Watching the book
This past summer summer my husband and I finally got around to painting our living room. The only way I was going to get any painting done was to distract myself with a massive amount of television. I started episode one of Game of Thrones, cracked open a can of paint and I was hooked. Every time I left the room I paused the show so I didn’t miss a minute. Every time my husband left the room he had to deal with not knowing what happened because I was not going to pause it just so he could smoke or eat or get a bunch of paper towels to sop up the paint I spilled. Ten hours flew by, maybe a little less. Somewhere around episode 5 I started fast-forwarding through the opening credits. HBO really knows how to drag those out, but the show was great. I had to read the books.
The official name of the series is A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R. R. Martin. Book one, Game of Thrones, is 864 pages and I already knew how it ended. The second book in the series, A Feast for Crows, is 1048 pages and I needed to know what was on those pages. I asked a coworker of mine who had read the book and seen the show if I would really miss anything by skipping book one. He shrugged, indifferent to my plight, and said there would be a lot of details missing, but the show covered all the main plot points. Book two it was.
I bought used copies of the first four books in the series the next day — one of the pluses of running the used book counter at our bookstore is I get first pick of all the cool stuff — set book one aside and devoured book two. It took a week. One week of reading only one book every night. Did I mention 1048 pages? And the font is small. After finishing A Feast for Crows I dove into A Storm of Swords (book three, 1216 pages, they were getting longer), then I took a break.
A few weeks ago a different coworker of mine scolded me for skipping book one. “Kelly, you work in a bookstore! Other people can watch the TV show or the movie instead of reading the book, but not you.” It’s true, sometimes we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We get advance readers copies and read the book before it’s even published. We know when you ask for that Swedish book about the dragon you really want The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We know that 90% of the time, when you ask where the nonfiction section is you’re looking for memoirs. And we always read the book before it hits the screen.Except that always reading the book gets old. I like science fiction and fantasy — most of my favorite books come from that section of the store. But I rarely read the giant, epic series. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series will never be on my list of books to read. It averages out to over 800 pages a book, for 14 books. The man died while writing it and now someone else is finishing it off of his notes. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew George R. R. Martin’s series existed, but it wasn’t on my radar until I watched Sean Bean bring Ned Stark to life.
Is it so bad to go against my bookstore English major upbringing? Not just to read a book because I liked the movie instead of the other way around, but to skip reading the book and assume I got enough from a TV show? I mean, it was ten hours long. And I did buy book one. It’s sitting on my piano ready to be opened and enjoyed. But to be honest, I never planned on reading it. I bought it to give myself the opportunity to read it, to be more convincing when I tell other people that I will read it, but I’m not going to. While I am a huge fan of rereading books, it’s difficult to do sometimes when you know the surprise ending. Plus, that sucker is long. And there are two more books in the series that I haven’t read yet. Book four, A Feast for Crows (1048 pages) and book five, A Dance with Dragons (1016 pages) have been published and two more books are slated for publication. I doubt they’ll be novellas.
This is why I don’t read these epic sci-fi series, they drag on forever and I often forget all the details from the first books that become important in the last books. They intimidate me. By picking up the first book you are committing to the final book. A Wheel of Time was supposed to be six books long, it’s 14. A Song of Ice and Fire looks to be seven books long, but it could be more. With all of those characters in their boiled leather, wielding swords and calling each other Ser it was nice to have real faces to go with the names. The TV show brought me to the books, that can’t be a bad thing.
The way I see it, I’m not skipping one book, I’m reading six. Six great books, each hopefully made into a season on HBO’s Game of Thrones. That way I can watch the new episodes and say things like, “Actually, that’s not how it happened in the book.” I have to do something to keep up my bookstore street cred.