A Dance with Dragons

This is book five of the whole Game of Thrones thing (actually, I should say “the Song of Ice and Fire” thing, for the purists). I had to keep reminding myself that this book has the same time frame as book four. The space-time continuum was hard to keep track of at times because the same stories from book four are viewed through the eyes of the other half of the characters.


A Storm of Swords

This is book three of the series. I started reading it after seeing the advertisements for the start of Season Two on HBO. They are pushing this thing pretty hard in print and on TV. I don’t have HBO so I’ve only seen an episode or so on the road and it looks pretty true to the books. Not that you care, but remember, I only started reading this because I caught an episode while traveling.

So here we are.

I was bored with this book at the half way point. It just wasn’t doing anything for me. But shortly after the half it took off like a shot and never looked back. There was a frenzy of death, bloodshed, hope, sorrow, victory, and disappointment over the course of a few chapters that caused a bout of late-night reading.

The story is complicated and there are plenty of deep characters, yet it can still be treated as a guilty pleasure. It goes both ways, sci-fi and fantasy addicts can discuss the story’s social significance and people like me can bang through it because it’s a ton of fun. I forget many of the characters and I don’t have any idea where they are geographically (in a relative sense, it’s a fictional land), but I can still follow it.

I’ve heard some say this book, number three, is the best in the series. I’ll leave that to the pundits, but I will say, the ending left me in a place that makes me think I’ll read the next book soon. These things are a thousand pages a pop so they’re not small endeavors, but that second half went quickly and left me hanging. I’ll target October for the next one.

I’m worried that my trilogy rule, which says things get shaky after number three, will hold true. The Dune “trilogy” rocked until the fourth book. I tried to stay with it, but couldn’t. W.E.B. Griffin’s Presidential Agent series made it to a solid fourth book but blew up on the fifth. I’m done with that, despite the fact that I said I’d give it a chance. I won’t.

Now this Song of Ice and Fire series (TV calls it Game of Thrones series) is already five books and Martin is shooting to make it seven. That’s big. Hopefully it ends up more like the American crime or British spy series I read which seemingly extend forever without losing momentum. Martin published the first one back in 1996 and there have been five and six years between the last two books, so I have time to read the next two before the anticipatory wait period.

Yeah, the anticipatory wait period, that’s fun stuff. It’s that time of analysis, punditry, speculation, and reflection that occurs during the run-up to potential new stuff in a series of successes. I may or may not be able to enjoy it, depending on how fast I consume the next two.


A Clash Of Kings

I’m hammering through this Game of Thrones quintuplet thing. It’s good stuff and I think I’ll stick with it, but I’ve had my fill for this year. After book one I was really anticipating this book. But my anticipation for the next book has waned a little. I kind of got stuck at times during this follow-up effort, for a couple of reasons, but I’ll stick with it for at least another book.

At about 50%, things started to turn really supernatural and it frustrated me. A primary character was killed by a ghostly intruder and a main character started having visions and believing that dreams of others may be prophecies. In fact, there were a lot of dream sequences, which got pretty laborious. I started to tune them out, actually just glossing over them.

However, I’m still excited about the story. The characters are deep and complicated and the intrigue is well-played and expansive. It spans a lot of characters and a multitude of story lines, which keeps things moving despite an often sloth-like pace brought about by the dream sequences and the constant description of every bit character in the scene. There’s so much stuff going on that I’ve often had to turn to some fan sites to catch up on things. The Kindle does a poor job of portraying maps and makes it difficult to flip back through pages for reference purposes. I actually found it easier to go to a fan website to look at maps and refresh my memory on characters.

The political intrigue is one of the coolest parts of this book. The machinations of gaining and losing power in the relatively familiar political hierarchy is thoughtfully done by Martin. It adds a lot to the drama and makes for some good family carnage, which I love.

For the little sci-fi/fantasy/horror that I read, this is going to fix me up for at least next year. It’s becoming quite the pop-culture phenomenon and will get another boost of excitement next year when season two begins airing on HBO.


A Game of Thrones

Historically, around one out of every twenty books I read are sci-fi/fantasy/horror books. Last year was kind of an anomaly because I read three (out if thirty). I read Dune, followed it up with some teen lit, and finished with a less than stellar vampire novel. I want more books like Dune. It’s such a great book, but then to finish the year with that disappointing horror/vampire thing left me empty.

I was ready to give up on the genre, actually. Then this Game of Thrones thing comes along. I mentioned a few weeks ago how I stumbled on the TV version. After seeing that, my first thought was, “I gotta read the book.” Eventually, I’ll watch the show, but that could be years down the road.

It’s a long, meandering epic set in a mystical, medieval-style world with kings and queens and wars and politics. It’s 800 pages long and this is only book one of five in the series. It’s kind of like Lord of the Rings meets Pillars of the Earth meets 48 Laws of Power. Yeah, that may be an apt description.

It’s about people, probably a dozen of them. Each chapter is titled with a person’s name and it bounces from one to the other in about equal proportions. They are all related in some way to protecting or pursuing the king of the land, who sits on an iron throne made from swords. The land is called Westeros and it’s a place where summers last decades and winters just as long. The novel is set at a time when the summer is ending and people are readying for a long, long, long winter.

Westeros is a piece of land bordered by a cross-able body of water on the east and a massive, 700 foot wall on the north. Besides internal strife among the seven families who run Westeros, there is a looming threat east of the water and north of the wall. East, across the water, there are fearsome warriors and deposed inheritors of the crown. North of the wall are mysterious, supernatural beasts. The people of Westeros acknowledge these threats, but they hate each other so much that they concentrate more on fighting each other rather than protecting themselves from outside threats.

I mention supernatural beasts, but this book is mostly devoid of much magic, mysticism, and fantasy. It, oddly enough, only speaks of these beasts in dreams and stories. It’s mostly humans fighting with words, wit, and swords. However, based on the ending, it’s clear that the next book will leave this familiar, medieval setting and incorporate supernatural creatures.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’ll have to sort through that before I buy the next book. I can’t go all-in with imaginary characters and the magic. Dune was really well done in terms of incorporating imaginary things. Can anyone suggest something comparable? Dune, for me, didn’t get bad until after the guy turned into a worm (that was maybe book four). I don’t know, it was just so out there that it didn’t work for me. But, in general, I haven’t completely bought into the fantasy genre.

Regardless, I thought it was well done. I’ll let it rest a few months before I decide if I press on.


The Lightning Thief

My niece is a big fan of Percy Jackson so I thought I’d give the first book a whirl. After all, I do like a little other-worldly type of fantasy here and there, like Dune. Plus maybe I’ll be able to relate to my niece better. I’m imagining that our conversations will blossom into deep discussions about human nature and life in general. Or not.

I think back to the books that I was drawn to most as a kid. At first, it was the Western genre that grabbed me. This was mostly due to my Grandfather, who was my main reading influence in grade school. The dude read cowboy books exclusively, so I did too. However, as a kid I also dabbled ever so briefly in mythology. I remember loving this book called Thunder of the Gods, which was a compilation of Norse Mythology (Thor, Loki, and such). I recall liking Norse mythology much more than the Greek/Roman mythology (Zeus, Hercules), which provides the backbone for The Lightning Thief.

This makes me wonder; why don’t kids just start reading non-fiction or mysteries or thrillers set in the present day? What is it about this fantastical or historical setting that hooks young readers? And why do most of us grow out if it? I mean, by the time high school rolled around I was reading standard thrillers and now I read very few sci-fi/fantasy books or period-pieces. What gives? Peer pressure? Evolution? I didn’t grow out of heavy metal. Are musical tastes that much different from literary tastes?


It could be that many grade school teachers read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to their students so kids look for the same buzz. I don’t know what grade it was, but I remember being completely enthralled by that book and couldn’t wait for teach to read more to us. But by high school I was reading Robert Ludlum and Craig Thomas. Maybe that’s it; if it happens during high school, it has much more staying power because we are so much more formative then.

I don’t know. I only have a sample size of one.

So let’s get back on track shall we? I liked The Lightning Thief and I can see how kids could get sucked into this. I know I would have. It’s an adventure story steeped in Greek/Roman mythology set in the present day. Picture Zeus and Poseidon clubbing with mortal twenty somethings and having kids all over America (kind of like NFL and NBA players do). These kids have super powers and gather with others at Half-Blood Hill (on Long Island) to learn how to use their super powers to protect the world. I’ve never read any Harry Potter, but it seems comparable.

This young fellow Percy Jackson is the main character, he’s the son of Poseidon and some down-on-her-luck Manhattanite who wants to be a writer. Percy is short for Purseus, and he faces many of the same trials and tribulations as his moniker. Fun stuff. Safe for youngsters I guess.