A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords

Security fence of the day: A question of neighbors

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin is another example of the super-novel form that I’ve tried to name before. Although I’m still fond of novelitis, it’s too derogatory for this particular example of Novels Gone Wild. Let’s go with n-ology, or nology, to indicate that I don’t know how many volumes A Song of Ice and Fire will be in the end.

So far it goes like this: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, with A Feast for Crows expected out in hardcover any month now (and the check is in the mail). Those are just the names you need to know to find the books; they aren’t particularly meaningful divisions of the greater nology. (I didn’t realize it was called A Song of Ice and Fire until I heard someone else refer to it that way.)

For example, in the prologue to A Game of Thrones, we see some nasty cold things, definitely folks on the Ice side of the nology. They play no further role in the novel, make a guest appearance or two in A Clash of Kings, and don’t really get freezing until A Storm of Swords. Although ostensibly main characters die in every installment, they don’t do it picturesquely at the end of the book. In fact, I couldn’t tell you now where one book ended and the next began. A Song of Ice and Fire is more of a medieval soap opera (in a good way) than a typical fantasy quest-for-plot-coupons. Each chapter is named for the character whose perspective it follows. By the time the nology is 8 or 10 books long, the surviving characters will have had a whole novel of their own, in installments.

Unlike the perpetually annoying Otherland books, each chapter of A Song of Ice and Fire is relatively freestanding and cliffhanger-free. The intervening chapters aren’t spoiled by the reader’s desperate need to find out whether so-and-so survived his or her last chapter.

So how can I mean “soap opera” in a good way? The chapters are episodic, so reading the books is like watching a TV show about GRRM’s fantasy world. That’s not surprising for someone who was in TV before he started this nology. What is strange is how well it works, whether because of or despite the structure I can’t really say. The characters, action, and background are all wonderful. I usually can’t bear fantasy, but I loved this one.

Nor am I alone in my appreciation. A Song of Ice and Fire was at the very top of The Internet Top 100 SF/Fantasy List the last time it was compiled, right above Lord of the Rings. If you only read one 3,000+ word nology this year, make it A Song of Ice and Fire. You won’t be sorry you stayed up all night reading.

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