Reading, in my opinion, is a very personal activity. Sure you can form book clubs to discuss the books you read, write blogs about books and reading, write reviews of those books on social media, and share your love with family, friends, and strangers, telling them about books that they absolutely must read because you just loved it. As Edmund Wilson is quoted as saying, “No two persons ever read the same book”. So even though your book club is discussing the same book as they sip their wine, each person has taken from the book what they need or what they saw between the lines based on the experiences of their own life. And more simply, everyone likes what they like and more often than not, that cannot be changed. There are always books that somehow transcend our usual prejudices about genre and subject matter but even the most generally well-received book just cannot appeal to everyone.
Even though I gave A Game of Thrones, the first book in George R. R. Martin’s phenomenally popular A Song of Ice and Fire series just two stars on Goodreads.com, I’m not saying it isn’t good. On the contrary, I admit that is well-written and often quite captivating. But personally, I’m not a fan of political drama, which A Game of Thrones often is in the guise of a gritty fantasy. More than that, though, I found that the graphic violence and, at times, the rough language made me rather uncomfortable. (Does that sound strange coming from someone who counts Lonesome Dove among her favorite novels? [Now there’s a book that really took me by surprise when I fell in love with it]) A Game of Thrones is far more graphic and harsh than anything I’ve ever read.
It is difficult to admit that I decided long before I finished reading this first book in the series that I would not be continuing with the series. I just don’t think I could endure more of the extremely violent imagery, and pointless, political undercutting (it is too much like watching the nightly news during this election year!) for however long the series lasts. Unfortunately, Martin wrote some very intriguing endings to the storylines that left me just a little curious about what happens next. I’m ashamed to say, though, that if my curiosity gets the best of me, I’ll probably watch the TV show. That way I can fast forward through the violence or read something I enjoy more while it plays.
There was one aspect of A Game of Thrones I really enjoyed. Well, there were a few things such as the strong female characters, and the biting wit of Tyrion Lannister. But my favorite thing was how, in this word that he’s created, Martin included living creatures that we can recognize, fantastic creatures, and extinct creatures.
“Such animals as you have never seen, striped horses, great spotted things with necks as long as stilts, hairy mouse-pigs as big as cows, stinging manticores, tigers that carry their cubs in a pouch, terrible walking lizards with scythes for claws. Syrio Forel has seen these things.”
Zebras and giraffes, manticores, Tasmanian tigers, Komodo dragons?
And I mean, who other than a natural historian or a natural history enthusiast like myself even knows that an animal called an aurochs even existed? So yeah, in a way, A Game of Thrones appealed to the nerd in me.