Friday, November 06, 2009

A Brief Dispatch from the World of Fantasy Literature

George R.R. Martin, arguably the best fantasy writer working today, has written four books in the Song of Ice and Fire series, the first of which, "A Game of Thrones", is already a classic of the genre. The thing that makes these books different from other similarly oriented fantasy novels, is that backroom politics and palace intrigue are the novels' focus. In the story, motivated players from all over the kingdom conspire and scheme, backstab allies and create unlikely alliances ("some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends") all to better their odds of toppling the current king and taking the throne for themselves. The good guys are complex but unapologetically good, and the bad guys are so goddamn evil you gnash your teeth when they appear in the story and you cheer when they get the sword in the ribs, or whatever death Martin's cooked up for them. Yeah, it's that kind of book. Which is not to say it's broad or simply written. The plotting Martin does here is as elaborate as you'll find anywhere, but he carries it off and doesn't make you see the difficulty in what he's done. This becomes less true as the books go on, but the first is a classic for a reason. And the end of the book, well -- it's memorable. I strongly recommend the book.

So, now that the glorious light that was the "Lord of the Rings" movies has begun to dim in the minds of geeks everywhere, and the next Guillermo Del Toro-directed Tolkein adaptations are still a couple years away, what fantasy awesomeness will arise to fill the gap?

Enter HBO's "Game of Thrones", filming in Ireland right now (very close to where DGG's "Your Highness" is filming, incidentally.) HBO's putting a lot of cash into the pilot, and word is they're likely to pick it up for a full first season. David Benioff is co-running the show, which is encouraging -- I liked the "25th Hour" and apparently his latest novel, "City of Thieves" was reviewed very favorably, so I think the likelihood of a faithful, well-adapted show is pretty good.

But the casting is where they've already gone so clearly right. The Daily Beast published an article about the growing geek interest in the project, and put together an excellent page with all the characters accompanied by the photos of the actors portraying them. They nailed pretty much everyone. Sean Bean will play the patriarch, Eddard Stark, the reluctant noble from the northlands who's asked to travel to the capital city and serve as the king's consigliere. And then there's Peter Dinklage, who's been given the role of the crafty dwarf, Tyrion, the best character in the series. It's a pretty exciting cast and I can't wait for this to air.

Martin's been toiling away on the fifth book but, sadly, there's no light at the end of that tunnel -- he's been working on it for quite a long time, and now he's on-set in Ireland watching the filming, which probably means he's not working too hard on finishing the monstrosity he's created. I can hardly blame him. I'd rather watch great actors re-create scenes from my book than write new scenes too. Writing's hard.

Anyway, thought I'd give the uninitiated a glimpse of what geeks are going to be most excited about next.

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