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Are the books as good as the HBO series?

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    Are the books as good as the HBO series?

    I realize that usually this question is presented the other way around, but I really like the HBO series without having read any of the books. I read an excerpt from one of the books on George R.R. Martin's website, and the writing seemed really wordy to me. He's very descriptive, and I've heard that he does a lot of POVs.

    I like to read books that have good world-building and very structured characters, but I know a couple of people that said that the books confused them because there are so many characters, and the series actually helped them make more sense of what they read. Now that season 2 is over, I am wondering if I shouldn't try reading the books. I just don't want it to be overly detail laden where the plot doesn't progress at a steady and sometimes swift pace. I'm hoping for a rollercoaster ride, but somehow I think I may be in for a wagon buggy ride if I start in on the books.

    Can someone please tell me the pros and cons of reading the books, and if they are as good as watching the series?

    Thank you.

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    #2
    Yes. You may find the first book (and maybe even the second) a little challenging to get through just because of how closely the show followed the source material, but it also provides so much depth and backstory as well.

    You've heard right in that he is extremely descriptive. He spends so much time on descriptions that it's a bit of a joke amongst fans that he'll go on for pages at a time describing food, but it's part of the charm of his style. It adds a very real feel to the world he's created, even if it does get a little tiresome at times.

    And "a lot of POVs" doesn't quite cover it. Every single chapter is a POV chapter, that's how he writes. It's not like other books where it's Chapter 1, 2, etc. GRRM writes his books in character chapters...you'll get a chapter from Jon's POV, then a chapter from Arya's POV, a chapter from Tyrion's POV, etc etc. Occasionally there will be some overlap, but as you know from the TV series most of the characters are split up quite early on, so while they may talk about something you just read, they weren't actually there so you're not seeing the same scene twice. (Note: I have come across one solitary exception to that, where the exact same scene is shown twice from different characters; once in book 4 and again in book 5).

    A little word of caution: books 4 and 5 go a little wonky. What GRRM had originally intended following book 3 was to jump ahead 5 years and just fill in the relevant bits of the gap by flashback. But as the manuscript got bigger and bigger, he decided that it wasn't working and instead took those flashbacks and expanded them into actual storytelling. But then the manuscript got even more massive, too big for his publisher, so he had to split it.

    But he didn't split it in the traditional 'To Be Continued' way, he split it by characters. So all of book 4 runs chronologically parallel to about the first 2/3 of book 5; characters A, B, C, D are in book 4 but not 5, while characters E, F, G, H are in book 5 but not 4.

    Once you hit that 2/3 (or so) point through book 5, however, it's into new (chronological) territory and all characters are fair game again (characters you haven't seen since book 4 start appearing again).

    The biggest problem with the split though IMO is not its wonky chronology, but in how he decided to divide the characters. Most of the worst or least interesting characters appear in book 4 with few to none of the good ones, and consequently it's a real chore to get through. But as a consequence, most of the best characters are in book 5, so it's pretty fantastic!
    Last edited by DigiFluid; July 24, 2012, 08:46 AM. Reason: grammar
    "A society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit in. Good people do things for other people. That's it, the end." -- Penelope Wilton in Ricky Gervais's After Life

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      #3
      No. They're better.
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        #4
        Thank you, DigiFluid. Since books one and two cover the series very closely, do you think that it would be okay to skip to book three, or would you say that I'd be missing too much of the detail contained in those books?

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          #5
          Originally posted by Crazedwraith View Post
          No. They're better.
          Good to know.

          P.S. I like your banner.

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            #6
            Originally posted by The Lady Blue View Post
            Thank you, DigiFluid. Since books one and two cover the series very closely, do you think that it would be okay to skip to book three, or would you say that I'd be missing too much of the detail contained in those books?
            The first book should be skippable, though I'd still gently caution against it because you'd probably miss out on backstory.

            May not be a good idea to skip the second one though. A number of changes were made for the sake of the show..without getting too specific:
            • some scenes/sequences from the book were entirely cut
            • certain characters introduced in book 2 were not introduced in season 2 and were held back for season 3, so if you start book 3 before season 3 starts, you'll be left wondering who these people are
            • certain things happened in the book to launch existing characters' new stories which didn't happen in season 2, so you'd be left wondering how/why they are where they are if you skip ahead to book 3
            • at least one character's story played out quite differently in the book than the show (suffice it to say that Robb had a LOT more to do on the show than he did in book 2)
            • Talisa from season 2 is a character original to the show; she is not a character in the books
            • many of the show's whores are not in the books at all
            • the stuff with Brienne/Jamie in the last episode of season 2 was actually in the first chapter or two of book 3
            "A society grows great when old men plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit in. Good people do things for other people. That's it, the end." -- Penelope Wilton in Ricky Gervais's After Life

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              #7
              Originally posted by DigiFluid View Post
              • certain characters introduced in book 2 were not introduced in season 2 and were held back for season 3, so if you start book 3 before season 3 starts, you'll be left wondering who these people are
              Hell, some characters introduced in the first book still haven't been introduced on the show.

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                #8
                Originally posted by The Lady Blue View Post
                Good to know.

                P.S. I like your banner.
                Ha. Ha. Thanks. Alas i didn't make it myself.

                To clarify the books, cover pretty much everything in more depth and let you in on the character's thoughts a lot more. it's also unhindered by budget so set peices are alot grander in scale if of course you can imagine them in your head well enough.

                I'd recommend against skipping the first couple of books.
                The big downside for me is well... i end up watching the show and not so much enjoying it as sitting their and mentally cataloging all the changes that have been made.

                I've only seen the first series and the best scene in it for me? Arya's first sword lesson because its the closest to book but actually expands on it very nicely with Ned watching,
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                  #9
                  I think it is always interesting to read books that have been adapted into a show/movie. The books usually offer a lot greater detail about the characters and their background. I enjoy reading about the little details that are often omitted in the show/movie due to obvious time constraints. Sometimes there are also obvious changes that occur, so it is cool to compare the two.

                  In this case, the first book is pretty much covered in season 1. The 2nd book though, as mentioned above, was adapted with several key changes into season 2, so you might want to read it to see what they are. Plus you get some additional insight on the background of some of the characters.
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                    #10
                    Having re-read the entire series several times, my advice is: read them all. Most people love the books, so it's a safe bet that you will, too. If you discover that you're among the minority who dislike the books, then just stop. No real harm done. My one caveat is to not decide until you're at least halfway through the first book. GRRM creates a complicated world with many characters, and there's a learning curve. Also, use the appendix with the family trees. Often. It's there to help you.

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                      #11
                      Originally posted by DigiFluid View Post
                      The first book should be skippable, though I'd still gently caution against it because you'd probably miss out on backstory.

                      May not be a good idea to skip the second one though. A number of changes were made for the sake of the show..without getting too specific:
                      • some scenes/sequences from the book were entirely cut
                      • certain characters introduced in book 2 were not introduced in season 2 and were held back for season 3, so if you start book 3 before season 3 starts, you'll be left wondering who these people are
                      • certain things happened in the book to launch existing characters' new stories which didn't happen in season 2, so you'd be left wondering how/why they are where they are if you skip ahead to book 3
                      • at least one character's story played out quite differently in the book than the show (suffice it to say that Robb had a LOT more to do on the show than he did in book 2)
                      • Talisa from season 2 is a character original to the show; she is not a character in the books
                      • many of the show's whores are not in the books at all
                      • the stuff with Brienne/Jamie in the last episode of season 2 was actually in the first chapter or two of book 3
                      Thank you for the detailed advice, DigiFluid. I really appreciate it. So I at least have to start with book 2. Got it.

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                        #12
                        Originally posted by crazed wraith
                        Ha. Ha. Thanks. Alas i didn't make it myself.

                        To clarify the books, cover pretty much everything in more depth and let you in on the character's thoughts a lot more. it's also unhindered by budget so set peices are alot grander in scale if of course you can imagine them in your head well enough.

                        I'd recommend against skipping the first couple of books.
                        The big downside for me is well... i end up watching the show and not so much enjoying it as sitting their and mentally cataloging all the changes that have been made.

                        I've only seen the first series and the best scene in it for me? Arya's first sword lesson because its the closest to book but actually expands on it very nicely with Ned watching,

                        Well it's still nice.

                        Okay, you and the other posters here have sold me on starting with book 1. I'll see where it goes from there. I just know I like a plot that moves along, but I'll see.

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                          #13
                          I too recommend reading the books.
                          Last summer I watched season 1, then read the books, finally finished dances wtih dragons last fall/winter.
                          You do get more backstory in the books. why does this house have this banner, where did that feud come from, etc.

                          relationships are explained in more detail

                          does GRRM ramble on? oh yeah. Dude will spend 6 paragraphs describing what everyone is wearing....and then toss a single sentence at the end of a chapter dealing with someone's fate.

                          the only hard about reading it now is knowing when to stop if you don't want to be spoiled for the upcoming season
                          Where in the World is George Hammond?


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                            #14
                            Skydiver,

                            You have GRRM confused with Robert Jordan.
                            All plot and no character makes for a dull story... All plot and no character makes for a dull story... All plot and no character makes for a dull story... All plot and no character makes for a dull story...

                            "Scott isn't out. Actually, he'll probably soon get back in, then out, then in, then out, then in, with rhythm and stamina." reddevil 4/22/2010

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                              #15
                              Yeah GRRM goes for the food descriptions. Not clothes...
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