Warning! Here Be Spoilers!
Now it would be easy to write this off as another example of the oft repeated cliché “The book is always better.” But aside from experiencing firsthand how the Ghosts of the White Mountain looked different in my mind’s eye, what I really learned was that any adaptation, be it film or television, will always fall short due to the fact it can’t compete with a reader’s imagination (one would hope anyway). And as a film and TV junkie I’ve come to the conclusion it’s better to read the book after watching the movie or the show because the book is indeed always better. The show that really got me thinking about this was none other than that zeitgeist behemoth Games of Thrones.
I first spied a copy of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones with Boromir….er I mean Lord Eddard Stark on the cover at a local Barnes and Noble.
as his inability to listen to misgivings of an experienced veteran of the Night's Watch ends up getting both men killed.
What's most intriguing about reading Games of Thrones is how each chapter focuses on one particular character and usually ends with a twist or turn, almost like short stories unto themselves. So it came as no surprise when Martin related that his experience writing for television (His largest credit being the 80's Beauty and the Beast) and learning how to write those little cliffhangers that get viewers to come back after the commercial break directly influenced how he wrote GOT. So it's also no wonder the series adapts so well to television.
Now when I read the part where Khal Drogo, like some evil Djinn, finally grants Viserys Targaryen the crown he'd wished for and the self proclaimed 'Dragon' gets more than he bargained for, I had a rare Holy Bloodriders Batman! moment as a reader. It was visceral and most all satisfying. Would it have felt like that way watching it for the first time on the show? I'll never now.
What I took away from Martin's writing was an affinity for his prose and his world-building. Both are deceptively simple on the surface and accessible. Recently I've read the first pages of a couple revered sci-fi novels that were front loaded with world building exposition and it immediately turned me off. Ironically Martin starts his saga with a line of dialogue (which I've heard someone say you're not supposed to)
"We should start back," Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. "The wildlings are dead."
Immense blocks of black basalt , each as large as crofter's cottage, lay scattered and tumbled like a child's wooden blocks, half-sunk in the boggy soil.
Their wise men were called greenseers, and carved strange faces in the weirwoods to keep watch on the woods.