J.G. Keely's Reviews > A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
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's review
Oct 20, 2016

did not like it
bookshelves: abandoned, fantasy, reviewed

There are plenty of fantasy authors who claim to be doing something different with the genre. Ironically, they often write the most predictable books of all, as evidenced by Goodkind and Paolini. Though I'm not sure why they protest so much--predictability is hardly a death sentence in genre fantasy.

The archetypal story of a hero, a villain, a profound love, and a world to be saved never seems to get old--it's a great story when it's told well. At the best, it's exciting, exotic, and builds to a fulfilling climax. At the worst, it's just a bloodless rehash. Unfortunately, the worst are more common by far.

Perhaps it was this abundance of cliche romances that drove Martin to aim for something different. Unfortunately, you can't just choose to be different, any more than you can choose to be creative. Sure, Moorcock's original concept for Elric was to be the anti-Conan, but at some point, he had to push his limits and move beyond difference for difference's sake--and he did.

In similar gesture, Martin rejects the allegorical romance of epic fantasy, which basically means tearing out the guts of the genre: the wonder, the ideals, the heroism, and with them, the moral purpose. Fine, so he took out the rollicking fun and the social message--what did he replace them with?

Like the post-Moore comics of the nineties, fantasy has already borne witness to a backlash against the upright, moral hero--and then a backlash against the grim antihero who succeeded him. Hell, if all Martin wanted was grim and gritty antiheroes in an amoral world, he didn't have to reject the staples of fantasy, he could have gone to its roots: Howard, Leiber, and Anderson.

Like many authors aiming for realism, he forgets 'truth is stranger than fiction'. The real world is full of unbelievable events, coincidences, and odd characters. When authors remove these elements in an attempt to make their world seem real, they make their fiction duller than reality; after all, unexpected details are the heart of verisimilitude. When Chekhov and Peake eschewed the easy thrill of romance, they replaced it with the odd and absurd--moments strange enough to feel true. In comparison, Martin's world is dull and gray. Instead of innovating new, radical elements, he merely removes familiar staples--and any style defined by lack is going to end up feeling thin.

Yet, despite trying inject the book with history and realism, he does not reject the melodramatic characterization of his fantasy forefathers, as evidenced by his brooding bastard antihero protagonist (with pet albino wolf). Apparently to him, 'grim realism' is 'Draco in Leather Pants'. This produces a conflicted tone: a soap opera cast lost in an existentialist film.

There's also lots of sex and misogyny, and 'wall-to-wall rape'--not that books should shy away from sex, or from any uncomfortable, unpleasant reality of life. The problem is when people who are not comfortable with their own sexuality start writing about it, which seems to plague every mainstream fantasy author. Their pen gets away from them, their own hangups start leaking into the scene, until it's not even about the characters anymore, it's just the author cybering about his favorite fetish--and if I cyber with a fat, bearded stranger, I expect to be paid for it.

I know a lot of fans probably get into it more than I do (like night elf hunters humping away in WOW), but reading Goodkind, Jordan, and Martin--it's like seeing a Playboy at your uncle's where all the pages are wrinkled. That's not to say there isn't serviceable pop fantasy sex out there--it's just written by women.

Though I didn't save any choice examples, I did come across this quote from a later book:
"... she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest . . ."

Imagine the process: Martin sits, hands hovering over the keys, trying to get inside his character's head:

"Okay, I'm a woman. How do I see and feel the world differently? My cultural role is defined by childbirth. I can be bought and sold in marriage by my own--Oh, hey! I've got tits! Man, look at those things go. *whooshing mammary sound effects* Okay, time to write."

Where are the descriptions of variously-sized dongs swinging within the confines of absurdly-detailed clothing? There are a set of manboobs (which perhaps Martin has some personal experience with) but not until book five. Even then, it's not the dude being hyperaware of his own--they're just there to gross out a dwarf. Not really a balanced depiction.

If you're familiar with the show (and its parodies on South Park and SNL) this lack of dongs may surprise you. But as Martin himself explained, when asked why there's no gay sex in his books, despite having gay characters, 'they’re not the viewpoint characters'--as if somehow, the viewpoints he chooses to depict are beyond his control. Apparently, he plots as well as your average NaNoWriMo author: sorry none of my characters chose to be gay, nothing I can do about it.

And balance really is the problem here--if you only depict the dark, gritty stuff that you're into, that's not realism, it's just a fetish. If you depict the grimness of war by having every female character threatened with rape, but the same thing never happens to a male character, despite the fact that more men get raped in the military than women, then your 'gritty realism card' definitely gets revoked.

The books are notorious for the sudden, pointless deaths, which some suggest is another sign of realism--but, of course, nothing is pointless in fiction, because everything that shows up on the page is only there because the author put it there. Sure, in real life, people suddenly die before finishing their life's work (fantasy authors do it all the time), but there's a reason we don't tend to tell stories of people who die unexpectedly in the middle of things: they are boring and pointless. They build up for a while then eventually, lead nowhere.

Novelists often write in isolation, so it's easy to forget the rule to which playwrights adhere: your story is always a fiction. Any time you treat it as if it were real, you are working against yourself. The writing that feels the most natural is never effortless, it is carefully and painstakingly constructed to seem that way.

A staple of Creative Writing 101 is to 'listen to how people really talk', which is terrible advice. A transcript of any conversation will be so full of repetition, half-thoughts, and non-specific words ('stuff', 'thing') as to be incomprehensible--especially without the cues of tone and body language. Written communication has its own rules, so making dialogue feel like speech is a trick writers play. It's the same with sudden character deaths: treat them like a history, and your plot will become choppy and hard to follow.

Not that the deaths are truly unpredictable. Like in an action film, they are a plot convenience: kill off a villain, and you don't have to wrap up his arc. You don't have to defeat him psychologically--the finality of his death is the great equalizer. You skip the hard work of demonstrating that the hero was morally right, because he's the only option left.

Likewise, in Martin's book, death ties up loose threads--namely, plot threads. Often, this is the only ending we get to his plot arcs, which makes them rather predictable: any time a character is about to build up enough influence to make things better, or more stable, he will die. Any character who poses a threat to the continuing chaos which drives the action will first be built up, and then killed off.

I found this interview to be a particularly telling example of how Martin thinks of character deaths:
"I killed (view spoiler) because everybody thinks he’s the hero ... sure, he’s going to get into trouble, but then he’ll somehow get out of it. The next predictable thing [someone] is going to rise up and avenge his [death] ... So immediately [killing (view spoiler)] became the next thing I had to do.

He's not talking about the characters' motivations, or the ideas they represent--he isn't laying out a well-structured plot--he's just building up a character then killing them to defy expectation.

But the only reason we think these characters are important in the first place is because Martin treats them that way--as central heroes, spending time and energy building them. But it all ends up being a red herring, a cheap twist, the equivalent of a horror movie jump scare. It's like mystery novels in the 70's, after all the good plots had been done, so authors added ghosts or secret twins in the last chapter--it's only surprising because the author has obliterated the story structure.

All plots are made up of arcs that grow and change, building tension and purpose. Normally, when an arc ends, the author must use all his skill to deal with themes and answer questions, providing a satisfying conclusion to a promising idea that his readers watched grow.

Or you could just kill off a character central to the conflict and bury the plot arc with him. Then you don't have to worry about closure, you can just hook your readers by focusing on the mess caused by the previous arc falling apart. Make the reader believe that things might get better, get them to believe in a character, then wave your arms in distraction, point and yell 'look at that terrible thing, over there!', and hope they become so caught up in worrying about the new problem that they forget the old one was never resolved.

Chaining false endings together creates perpetual tension that never requires solution--like in most soap operas--plus, the author never has to do the hard work of finishing what they started. If an author is lucky, they die before reaching the Final Conclusion the readership is clamoring for, and never have to meet the collective expectation which long years of deferral have built up. It's easy to idolize Kurt Cobain, because you never had to see him bald and old and crazy like David Lee Roth.

Unlucky authors live to write the Final Book, breaking the spell of unending tension that kept their readers enthralled. Since the plot isn't resolving into a tight, intertwined conclusion (in fact, it's probably spiraling out of control, with ever more characters and scenes), the author must wrap things up conveniently and suddenly, leaving fans confused and upset. Having thrown out the grand romance of fantasy, Martin cannot even end on the dazzling trick of the vaguely-spiritual transgressive Death Event on which the great majority of fantasy books rely for a handy tacked-on climax (actually, he'll probably do it anyways, with dragons--the longer the series goes on, the more it starts to resemble the cliche monomyth that Martin was praised for eschewing in the first place).

The drawback is that even if a conclusion gets stuck on at the end, the story fundamentally leads nowhere--it winds back and forth without resolving psychological or tonal arcs. But then, doesn't that sound more like real life? Martin tore out the moralistic heart and magic of fantasy, and in doing so, rejected the notion of grandly realized conclusions. Perhaps we shouldn't compare him to works of romance, but to histories.

He asks us to believe in his intrigue, his grimness, and his amoral world of war, power, and death--not the false Europe of Arthur, Robin Hood, and Orlando, but the real Europe of plagues, political struggles, religious wars, witch hunts, and roving companies of soldiery forever ravaging the countryside. Unfortunately, he doesn't compare very well to them, either. His intrigue is not as interesting as Cicero's, Machiavelli's, Enguerrand de Coucy's--or even Sallust's, who was practically writing fiction, anyways. Some might suggest it unfair to compare a piece of fiction to a true history, but these are the same histories that lent Howard, Leiber, and Moorcock their touches of verisimilitude. Martin might have taken a lesson from them and drawn inspiration from further afield: even Tolkien had his Eddas. Despite being fictionalized and dramatized, Martin's take on The War of the Roses is far duller than the original.

More than anything, this book felt like a serial melodrama: the hardships of an ensemble cast who we are meant to watch over and sympathize with, being drawn in by emotional appeals (the hope that things will 'get better' in this dark place, 'tragic' deaths), even if these appeals conflict with the supposed realism, and in the end, there is no grander story to unify the whole. This 'grittiness' is just Martin replacing the standard fantasy theme of 'glory' with one of 'hardship', and despite flipping this switch, it's still just an emotional appeal. 'Heroes always win' is just as blandly predictable as 'heroes always lose'.

It's been suggested that I didn't read enough of Martin to judge him, but if the first four hundred pages aren't good, I don't expect the next thousand will be different. If you combine the three Del Rey collections of Conan The Barbarian stories, you get 1,263 pages (including introductions, end notes, and variant scripts). If you take Martin's first two books in this series, you get 1,504 pages. Already, less than a third of the way into the series, he's written more than Howard's entire Conan output, and all I can do is ask myself: why does he need that extra length?

A few authors use it to their advantage, but for most, it's just sprawling, undifferentiated bloat. Melodrama can be a great way to mint money, as evidenced by the endless 'variations on a theme' of soap operas, pro wrestling, and superhero comics. People get into it, but it's neither revolutionary nor realistic. You also hear the same things from the fans: that it's all carefully planned, all interconnected, all going somewhere. Apparently they didn't learn their lesson from the anticlimactic fizzling out of Twin Peaks, X-Files, Lost, and Battlestar. Then again, you wouldn't keep watching if you didn't think it was going somewhere.

Some say 'at least he isn't as bad as all the drivel that gets published in genre fantasy', but saying he's better than dreck is really not very high praise. Others have intimated that I must not like fantasy at all, pointing to my low-star reviews of Martin, Wolfe, Jordan, and Goodkind, but it is precisely because I am passionate about fantasy that I fall heavily on these authors.

A lover of fine wines winces the more at a corked bottle of vinegar, a ballet enthusiast's love of dance would not leave him breathless at a high school competition--and likewise, having learned to appreciate epics, histories, knightly ballads, fairy tales, and their modern offspring in fantasy, I find Martin woefully lacking. There's plenty of grim fantasy and intrigue out there, from its roots to the dozens of fantasy authors, both old and modern, whom I list in the link at the end of this review

There seems to be a sense that Martin's work is somehow revolutionary, that it represents a 'new direction' for fantasy, but all I see is a reversion. Sure, he's different than Jordan, Goodkind, and their ilk, who simply took the pseudo-medieval high-magic world from Tolkien and the blood-and-guts heroism from Howard. Martin, on the other hand, has more closely followed Tolkien's lead than any other modern high fantasy author--and I don't just mean in terms of racism.

Tolkien wanted to make his story real--not 'realistic', using the dramatic techniques of literature--but actually real, by trying to create all the detail of a pretend world behind the story. Over the span of the first twenty years, he released The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, and other works, while in the twenty years after that, he became so obsessed with worldbuilding for its own sake that instead of writing stories, he filled his shed with a bunch of notes (which his son has been trying to make a complete book from ever since).

It's the same thing Martin's trying to do: cover a bland story with a litany of details that don't contribute meaningfully to his characters, plot, or tone. So, if Martin is good because he is different, then it stands to reason that he's not very good, because he's not that different. He may seem different if all someone has read is Tolkien and the authors who ape his style, but that's just one small corner of a very expansive genre. Anyone who thinks Tolkien is the 'father of fantasy' doesn't know enough about the genre to judge what 'originality' means.

So, if Martin neither an homage nor an original, I'm not sure what's left. In his attempt to set himself apart, he tore out the joyful heart of fantasy, but failed replace it with anything. There is no revolutionary voice here, and there is nothing in Martin's book that has not been done better by other authors.

However, there is one thing Martin has done that no other author has been able to do: kill the longrunning High Fantasy series. According to some friends of mine in publishing (and some on-the-nose remarks by Caleb Carr in an NPR interview on his own foray into fantasy), Martin's inability to deliver a book on time, combined with his strained relationship with his publisher means that literary agents are no longer accepting manuscripts for high fantasy series--even from recognized authors. Apparently, Martin is so bad at plot structure that he actually pre-emptively ruined books by other authors. Perhaps it is true what they say about silver linings . . .

Though I declined to finish this book, I'll leave you with a caution compiled from various respectable friends of mine who did continue on:

"If you need some kind of closure, avoid this series. No arcs will ever be completed, nothing will ever really change. The tagline is 'Winter is Coming'--it's not. As the series goes on, there will be more and more characters and diverging plotlines to keep track of, many of them apparently completely unrelated to each other, even as it increasingly becomes just another cliche, fascist 'chosen one' monomyth, like every other fantasy series out there. If you enjoy a grim, excessively long soap opera with lots of deaths and constant unresolved tension, pick up the series--otherwise, maybe check out the show."

My Fantasy Book Suggestions
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 1,699) (1699 new)

Nate Wrong, as usual, Keely. ;)

I've read a lot of fantasy. I found Martin's plot to be quite complicated compared to the rest of the genre. Throwing in sex and violence, as you say, doesn't make the book immature--it make it realistic. ( Violence is something most fantasy novels already have plenty of.)

What I loved about this book was that the "darker" elements are not thrown in wily-nily. This book, as a reaction to Tolkien, say, depicts a much more realistic medieval world than genre fantasy. Famine, homosexuality, incest, rape, violence, betrayal, main characters dying without rescue from deus ex machina wizards . . . It's all there. And no one in fantasy does political intrigue as well as Martin. No one even comes close.

J.G. Keely Martin's plots are certain complex when compared to genre fantasy, but that's not very high praise, since most genre fantasy takes the form of a cookie-cutter monomyth built around a power fantasy.

I didn't say adding sex and violence made the book immature, but neither does it automatically lend maturity. If it did, then furry Harry Potter fanfic would be the most mature writing there is.

Adding 'adult' material to a work without a mature worldview and philosophy behind it merely makes the immaturity of the work stand out all the more, like a penis drawn on the wall of a boys' bathroom.

It's not simply adding those elements that makes a book 'realistic', it's how the author uses them. Martin seems to be adding these elements like you said, as a 'reaction to Tolkien', Martin is trying to set himself apart as different.

His inspiration is not realism, it's a need to set himself apart. To paraphrase Quentin Crisp: originality isn't the act of scrutinizing everyone else and behaving contrarily, it's it's building and acting from some coherent philosophy.

Martin uses death and sex conspicuously, to try to convince us of how different he is from genre fantasy. Using shocking elements extraneous to the plot to capture the audience isn't some great achievement, it's the mark of porn, slasher movies, and yellow journalism.

In that sense, it's no better than trying to capture them with an escapist displays of heroism, like most genre fantasy does. It is no more complex or mature, though it is more 'dirty'.

The amusing thing about this lunge at maturity is that the underpinnings of the book are still very aligned with genre fantasy, as evidenced by the handsome bastard anti-hero (and his albino wolf). This seems a clear nod to the influence of Moorcock, the original anti-Tolkien, but Martin is less rebellious than his predecessor.

His is another epic tale of righteous fighting men, but played straight instead of taking Moorcock's satiric tack. I think it was this fundamental conflict that threw me off. The world was supposed to be 'original' and 'realistic', but the underpinnings were predictable and heroic.

I suppose this is why it appeals to a lot of genre fantasy readers, who want something different, but not too different. Martin gives a veneer of faux-realism in the same way the 1980s post-Miller comic books did: black colors, hopelessness, and lots of 'badass' anti-heroes.

But just like most of them couldn't compare to Miller (or Moore), Martin is not at the same level as Moorcock, and certainly not Peake. I'd agree there isn't much intrigue in genre fantasy, at least not that I've read, but celebrations of the morality of power have rarely been known for their subtlety.

His intrigue isn't as good as Dumas, nor Orczy, nor Moorcock's 'Gloriana' or Poe's mysteries or the economic machinations of Mieville. It also doesn't compare with non-fiction works of political history, such as 'A Distant Mirror', or 'The Affair of Poisons'. A perusal of 'The Prince' would show a complexity of politics and war that Martin's world never represents.

I'm not saying all books should have to match these historic works, there's nothing wrong with a fun adventure, but if we're discussing intrigue and realism, then we must compare the book to realistic depictions of politics, and it simply doesn't match up.

Nate Well, I can't argue with that. It's true that Martin doesn't transcend genre fantasy so much as do it better than others. He's no Peake, Moorcock, or Dumas.

I would add that the "heroes" which seem cliched at first get fleshed out later and often die unexpectedly in later volumes. But they remain fantasy heroes--characters built from cliches.

I wish he (or any fantasy writer) would "transcend" the pulp style. Dialogue followed by description in that rhythmic, but boring, pattern recognizable in most pop fiction.

Until then, though, it is what is. Just much better executed than the rest.

Simkine I've yet to read this series simply because I've stopped reading any series books that aren't finished. So it sits on my self for now.

But as for not knowing whether to read this or not based on one highly visible and inflamed post people should consider the overall votes here.

3 stars or higher - 14,753
2 stars or lower - 485

Obviously, not everyone's tastes are going to run the same but when there's that much of a spread, it's pretty safe to say the novel isn't as terrible as some people want to make it out to be.

J.G. Keely I'm sure you're right, Simkine, and if we trust in popular opinion, then we have to declare that this book is almost as good as Transformers 2 or the latest Hannah Montana single.

Nate Oh please. Comparing this to Transformers 2 is just beyond the pale. Though this may not be "literature", there are distinctions within plain ole genre fiction. As far as plotting goes, this series is great...nearly every chapter advances the plot in a nice, tangled fashion. Neither is the story ridiculous, as was Transformers 2.

To stretch the movie analogy further, not every movie is "The English Patient", but that doesn't make those that aren't "Transformers 2" or a "Hannah Montana" Movie. Consider Dark Knight, The Departed, Harry Potter (#3), very wonderful movies in their own right.

Let's give credit where it's due. GRRM didn't set out to reinvent the wheel or write the next Borderlands Trilogy. What he does, he does exceedingly well and much better than most (all?) please go peruse (you won't be able to finish) his competition.

J.G. Keely I think if you'll look closer, you might notice I was being facetious. I was merely extending Simkine's argument of 'popular equals good' to its logical conclusion, and asking whether it was really a good defense this book (or of anything).

I'm also not sure "his competition is unreadable" is a very strong argument either, even if I agreed with the premise. Though there are plenty of bad genre fantasy writers out there, there are those who do more to differentiate themselves than Martin did, including Moorecock, Mieville, Gaiman, Pullman, Wolfe, Leiber, Angela Carter, and Susanna Clarke.

There are also great fantasy authors who predate Martin (and Tolkien), from the Greek and Roman epics to the Matter of Britain and France, the Italian chivalric tradition, The Thousand and One Nights, and the early fantasy of Dunsany, Eddison, Morris, MacDonald, Peake, Haggard, and Kipling.

I'd hardly say fantasy is so bereft of quantity or quality that we need to champion Martin simply for not being Jordan, or vice versa.

Kyle Spears I've not read a great deal of fantasy works (Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling being pretty much it), but I do rate this series highly. I think that it does things that most pulp fiction (genre, mainstream, etc.) today competely fails at. The plotlines and political intrigue are indeed very complicated and well written. Also the characters are morally ambiguous, while they might start out as cliches, they often push the boundaries of their stock character guidelines. The grittiness and hopelessness of the series is also commendable when you consider the by the numbers drivel that is often popular. These books aren't high art for the most part, but neither are they irredeemable. The writing is often quite good, too. For these reasons I definetly believe this deserves more than one star.

J.G. Keely Kyle wrote: "The grittiness and hopelessness of the series is also commendable when you consider the by the numbers drivel that is often popular..."

It's true, if you compare it to drivel, then Martin might come out on top, but there's better fantasy to compare it to. I don't think the other books I mentioned were 'high art', though some of them are older stuff.

It could be that Martin's book has some more interesting parts that I missed, but to me, it looked like he'd just taken a power fantasy, stripped out the epic romance, and replaced it with gray morality and lots of death.

There's nothing wrong with death, ambiguous morality, and intrigue in a story, but it didn't seem like Martin was building on a divergent philosophy or tradition, but was just trying to be different and more 'realistic'.

I think he made the mistake a lot of authors make when they try to strip out the fantastical: he didn't replace it with anything. Truth is stranger than fiction, and so the best realist writers, like Chekhov or Peake, make their characters just as unusual as real people.

Genre Fantasy tends to have very archetypal characters: heroes, villains, antiheroes, mentors, princesses. When you strip those out and make morally ambiguous faux-historical characters, you have to back them up with a strong psychology, otherwise they become archetypes with the guts ripped out, which doesn't leave much left of their character.

Maybe Martin does get better in his subversion of fantasy, but he took too long to do it, and without a strong hook, I gave up on him. He didn't compare favorably to the high adventure of genre fantasy, nor to the dirty intrigue of historical accounts like Machiavelli's, Sallust's, or Cicero's.

Just my thoughts. Thanks for your comment.

message 10: by Kyle (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyle Spears Just a side note(likely irrelevant but still interesting): the characters in the series as well as the warring families are closely based on the historical War of the Roses.

Hazel Thank you, Keeley. So many people rave about this series that I've been vaguely considering it for ages. But I've always hesitated, and your review makes me less likely to take the plunge.

Maybe next time I'm laid up with the flu or something.

J.G. Keely Fight the power, Hazel: just say no to lengthy genre fantasy. You know how addictive that stuff is? Then there's the damage to cognitive function, which I clearly speak of first hand.

Hazel :-)

message 14: by Matt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt Lehman Your comments are reminiscent of someone commenting on how terrible a basketball game is after watching only the first quarter.

Most of your criticisms are negated after reading further into the series. The first book, as long and detailed as it is, is only setting the stage for the later installments - something that you can't really appreciate until you get into those books.

Other reviews make a point of saying how the second book is better than the first and the third is even better than the second - something very rare in any epic series.

J.G. Keely Good play in the third isn't going to stop the coach from getting on your ass about giving fouls away and taking bad shots in the first; you'll be running wind sprints and doing relay drills when the next practice comes around.

Sure, the later books might be awesome, and maybe someday I'll take a look at them, but that doesn't make this book any better. I hope they do get better--it would be a sad author who didn't learn anything from writing his first book.

I understand that it can be difficult to set up a world in a fist book, but just because something is difficult doesn't mean it can't be done well. I've seen world-building done well, and without sacrificing plot movement or relying heavily on cliche, and I would have enjoyed Martin's series-starter more if it had been able to overcome those difficulties.

message 16: by Dr M (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dr M @Matt: While I do disagree with some of Keely's assessments where this book is concerned, I think he has a solid point here. One of the big problems that A Game of Thrones has is that it is, for all intents and purposes, an 800-page introduction. Sure, a long multi-volume story is allowed to take its time setting things up, but spending the equivalent of two or three full-length novels doing set-up is simply much too long, no matter what you make of it in the end. Of course, brilliant later books* might make the effort worthwhile, but it does not make the first door stopper less tedious.

*Footnote: The second book is just as tedious as the first, but for different reasons, and the fourth, while containing the strongest and best written scene of the entire series, is the weakest link of all. While I did mostly enjoy reading the books, I'm not sure the quality/length ratio makes it entirely worth the effort.

J.G. Keely I often feel the most destructive part of Tolkien's legacy is that he made this sort of absurd length acceptable in fantasy. Before him, a fantasy or fairy tale novel would be roughly the length of a regular novel.

I don't blame Tolkien for this, because Tolkien was not writing a fantasy novel, he was writing a re-envisioned epic poem. He had a reason for his length, the length resulted from the style he had adopted and from the bredth and depth of information he wanted to convey. Even when he is dull, he is dull with purpose.

The problem with a lot of modern fantasy authors is that they feel entitled to length, but have no real purpose for that length. In the end, it often just feels like a failure of editing.

Whenever I read Leiber, Dunsany, or Howard, I have to ask why other fantasy authors feel the need to turn hundred-page stories into thousand-page books.

message 18: by Dr M (new) - rated it 2 stars

Dr M In partial defence of Martin, and maybe some other fantasy authors as well, it can be argued that their stories are long for the same reason that television series (soap operas, if you want to be vulgar) have a total length of several full-length films: the point is to follow characters closely.

Indeed, by the same token that one may argue that Tolkien wasn't writing a fantasy novel, but an epic poem, one may reasonably argue that Martin also isn't so much writing a fantasy as a soap opera in a fantasy setting, and should maybe be judged as such.

Now whether Martin does a good job of it or not is a different question, of course. As is whether or not you like the literary equivalent of soap opera in the first place, for that matter.

Have you read any of Guy Gavriel Kay's historical fantasies (e.g. A Song for Arbonne)? It would be interesting to hear what you think of those.

J.G. Keely I've never read them, no, though I'll keep an eye out from now on.

I do understand the desire to really follow characters and their psychological progressions, expanding the timeframe and fattening the book, like Jane Austen or Mervyn Peake did, and that kind of character development can run the gamut from soap opera melodrama to complex psychological progression, I've just found the latter to be sadly rare in huge genre fantasy entries like this.

Then again, a melodrama can be a lot of fun, if the character sketches are unusual and the action well-paced, but that's also rare in the serious, epic tone of many fantasy books. Which is funny, since the original ancient and medieval epics had no shortage of strange, humorous characters.

message 20: by Matt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt Lehman Keely wrote: "I often feel the most destructive part of Tolkien's legacy is that he made this sort of absurd length acceptable in fantasy. Before him, a fantasy or fairy tale novel would be roughly the length of..."

Actually, I was thinking about Tolkien in comparison to this. I had a much more difficult time getting through portions of the Lord of the Ring's than this series. The LOTR's has greater highs but it also has deeper lows. This series - thus far - doesn't have those extremes, which of course, is good and bad. I don't have a problem with any book being lengthy as long as it maintains interest and is entertaining, which I think the Game of Thrones has done.

My issue with your review is that this work can be judged as a stand alone piece as well as the first book in a series and I think in your review those lines are blurred and tangled.

J.G. Keely I agree that LOTR has more highs and lows, but I'd argue that's because they have greater depth. Dr. M's comparison of Martin to a Soap Opera seems apt on this point, between the overall similarity in tone and the repetitive narrative structure.

I had also found Tolkien slow and difficult upon the first reading, but after I became familiar with Beowulf, the Eddas, the Nibelungleid, Sir Gawain, and the Matter of Britain, I started to recognize just what Tolkien was getting at, and so I developed a respect for the slower parts of LOTR that I had lacked before.

Tolkien's book is more difficult, because it's less familiar. Martin is relying more on modern tropes and story modes, even if he has a basis in history, his book is not historical in its tone or depth, while Tolkien's is.

As a stand-alone work, the book is long, repetitive, not particularly revolutionary despite its grit and historical basis, and not particularly mature despite its portrayals of death and sex. As the beginning of a series, I'd say it's problematic because a dull, lengthy set-up doesn't make for a lively, engrossing introduction to a world.

If it takes 800+ pages of introduction to start your story, then you aren't a very good writer. There are influential authors whose entire output is shorter than this book, and yet, does Martin really achieve anything with that extra space?

I've seen authors drop into the middle of a story without having to set everything up, and many of them had worlds much more complex than Martin's. Tolkien had loads of appendices and linguistic notes for his world, and yet you didn't have to read them first (or at all) to enjoy the world he made or the story he set there.

message 22: by Rick (new)

Rick In breaking from the discourse I must say, being new to GoodReads, this is far and away one of the better reviews I have read. Well done. The scope, insight, and referential nature of your review captures your sentiment, which seems up for debate, but delivers it in a way that delivers a summary judgment on the novel.

That doesn't sound like much, as I reread that sentence. But in thinking of most reviews I can clearly see how most are given to personal statements of taste and at best visceral reactions. Those qualities are rarely, if ever, good enough to convey true meaning of worth to a reader. They are instead mired in egotistical self-portraits of "Me" in whatever moment I just found wonderful or terrible.

That kind of pretension I found lacking here entirely. There was a great deal of work paid here to expound upon the nature of the book in part and in whole and I thoroughly appreciated it.

J.G. Keely Thank you for your kind words. It is certainly nice to be understood and appreciated. It is usually my intent to express something more than my simple opinion or emotional reaction. I find myself interested in what the author has been trying to achieve, and in looking at how he succeeded or failed to meet his aims.

I try to write my reviews such that they won't spoil the book, meaning I don't summarize the plot or the characters' plights, which leaves me talking about the ideas the book deals with and the ways the author expresses them. To me, the treatment of ideas says more than a mere summation of events ever could.

I was reading Drawing on the Rights Side of the Brain the other day, and was struck with the author's comment that most people stop drawing before their teens and allow that growth to be arrested for the rest of their lives. I feel there's often a similar case with reading, where people are interested only in whether or not they liked a book. I'm more interested in why I liked or disliked it.

A lot of people say that we are all 'entitled to our own opinions', but I tend to think that if you can't explain your opinion, then expressing it is an act of naive arrogance; an act I strive to avoid in my reviews, and I hope that it improves them.

I hope you enjoy exploring this site, it can be a good resource for any reader, and don't hesitate to drop me a line if there's anything you'd like to discuss.

message 24: by Simeon (last edited Mar 01, 2011 03:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Simeon Keely wrote: “There are plenty of fantasy authors who claim to be doing something different with the genre. Ironically, they often write the most predictable books of all, as evidenced by Goodkind and Paolini.”

You’ve misused the word “ironically,” which must posit a shift in reality away from meaning or expectation; something you’ll find quite impossible without modifying the subject of your first sentence, and then providing quotations from both Goodkind and Paolini, two authors who owe all their success to the generic nature of their stories. That would be ironic. But you haven’t done these things, and it’s not. Oh, and, hey, the author of A Game of Thrones is George R. R. Martin. This fact makes your first paragraph irrelevant, and a fallacy called a Red Herring.

“The archetypal story of the hero, the villain, the great love, and a world to be saved never seems to get old, and there's nothing wrong with this story when it's told well. At the best, it's exciting, exotic, and builds to a fulfilling climax. At the worst, it's just a cliché copy of the old masters, and the worst are more common by far.”

Ok, cool, creating a little hierarchy of possible outcomes given a story containing heroes, villains, a great love (or two, hopefully), and a world in need of saving, which I hope is pretty much every novel, if we limit “a world” to that portion of the universe relevant to the narrator.

Might I point out however that “at the best” is a constipated phrase. Most people say, “at best.” Also, “the worst are more common” is oxymoronic, since “the worst” describes a degree of badness that is unsurpassable. “The worst” can modify only one item from any given set, and it therefore cannot be a common trait. We cannot all be the dumbest, or the tallest, although someone out there surely is both of those things, statistically speaking not at the same time.

“No doubt, this wealth of predictable, cliche romances are what drove Martin to aim for something 'different'. Unfortunately, being different isn't something you can choose, you have to come by it naturally.”

Wow, is that really what inspired him? The cliché romances that you have not mentioned yet mysteriously refer to out of thin air inspired the greatest fantasy writer of all time? Damn.

“Martin rejected the moralistic romance of the genre, and tried instead to create a realistic world.”

What Keely is trying to say here in broken English is that most epic fantasy novels have a clearly delineated, moral dichotomy of good and evil, etc. His use of the word “romance” is misleading; he’s probably applying it in the anachronistic classical sense.

message 25: by J.G. Keely (last edited Sep 05, 2010 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

J.G. Keely Hmm, that's a lot of vitriol. A lot of ad hominem, too. You might want to try leaving that out next time, it usually makes you look desperate and too personally attached to make a good critique. The naive might be impressed by its vehemence, but to most people, it's merely a sign that you feel wounded and are lashing out.

Normally, I'd do a point-by-point response, but I really don't think it would do any good this time. You're not trying to open up a dialogue with me, you're trying to ridicule me and shut me down, which is doubtless why you break down into name-calling.

You also refer to Martin as "the greatest fantasy writer of all time", so I don't think we're going to find any common ground here (not that you seem to desire to, but it is the central focus of progressive discourse).

You do make a few good points, mostly about specificity, though so far, you're the only one who has had problems with the shorthand, referential nature of the review; and you seem mostly capable of explicating my references, anyway, despite then painting them as opaque.

Maybe you should write your own review of Martin, you clearly have a lot of passion and some intelligence to back it up, and by recording your thoughts, you might be able to present arguments for Martin instead of merely attacking people who don't properly appreciate him.

Unfortunately, I'm not feeling cowed. You're insults have missed their mark, despite the errant shotgun approach. This isn't my first time to the rodeo, and I was impressed by neither your length nor your anger.

Next time you decide it would be fruitful to comment on a review, leave your indignation at home: it's not a flattering color on you.

message 26: by Simeon (last edited Feb 28, 2011 11:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Simeon Keely wrote: “Hmm, that's a lot of vitriol. A lot of ad hominem, too. The naive might be impressed by its vehemence” etc.

Look Keely, is this is about the dozen or so times I called you stupid? I’m asking because your defense after almost every review, particularly ones in which you spend a page or two haranguing an author ad hominem ad nauseum, is that you yourself have fallen victim to ad hominem.

Hypocrisy is a hard pill to swallow. But yes, Keely, I’m glad you brought up my calling you stupid.

Now I’ll tell you why it’s alright: because you are stupid, Keely. And calling you stupid is like calling Dikembe Mutombo tall. Dikembe Mutombo is very tall. In fact I believe he’s one of the tallest people in the world. Do you think he’d be offended if I mentioned that to him? Certainly not as offended as you seem to be at your own crowning characteristic.

“Normally, I'd do a point-by-point response, but I really don't think it would do any good this time. You're not trying to open up a dialogue with me, you're trying to ridicule me and shut me down, which is doubtless why break you down into name-calling.”

No, Keely, I don’t think that you’d normally do a point-by-point response. After reading several dozen of your past responses, I can summarize what you would normally do: you'd commit a string of logical fallacies in an attempt to address approximately none of the points in any given discussion.

You’re right, I’m not opening a dialogue with you. Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to wrestle a pig, and you know what Bernard Shaw says about that: "never wrestle a pig: you'll get muddy and the pig will enjoy it."

“You also refer to Martin as "the greatest fantasy writer of all time", so I don't think we're going to find any common ground here (not that you seem to desire to, but it is the central focus of progressive discourse).”


I'd mention the hundreds of professional reviews from critics, but the fact that the series has 95% 4 and 5 star reviews speaks for itself.

“you're the only one who has had problems with the shorthand, referential nature of the review;”

Your review doesn’t have a “referential nature.” In fact, you have no references or sources whatsoever. Dropping some author’s name in a wildly inappropriate context is not a reference. It’s a moment in which you need a reference. Making shit up is bad form.

“and you seem mostly capable of explicating my references, anyway, despite then painting them as opaque.”

I’m “explicating” your references and painting them as opaque? You have no references, and I'm not sure how I'd go about "explicating" a reference even if you did.

“Unfortunately, I'm not feeling cowed. You're insults have missed their mark, despite the errant shotgun approach. This isn't my first time to the rodeo, and I was impressed by neither your length nor your anger.”

Except I wasn’t angry, this isn’t a rodeo, and “you’re” is a contraction, while “your” is the possessive pronoun you’re looking for.

“Next time you decide it would be fruitful for you to comment on a review, leave your indignation at home: it's not a flattering color on you.”

Oh it was fruitful, and continues to produce bounty.

My comments are like a gift that keeps on giving.

message 27: by Judy (new)

Judy Jeez, Keely, don't provoke this person any further. S/he seems unstable and obviously has a lot of time on her/his hands. The Little Prince avatar is there to throw people off, methinks.

"If I were a psychologist I could read some crazy things into this."

Yeah, like a personality disorder.

Simeon Jude wrote: "methinks."


J.G. Keely Thanks for the warning, Judy, I see the instability and lashing out here, and I was hoping to cut through it by drawing YIK's attention to it, but no dice. There might be a discussion somewhere in the muck here, so let's see if anything can be salvaged.

You’ve misused the word “ironically,”

You explicate yourself what the irony is, which is likely why no one else has had a problem with it. If you don't get the reference to Paolini or Goodkind's claims about their work, there's always Google, or you could check out my reviews of their books, where I go into detail.

This fact makes your first paragraph irrelevant, and a fallacy called a Red Herring.

I'm prefacing my discussion of the lack of originality in modern fantasy: one of the major themes of the review.

The cliché romances that you have not mentioned yet

Paolini and Goodkind are implied, but anyone familiar with fantasy knows of the piles of other romantic epics. And yes, I'm using 'romantic' in a literary sense, which you didn't miss, so I don't know why you assume others will.

The sheer scope and magnitude of George R. R. Martin’s work is unparalleled.

Well, I haven't seen critical analyses on how the phases of the moon work in Martin, nor how his language develops on numerous levels of syntax and meaning, nor how his vegetation and rock-forms change accurately according to the terrain covered, nor how he alludes to numerous other mythic works, so I'd argue that depth is on Tolkien's side here, though I'd like to see other views.

A few book series come close. The Wheel of Time: 12 massive volumes by Robert Jordan.

Depth and length are different types of measurement. You mention the complexity of the whole series, but I only read this book, and so my review is for this book, not for a possible whole.

Moving on: heroism.

Yes, heroism, courage, and fear are themes in Martin's work. When I said he had stripped out the heroism, I meant the ideal of heroism, which is why I grouped it with other fantastical elements and then specified it as part of the 'moral purpose' of the work, the "clearly delineated, moral dichotomy of good and evil, etc." as you put it.

What is a “social message” and would you want one?

No, not PSA's, I'm still talking about that 'moral purpose' from my previous sentence. Easy to lose track though, you did put a few paragraphs between those sentences.

What’s it like being a 27 year old virgin?

So, a guy vehemently defending a fantasy series is going to pull out the 'dorks are virgins' card? Thin ice.

I criticized you for ad hominem attacks before, but I was wrong, because ad hominem would actually have to decrease my credibility in a way that would affect this argument. This is just name-calling. Virginity has never harmed the ability to read genre fantasy.

Fantasy has seen “a backlash against the moral hero” and “the grim antihero.”

You may have noticed I didn't suggest this happened all at once. The backlash against the moral hero gives us examples of the antihero: Fafhrd and the Mouser, Drizz't, Elric, and Conan, for a proto-example. Some, like Thomas Covenant or Arturo Quire, grow so grim that you lose even the unconventional morality that makes antiheroes sympathetic.

Then you have the backlash against those characters, to try to create characters who are not loner badasses, yet not upright, moral heroes. China Mieville has done a few of these, and Susanna Clarke, and you could look at the Hobbits as another proto-example, except there is a Merrie England moralizing going on there about the middle class.

This last movement is often one reaching towards 'realism', and so isn't always a direct reaction to other authors or works. They also aren't discrete literary movements, and overlap with one another and with classically idealistic heroic characters.

I didn't want to get into this entire argument in the review, as I thought it would slow the pace with digression, but I would have added something if readers had indicated confusion.

You want George R. R. Martin to go back and read Robert E. Howard and Franz Leiber?

No, I suggested that if he wanted grim characters who had heroic adventures, there were already good precedents, tying into my eventual conclusion that he's really not that revolutionary in his approach.

Franz Leiber is at the root of fantasy the same way that cave-people are at the root of post-impressionism through their cave-paintings.

Nice argument there. I guess I can't counter-fault you for fallacy if you don't actually say anything. Also it's 'Fritz', not that I'm suggesting that minor correction lends anything to an argument.

Sentence 1: Martin’s writing is too real.
Sentence 2: Reality is stranger than fiction.
Conclusion: Martin’s writing is not real enough.

I would insert a witty remark here, but... I don’t even...

Have one? I know, you've about lost steam here.

But yes, I'm making the argument that Martin has created a world duller than reality by trying to make it sufficiently dull to seem realistic. The problem is that no writer has enough imagination to create a world as interesting as the real one, which is why most authors rely on doing things that reality can't or doesn't do.


Here we see the height of your refutations: contradiction.

1: Books should have rape and sex “even though they are uncomfortable and unpleasant.”
2: “The problem is when people who are not comfortable with their own sexuality start writing about it.”

I said 'rape and misogyny', not 'rape and sex'. I never suggested sex itself was uncomfortable, merely that many fantasy authors seem uncomfortable with it, which accounts for them being unable to write a sex scene without their own fetishism leaking in (you don't have to be a psychologist to get that joke).

as long as you don’t start writing novels we’ll be all set.

Oh man, I'm on the ropes now.

(Something about Oprah, more indications that I'm sexually inadequate)

Oh no, my literary arguments, all decimated by implications of my failing virility!

Also, about the women thing, that’s sexist and inaccurate.

It is sexist for me to suggest that women can write good sex scenes while men cannot, which makes some sense, since men and women are socialized differently when it comes to sexuality, and sexism is differentiation by sex (or gender). But it's also not entirely true: there are men who can write good sex scenes, and women who write bad ones. So it was half gender/sex theory commentary, and half joke (as any blanket statement is liable to be sarcastic).

The things you say are so retarded, I don’t even have to comment. I can just quote you to yourself and it sounds like a comeback.
Looks like you're out of arguments, though there's still a lot of writing left. Gotta love this trick though: "I'll imply that he's wrong, without saying why. Genius!"

Maybe he started getting scared of the dark, starting calling out for his pet direwolf in the middle of a sleepless night.

So, to your mind, someone writing nonfiction thinks they are literally doing what they are writing? Stephen Hawking thinks he's in a black hole? Feynman thinks he's a summation sigma? David McCullough thinks he's killing redcoats?

You + Justin Beiber could make your own tv show, where he says something dumb, and you correct him by saying something almost equally dumb.

A shattering blow. My central point is vanquished.

the total volume of intrigue generated by the authors you specifically listed combined can be manifested in the 21st century by a single precocious fifteen year old sometime between the hours of homeroom and study period, with time to spare.

I doubt your Harry Potter fanfic was that good. Oh, I'm sorry, that was a silly thing to say, and had nothing to do with this discussion.

So you're really discounting all of history that easily? It's true that IQ has changed over time, but IQ doesn't actually measure intelligence. We have idiots today, and there were idiots back then, in all social classes and occupations. I doubt many people today could measure the size of the Earth to within one percent with a couple of sticks (that's another reference, if you were confused).

Martin sure is silly to spend so much time and energy on those history books when he could just go to any fifteen-year-old for inspiration.

won countless awards

Really, awards? Can I also assume you love titanic, because it won all those awards? People always bring up how many awards their favorite book has won; but where is the politically-motivated cortege who will justify my opinions for me?

(Random insults)

Can we call that a conclusion?

In your next post, you show a few lists of top Fantasy books, which would be convincing if democracy and blogs were the great indicators of quality.

I'd mention the hundreds of reviews from professional critics… But why bother.

Because the best way to defend this book isn't to attack me? So I'm a mouthbreathing virgin who shouldn't write books and you will diagnose my sexual dysfunction, so what? What does that have to do with this book or with my critique?

Let’s look at your arguments for a moment with this article in mind:

Groundless name-calling unrelated to discussion/silly non-arguments: 17
Ad Hominem: 6
Inferring I’m opaque despite having no problem understanding me: 3
Saying nothing, but acting as if there is a clear refutation: 5
Mis-statement of original argument: 3
Appeals to popularity/awards: 2
Response to tone/grammar: 3
Contradiction: 8
Counter-Argument: 1
Refutation: 0
Refuting the Central Point: 0

So more than a third of your arguments are name calling, while less than a fifth even reach the level of a contradiction, and only one exceeds it. If you want to prove how good this book is, you’ll have to present some real arguments, either your own, or someone else’s.

What was gained by padding out your few points with a lot of unoriginal, angry filler? Perhaps you're trying to hide your lack of a central refutation. For a guy who goes on at length accusing me of fallacious argument, you sure aren’t putting on a clinic of effective discourse.

Except I wasn’t angry

So, you were being insulting for no reason? Perhaps you meant to be funny, but your insults aren't insightful, just resentful. And they aren’t funny, because they aren’t original, just the same old internet cliches we’ve seen a thousand times from forum flamers incapable of defending their ideas. Is that the level of discourse you feel Martin merits?

Some might say you’re trolling, but I don’t buy that. You care about this book, and despite putting up a wall of trollish vitriol, it’s easy to see that you're passionate about Martin. No amount of sarcastic distancing is going to hide that.

You made a comment on my review. You've chosen to engage in discussion, but can't seem to control the unpleasant tone. Maybe you're just lashing out, hoping to shut me up, but without strong arguments, you aren’t bringing enough force to bear.

I'll check out some critical reviews of the work, but if I'm going to be proven wrong, it will be by better technique than you have shown. If this book is great, it shouldn’t be this difficult to indicate why.

My comments are like a gift that keeps on giving.

Ah, trying to reestablish your ego to keep yourself above water? The only people who talk about their own awesomeness are people trying to convince themselves. Take a lesson from creative writers: if you have to tell us how smart you are, you aren’t showing it.

Thomas Keely, HOW DARE YOU not like Game Of Thrones?! I was hanging out with the Little Prince on his lonely little planet recently, and he was like, wicked mad at you for not agreeing that Martin is the BEST!

J.G. Keely I know. It's shameful. Just don't tell him that I'm not that fond of his book, either.

message 32: by Jesus (last edited Feb 28, 2011 11:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jesus Keely, you're suffering the Dunning Kruger effect , and that sucks, but there's no need to be mad about it.

Stupidity is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a glowing characteristic that, by every measure suits you. In fact, I think you might be outright retarded. Again, that's not an insult, that's a fact. To even call you contemptible can be an insult only after a debate of whether or not someone neither rational nor intelligent, nor by any other standard of intellectual virtue possessed of a single human quality beyond emotion, is in fact contemptible.

But you already know that, right?

message 33: by Di (last edited Nov 16, 2010 09:46AM) (new)

Di Jesus wrote: "Keely, you're suffering the Dunning Kruger effect , and that sucks, but there's no need to get mad about it.


J.G. Keely As a former fencer, I would suggest gaining a touch requires more effort than has been demonstrated here. There is no feint, no parry, no disengage, no riposte, and little to be said for the quality of the distance or footwork. This is all thrust, no aim.

But I must be contemptible, as Caesar often was to the Gauls, for I continually come under attack from those lacking the wherewithal to engage the fight. My rationality and intelligence sit comfortably in my general's tent, high on a hill, while mud is flung at my skirmishers.

my rhetoric still waits from the flank for any massed sign of opposition. Their horses graze as they oil their weapons against the rust of long, lamentable disuse.

The mass of my knowledge, the rank and file, has not seen hide nor hair of the enemy, and none has been forced to cower beneath the shadow of a cast spear. Their points are sheathed, unrefuted.

But doubtless there are those who will continue casting stones from the brush with all the contempt they can muster, naively imagining it amounts to more than the lowest and least effective sort of attack.

Thomas I know what you are saying, Yeahiknow3. Like you, I have gotten tons of sex thanks to my encyclopedic knowledge of A Song Of Ice and Fire. Nothing gets a girl/guy hotter than when you explain how George RR Martin has surpassed Tolkein in the field of epic fantasy. That's why people like us get laid so often. It's awesome.

J.G. Keely True enough. We ex-fencers will never know the touch of the sort of exceptional woman to whom you fantasy enthusiasts have such ready access. It must be the chiseled form gained from lifting an unending series of weighty, thousand-page novels. Sadly, I often feel exhausted after only one.

J.G. Keely Aw, my own image macro, that's actually pretty awesome. Now there's a guy who looks like he's hefted a fantasy series or two. You might want to take the watermark out next time, even if it takes a few more hours in mspaint.

Lurk more.

Simeon "of all those jealous and sullen, those midgets whose lives and careers are spent feasting on the carcasses of literary giants, who really think they can bring the giant down by hamstringing him with such pissant objections."

- Dan Simmons, on Keely

J.G. Keely "- Dan Simmons, on Keely"

I like how you were catty enough to add that, just so we'd know that you aren't suddenly digressing to your thoughts on Bloom or the late President Nixon.

So I'm a virginal pissant unicorn? Alright. How does that pertain to book reviews? Where do you present your case for the worth of this book?

I'm "feasting on the carcasses of literary giants", sure, though I've never imagined there was anything I could do to bring them down. My little web reviews aren't hurting the sales of any dead aviators.

It just feels like a joke: every critique you make pertains more to you than it does to me. You accuse me of being too naive to recognize my own lack of rhetoric and then fill a thread with generic troll macros attacking a stranger's sexuality; then you post a quote about the uselessness of 'pissant objections' as if to underline the fact that nothing you've said has been pertinent.

You're digging a bigger and bigger hole so perhaps you feel committed to the direction you've taken, independent of how unfocused and angry it is. As you've said, this isn't an argument or discussion, but then, what is it?

I can't help but feel that if you had anything insightful to say, any kind of refutation or point, you would have made it by now. Instead, we just get more of the same thing.

Sure, I could be wrong, but spamming memes, wiki links, and general quotes isn't going to show it. I'm flattered by the attention, but it might be more effective if you tried to relate these things to what's going on. Synthesis can be a powerful thing.

Then again, any time you've tried to make an argument you've opened yourself up to rebuttal, which you've proven yourself unable to overcome, so perhaps it's safest for you to keep things distant and undefined.


message 40: by Simeon (last edited Dec 02, 2010 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Simeon "So I'm a virginal pissant unicorn? Alright."

Common ground at last.

"Where do you present your case for the worth of this book?"

In my review. This one belongs to you, or did you forget?

"My little web reviews"

Let's not kid ourselves, you've never actually reviewed anything on this website. Yours are personal attacks and verbal diarrhea at various authors.

"too naive to recognize my own lack of rhetoric and then fill a thread with generic troll macros attacking a stranger's sexuality."

I didn't accuse; I mentioned the obvious; and not rhetoric - you are incapable of that - and not "naive" either, but stupid, Keely, very, very stupid. And that's not my fault. Do not blame me for it.

And really, a stranger's sexuality?

After your typically retarded sexist remark, namely, that you could not read graphic scenes written by men, you told the world enough for even the most conservative psychologist to draw conclusions.

You talked about "cybering" with GRRM, describing a sexual escapade with a "bearded, fat man," right? You called rape "uncomfortable," and you said that sex scenes were gross to read, and that "the pages felt sticky" when you were done.

So, after telling us all about your homophobic petrifaction of "sex written by men," and the comic books you own, assumptions and concern regarding your mental health were inevitable.

"You're digging a bigger and bigger hole"

You really are delusional, aren't you?

"I'm flattered by the attention"

Aw, shucks, you're welcome. Fighting stoopid is my own small contribution to the world.

"any time you've tried to make an argument"

This is, perhaps, the tenth time I am going to explain this to you, and let me be perfectly clear: we are not arguing. This is not a debate. We have never argued. We do not have opposing view points. We do not have different opinions. You and I do not disagree any more than a man can disagree with a table.

Out of kindness, I explained to you the meaning of irony. I mentioned any fallacies and hypocrisies you made. I even pointed out that you are sexist, in case you hadn't noticed. And at no time were these facts up for contention or debate.

If you want to argue about something, that's fine. I'm all for it. But pick a topic and pick a side.

J.G. Keely So in your world, homophobia means not wanting to read the adolescent heterosexual fantasies of a middle-aged man? No wonder you were having trouble with the definition of irony earlier. Your explanation of the meaning of irony wasn't kind to me, it wasn't even kind to you, since it didn't help you to comprehend its use, even after I had explained it.

But you've repeatedly shown an aversion to explanation, either as provider or receiver. You have stated many times that this is not an argument, and that we don't have opposing viewpoints, but how quickly we forget.

For about the first quarter of your original comment, it moved very much along the lines of a contradictory argument, but unfortunately, you quickly ran out of steam and adopted your current, less productive mode.

I don't mean to suggest that your argumentation is only lacking in terms of defending this book (or any of the others you're spamming), though it is. I've read your review of this book, and as it is blank, I am willing to agree that you have said almost everything that could be said in its defense.

Additionally, your argument in favor of my stupidity is lacking. Certainly you have restated your hypothesis many times, in quotes and illustrations, but you have done very little to support it. Again I must reiterate the old writers' adage: show us, don't tell us.

Call me stupid as many times as you like and it will never amount to anything greater than the first time you uttered it. Trading out 'stupid' for 'virgin' or any other epithet is equally meaningless.

That you take pride when I accept them shows only that you do not comprehend their use. Perhaps these tired old memes still sting your heart when they are leveled at you, but most of us have been on the internet long enough to find them as laughable and disingenuous as an email from an African Prince.

As to my fallacies, hypocrisies, or sexism, I responded to those allegations long ago and you failed to come up with any answer. I also pointed out a few you seemed to suffer from, which you have likewise shown yourself unable to refute, and here's another:

"at no time were these facts up for contention or debate."

As I've said before, the surety with which you condemn without explanation or apparent recognition damns you. Again I question whether you read the wiki article you have so enjoyed posting on my various reviews.

First you accuse me of being so stupid that I am unable to recognize my stupidity, then accuse me of being cognizant of that inferiority and, as a result, feeling 'wounded', when of course I couldn't so suffer were I truly as you diagnosed.

Now you present unabashedly the surest sign of the very ignorance you would condemn: inflexible self-assuredness. What more damning mark is there of a man's ignorance than the fact that he refuses to accept any possibility of his own flaws, doggedly fighting against his own comprehension of any explanations that would force a progression of thought?

You have shown on occasion some fleeting interest in discourse, but at every turn you seem to flinch away from it, then attempting to bolster your insecurity with empty insults and assurances of your own worth and skill.

It may seem a formidable wall from your side of the distant screen, but from here it seems nothing so more as a tatters. The attacks you make are unfocused. They lack any central argument or purpose except avoidance.

One of your temporary arguments might have proven useful, since there is truth to the fact that personal attacks on an author do not a critique make, but the only support you could muster was your own series of personal attacks, hypocritically undermining any point you might have made.

But I will continue to hold authors accountable for the failings of their works. If I brought a car to the mechanic and he returned it lacking an engine, I wouldn't blame the car.

Likewise I blame Martin for his one-sided, unsophisticated sexual fantasies, just as I fault his contemporaries Jordan, Goodkind, or Norman for the same. The lack of self-awareness which leads to these incidental confessions is the sign of an author who is not the master of a craft, but a slave to his compulsions.

Perhaps Martin started off writing with the intentions of a middle-aged student of history, but soon his unsophisticated inner child was transforming it into a story about a badass antihero and his albino wolf. It is that same adolescent mind that seems to infect the sexual tone of so many doorstop fantasy authors.

It is the same adolescence that affects mainstream comics, and if you like power fantasies and oversimplified misogynistic sex, genre fantasy and mainstream comics dovetail nicely. I don't care much for either. Once again, your blind willingness to condemn a genre you demonstrate no knowledge of confirms the sad totality of your bias and the unstable foundation that drives it.

There are comic authors who write good sex scenes. Scenes which develop the characters of both the men and the women, which do not rely solely on the cliche of the predatory male gaze, and which explore sex in a multifaceted way using deliberate constructions of verisimilitude to avoid the repetitive blandness of mere titillation. But perhaps in decrying the merits of bland repetition I risk losing my audience.

Many of these talented comic authors are men. Some write fantasy novels. That might mean something to someone engaged in dynamic thought.

You keep reminding me that this isn't an argument, which is good for you, since if it was an argument, you wouldn't be doing very well. I suppose that it's in your best interest to claim that it's something else--anything else.

So, continue your repetitive responses, showing never a sign of comprehension of anything that has come before, leaving your remarks indistinct and toothless (if ornery). If you were really confident and knowledgeable, your posts wouldn't come out as unfocused vitriol. The confident need never resort to such, and certainly not endlessly, unvaryingly repeated.

It's a pity that this lack of synthesis prevents reaching even the barest kind of thought progression, but it seems there is little to be done.

Sexless unicorn table, signing off

message 42: by Dishonor (new)

Dishonor Good GOSH, Keely, how could you not recognize the superlative genius of GRRM? Really! You must be a sexless unicorn table.

At any rate, thank you for a spot-on review of A Game of Thrones. You articulated everything wrong with this book. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

J.G. Keely Thanks for the kind words, Dishonor. Don't mind the unpleasant welcome, I don't think he can help it.

Just look at how he tries to hide his lack of comprehension behind the accusation that no one else has said anything. Then the attempt to misdirect us from this fault by an over-eager litany of generic insults.

But we must try to be pleasant; after all, a coherent response is an unfair expectation when the basic underpinnings have been so sorely and repeatedly misconstrued.

Simeon Keely wrote: "Don't mind the unpleasant welcome, I don't think he can help it."

YouTube-style comments have a reek of blood I can't resist.

J.G. Keely They do have a certain reek, but I'd suggest it's more redolent of an inability to resist the release of other bodily fluids.

message 46: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Jesus, this was a terrible review.

Simeon Ben wrote: "Jesus, this was a terrible review."

Keely says what people who aren't thinking are thinking.

J.G. Keely Ben wrote: "Jesus, this was a terrible review."

So, instead of upping the level of discussion with your own insight and eloquence, you felt the best response to a 'terrible review' is a pointless comment? If it was so terrible, then finding the cracks in my arguments and refuting them ought to have been child's play.

I know there are an endless string of people on the internet writing terse, angry comments, but falling to the level of their least competence by adding one more is hardly worth the comfort of their uninspired moral support.

message 49: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 15, 2010 07:25PM) (new)

While I enjoyed reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I think Keely's criticisms are valid, and well-articulated. My sticking points were a little different, and didn't interfere with my enjoyment as much. My teenage step-brothers LOVED this series, and I read this to talk to them about reading. That part of my experience was great, and the fact that this is soapy and bloody - ugh, kind of ugly word mix there, sorry. I enjoyed it as a medieval beach read, but I can understand how others wouldn't.

message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Beauty and the Beast did rule the school.

Except when then fired GRRM and the plot went stupid.

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