Why Game of Thrones is better than A Song of Ice and Fire.

Cue internet outrage…


In all seriousness, I understand why this could be a controversial subject. It’s rare for adaptions to be credited with equal significance, much less to be lauded above, their source material.

There are, of course, exceptions. ‘The Godfather’ springs to mind as the obvious example. But even then, there will always be those who insist the book was better!

The books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series are better than the HBO adaption ‘Game of Thrones’ in every aspect though, except one (maybe).

Now don’t get me wrong. I love ASOIAF. The world and the characters GRRM has created are so fully-realised, and so exquisitely described, that it’s impossible not to believe in them, and get wrapped up in the scope of the narrative.

It is, by a large margin, some of the best fiction I have read in the last few years. And I think a lot of avid readers would agree with me – I mean, it’s easy to see just how popular the books have become. Just look at the passengers on any bus/tram/train or other form of public transport and observe how many of them have their heads stuck in a copy of A Clash of Kings, or A Storm of Swords!

Personally, I’ve seen it a lot. And I’ve been one of those people too!

Something has occurred to me though, as the HBO series has continued to gain on the plot threads left hanging since the publication of A Dance with Dragons.

Where the TV show succeeds (and where it could be argued, the books – dare I say it – fail), is in the application of restraint.

Certainly, ‘Game of Thrones’ is a sprawling series with so many elements that it can be hard to keep track without prior knowledge of the setting and characters. But if this is so, then the A Song of Ice and Fire books are that to the nth degree.

While the books do a better job of immersing us and explaining what is going on, it’s most definetely a double-edged sword. All the exposition can be tiring, and the narrative explorations begin to feel a lot like indulgent tangents by the time you reach A Feast for Crows.

The great fear is, of course, that George R.R. Martin has lost control of his own plots, and the series is in danger of blowing out to Wheel of Time proportions.

GRRM has steadfastly denied this though.

Even so, it seems at this point that he may be guilty of not heeding one of the cardinal rules of writing; that is, brevity is king.

Good fiction is an exercise in brevity.

If one word will do, why use two?

This all may be an oversimplification of a more complicated issue, but watching the finale of GoT Season 4 recently, I couldn’t help appreciating how the writers of the episodes had taken the convoluted plot threads laid down by GRRM and made them more easily digestable.

I certainly don’t agree with all the decisions they’ve made (personally, I think they’ve butchered Stannis’ character arc, for one), but whereas the books can be a slog sometimes, the TV series has never felt that way to me.

And that’s why ‘Game of Thrones’ is better than A Song of Ice and Fire.

In one respect, anyway.

About ethanreilly

Ethan Reilly is an author and blogger who lives in Brisbane, Australia. Did he mention he blogs?
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3 Responses to Why Game of Thrones is better than A Song of Ice and Fire.

  1. Kim says:

    Four Lines all waiting doesn’t feel like a slog to you? Perhaps that’s just because you’ve already been spoiled to bits and pieces!

  2. Whew, bold article! But I’m not going to argue. I get where your criticism is coming from.

    I also found the books sloggy at times, but I find them much less so on re-reads, and whether GRRM intended it or not, I seem to pry new meanings or interpretations from the excess verbage. The show is pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get, which is not bad at all. It’s just different.

    • ethanreilly says:

      Exactly. There’s a lot of depth in the books, that’s a huge part of what makes them so enjoyable. The TV series is definetely different, and becoming more-so as the seasons pass – it makes for interesting viewing, and creates an element of mystery for book-readers like us.

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