Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

This post won't have live links yet--I will fix it later. I have taken the plunge and started Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, since the latest installment has been nominated for a Hugo. Kind of odd, I thought the Hugo was more for hard SF, but no matter. There are a few thousand reviews of A Game of Thrones out there, so it is hard to know what I will add. The first installment, at least, is pretty much a fantasy retelling of medieval England/Europe, in the time of the War of the Roses or perhaps the Hundred Years' War. The cast of characters is set out--the honorable Starks, the cunning Lannisters, the blundering Baratheons, the deposed but looming Targaryens, and their supporters. There is a supernatural presence beyond the Wall (think Hadrian's), but it does not drive the story yet. In this place the seasons are long and unpredictable--it has been summer for ten years, but as the Starks say, "Winter is coming". The most interesting character so far, and very deliberately, is Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf second son of his House. He lives by his wits in a time when strength is more prized, and he is mostly despised. Yet all end up listening to him. This is Martin's master work, and it is oh so carefully planned. It will not break new ground, I don't think, but it will be very enjoyable. It remains to be seen whether this will transcend good soap opera, but I will read on to find out. Four stars for this one, let's hope he can finish it.

 Frozen in Time

A very common speculation in fantasy, thoroughly indulged here, is that technology progresses to a certain point, then just stops. The world of Ice and Fire has had knights in armor for at least eight thousand years. How is it that progress stops? We do not know here. Jordan's Wheel of Time proposes resets. Is it the magic? We shall see what Martin does...

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