George R R Martin - Game of Thrones book cover

There’s a special place in Kindle History for George R. R. Martin. In 2011, the author of the Game of Thrones series became only the 11th author to sell over one million ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle Store. “Groucho Marx once said, ‘I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,'” he joked when he heard the news, “but even Groucho might have made an exception for the Kindle Million Club.” And then he thanked his editor, his publisher, “and most of all, my readers.”

In fact, the print edition of A Dance with Dragons was Amazon’s fifth best-selling book for 2011. (Before it was even released it was already one of Amazon’s top 100 best-selling ebooks, just from pre-order sales.) At the end of the year, Time magazine even put Martin on their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. And this December, Martin will release yet another book based on his popular Game of Thrones series — this one titled “The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister.”

I’ve been trying to explain just how intensely fans feel about George R. R. Martin — and I came across a fascinating statistic that Barnes and Noble shared with The Wall Street Journal last summer. Most people who started reading the ebook version of A Dance with Dragons (on a Nook) actually finished the book, spending an average of 20 hours reading the 1,040-page novel. “An elaborate series like this is great on Kindle,” Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content noted when Martin crossed sold his one millionth ebook in the Kindle Store, “because you can turn the last page of book three at 10:30 at night, then buy book four, and be on its first page at 10:31!

And some of my readers seem to be doing exactly that. (One proudly told me that the first book they’d ever bought on their Kindle was Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, which is book one in the Game of Thrones series, and “Since then, I’ve bought the rest too!”) But the best testimonial I’ve seen actually came from my girlfriend, who wrote an enthusiastic explanation of just how easy it is to get hooked on George R. R. Martin’s series — especially if you own a Kindle! I wanted to publish it below, as either a book recommendation — or maybe a warning!

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Recently my cable company opened up On-Demand to show Game of Thrones to hook people so they would then pony up the money for HBO. I happened to be really sick that week and I watched two seasons of Game of Thrones in three days. Awesome! Engrossing! Fascinating characters, snappy dialog, plots thick with intrigue! Damn you, cable company, I got HOOKED!

I posted on Facebook, hoping to find someone with HBO who was also hooked so I could invite myself over to watch every week. I planned on offering my brownies as bribes (I’ll bring delicious brownies if you let me come watch…). But alas, no response. Did I cave? NO.

Because, I READ. Yes, folks, before there was the HBO series, there were books, by the same author, with the same story line and the same characters. Imagine that! I was jonesing to find out what happened to Tyrion and Arya and Dany, so I pulled out my Kindle and, just like the ads on TV, had the book in my hand in 30 seconds. Oh joy!

I started with the third book (A Storm of Swords), which picked up where the second season left off and started racing through the chapters. The third book in the series introduces a few new characters, but is set mainly in the same places as the first two seasons, so I easily picked up the narrative thread and devoured the book. Still recovering from the illness, I dragged myself home from work, crawled into bed, and went off to Westeros.

From my recent Advanced Writing Workshop (shout out to Linda Watanabe McFerrin), I admired the way each chapter is it’s own short story, with an intriguing start (“The invitation seemed innocent enough, but every time Sansa read it her tummy tightened into a knot.” “He woke to the creak of old iron hinges.”) and bang-up finish. Then you jump to another character in another corner of the universe and the first line is so intriguing you get sucked in again. Great writing, great technique. Very hard to put down.

I must say, however, that I’m glad I started with the HBO series. There are a LOT of characters and having seen actors in the roles, it made it a lot easier to keep them straight. I finished the Storm of Swords in a week (I read freakishly fast. According to the Kindle, it’s print length is 1216 pages.) No problem! Back to the Kindle store and in another 30 seconds, A Feast for Crows is available for my reading pleasure.

I jumped in eagerly, but started getting bogged down. This book introduced a lot of new characters, and by introduced, I mean described them, explained where they were from and the entire history surrounding their tiny part of the world, sometimes going back centuries. And religions! Fire (“the night is dark and full of terrors”), Water (the drowned men), the Old Gods (trees), the New Gods (The Seven), then the holy place where Arya finds herself where all gods are One. Some of my favorite characters became minor actors while these new characters took center stage. We followed Brienne, the Maid of Tarth on her ill-fated search for Sansa Stark, which was by-and-large pretty boring. George (R. R. Martin) is really, really into details in this book. Or maybe it’s just the slew of new characters. The plot stops at the 91% mark, and the remaining 9% is list upon list of characters, separated by House, with info about the houses thoughtfully provided. Still, I slogged through and followed the plot lines, hoping that more Tyrion and Arya and Dany would appear. But no, just a lot of Brienne, Jon at the Wall, Bran being carried by Hordor, and Jamie Lannister, whose golden luster is wearing off.

Wanting to find out What Happens Next, I went back to the Kindle store and got A Dance with Dragons, thinking that Dany would finally get to riding her dragons, and THEN, boy, some interesting stuff was going to pop! But alas, a lot of this book was also full of boring details, and I found myself paging quickly through most of the book without reading. A whole NEW set of characters, three slaver cities, all with people and history, a long sea voyage for Tyrion (boring despite the storms), and Dany going about the boring task of ruling, when she should be out riding dragons. I sped through the book, skimming to get the gist of the plot line, and was disappointed that nothing was resolved at the end.

A trip to Google assured me that the sixth novel in the series will be out this summer. I’m hoping that there’s a lot fewer new characters (we have enough history already), a lot fewer descriptions of traveling (boring) and a lot more plot (pretty please). George has promised two battles, one North by the Wall and one South in the slaver cities.

Even with the overload, I’m anxious to find out what happens. These are really fascination books, well written and take me to a place I’ve never been. I feel the cold at the wall. I feel dirty and cold when the characters ride through the rain.

But what I really want for Dany to take her dragons to the Wall and waste all the Others with their fire. Alas, it looks like that is going to be a good 2,500 pages away.

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To browse Amazon’s collection of George R. R. Martin ebooks,
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