78
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Couldn’t get into the series, myself. Not exactly that it’s bad– I can tell you there’s much worse out there– it just seems like such typical, and to my way of thinking, tedious, “doorstop” fantasy that I really can’t see what all the fuss is about.

So for me the question is, not why would people like ASOIAF/GOT, or even why might some of them– gasp!– like it better “The Lord of the Rings”. People like things for all kinds of reasons. What puzzles me is why, out of dozens of extremely similar works to come out in the last two or three decades, *this* one has caught fire to the extent of being seen as profound, wildly original etc. (And no, that’s not just due to the TV series.) In fact I may as well come out with it now that I think it basically shows how low the bar has been set for popular fantasy. And again, I grant this is one of the better things of its kind, but in my opinion its kind just isn’t all that good.

Yep. Hateful elitist highbrow intellectual meanie snob-type, at your service. Sue me.

However, as for whether calling Martin, “The American Tolkien” is a compliment, a belittlement, or an act of sacrilege– that’s beside the point. Look at the cover of just about anything that remotely qualifies as epic fantasy, and guess who the author gets compared to? It’s just a standard thing.
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Old 08-22-2014, 02:32 PM   #79
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I wouldnt compare Martin to Tolkien, Tolkien is above and beyond anyone no matter how brilliant. Martin always says he is inspired by Tolkien, but he doesnt pretend to be better, thats impossible imho. He is good at what he does, good solid world building with some very fresh and interesting characters, in particular female characters. he has a knack of making them attractive even if wildly flawed. People have tuned in to this nuanced character led storytelling and its popularity has grown as a result. Its a very long time since I felt so excited by a tv show, maybe it was the XFiles, or Lost, but GOT stands head and shoulders above most dreary tv these days. Its got all the ingredients people like, its good old fashioned entertainment.
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Old 08-22-2014, 03:33 PM   #80
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What puzzles me is why, out of dozens of extremely similar works to come out in the last two or three decades, *this* one has caught fire to the extent of being seen as profound, wildly original etc.
I think this is a point that is worthy of discussion. I have wondered this myself and haven't found a wholly satisfactory answer.

First, I think part of it is that Martin began ASOIAF at the right time. When A Game of Thrones was published in 1996 what else was going on in fantasy? The Wheel of Time was in full swing at that point, but I can't recall much else of note that was coming out at the time.

Second, Martin certainly is a skilled writer. He is a compelling character writer, an adequate world builder, and is gifted when it comes to getting drama out of his prose (well, at least he used to be). I think Martin became a big deal because he hooked people on his characters and then upped the ante because he killed a number of primary characters. In a way this not only adds to the danger but to the intrigue of the story because the reader wants to know who lives to see the end of the story. While he has many imitators in this regard now, he was one of the first to do this on such a scale. Martin, in fact, credits Tolkien to some extend for pioneering this trail with the death of Boromir.

Digression:
Has Martin been too often to the well with this technique for it to continue to be effective? There is no doubt that the case could be made that he has. There is definitely a progressive diminishing return the more often an author does this. There are two reasons why this is so. The first is, once the reader figures out the style, they know that bad things will happen and there is little point in getting invested in a character because they will die or have other awful things happen. The second reason is, once you kill off all the first generation of characters in the story the author has to rely on second generation characters to carry things on and the reader is almost certain to lose interest to some degree. I think you can see both processes at play in ASOIAF.

However, I should also point out that in spite of appearances and adulation to the contrary, a significant amount of time has passed since Martin has killed off a character of significant reader interest for good. He doesn't really do it as often as people think he does. But he has been making noises lately (this past week in fact) that the killings will resume in the next book and I have no reason to doubt him...which just goes to show that I've figured out the trick and it will not surprise me again going forward (although in my personal case it didn't surprise me the first time because I already knew it would happen).

Aside point of digression:
For the main portion of Martin's fanbase the diminishing returns of character killing doesn't matter because they are already invested enough to see things through to the end.

Back to the main point:
Third, the long gaps in between books I think have, in a way, helped make them into a bigger deal. The gaps have become so long and so publicized that for the outside world the publication of the next book in the series is so rare as to be a noteworthy event. For the fandom obsessing over when the next book will come out is a handy way to keep the fires burning and whip oneself into a frenzy whenever one feels like it.

Fourth, related to the third point, Martin is still alive and producing. Jordan passed away and now The Wheel of Time was finished by Sanderson. Martin is still making ASOIAF which by default adds a level of interest.

Fifth, the TV show. There is no way around the fact that the TV show helped.

I'm curious to see if anyone else has opinions on this issue.
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