HBO's Game of Thrones

As ‘Game Of Thrones’ Premiere Nears, Critics Bash George R.R. Martin’s Fantasy Series

The much-hyped, debated and speculated season five premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones is only two days away. During this final countdown, commentators seem to be expressing the same opinion: the show is fixing the ills of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series.

Up until now, as Salon pointed out, the show has followed the strongest works in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – installments one through three, otherwise known as Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings and Storm of Swords. Now, the books’ HBO translation must go to work on the remainder of the series – Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons.

And many people have worried this would be a problem in Game of Thrones fifth season, according to Salon.

“Not only have the books been coming more slowly; but in my decidedly subjective opinion, they’ve been coming worse, too.”

To be fair, readers weren’t uniformly thrilled with George Martin’s fourth and fifth installments either. Both left out fan favorite characters from the narrative and introduced strangers; the plots meandered a bit, without the thrilling action and plot twists of the first three. The Atlantic called them “spiraling (and) frequently maddening.” Alison Herman at Flavorwire agreed.

“They’re too long; there are long passages with more world-building than action; and there are others that are meant to show the maddening nature of stasis, but end up just boring the reader instead. A Song of Ice and Fire is both an incredible (show) on its own and the reason Game of Thrones exists, but it’s not without its problems.”

Commentators have declared that Game of Thrones producers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are going to fix Martin’s story and so far, many agree season five will be the show’s best. It has always been a challenging task to adapt George’s sprawling epic fantasy series; they must tweak Martin’s plot line, combine characters and join narratives.

And some argue that Game of Thrones has made the story better. What is certain is these changes have created a series that has been, and will continue to be, drastically different from George R.R. Martin’s books. (See a breakdown of some of those differences here)

Game of Thrones has responded to the mediocre quality of the later books—and its own difficulty adapting them well, in the fourth season—by throwing the books out,” wrote Salon. “What’s clear is that if the showrunners had not taken matters into their own hand, Game of Thrones would have petered out aimlessly.”

All of which is understandable, but a little unfair. Books and TV are different animals, and their fans require a different stories. George Martin’s novels are slow, detailed, with a cast so large readers’ need cheat sheets to keep up. But that’s the point: books require a time commitment, patience and embrace something inherently absent in today’s world – slow, measured appreciation.

Ultimately, Game of Thrones will take over Martin’s series and write the ending he’s already mapped out. But George recently hinted that he may take a different route, the International Business Times reported.

Martin has been working on the sixth book, Winds of Winter, for years, and has now committed himself anew to finishing possibly by next year. Also good news for those devoted to the novels over the HBO show: He may have come across a twist that could take his novels in a direction completely his own.

“I’m still weighing whether to go that direction or not. It’s a great twist. It’s easy to do things that are shocking or unexpected, but they have to grow out of characters. They have to grow out of situations. Otherwise, it’s just being shocking for being shocking.”

In another interesting twist, Martin said Game of Thrones can’t follow this new plot line – they’ve already changed the story far too much in the series to follow him down this new path.

Game of Thrones season five premieres on Sunday.