HBO’s Game of Thrones – As Good As The Book?

Game of Thrones is the title of the first book in a yet to be finished fantasy series by George R.R. Martin, entitled A Song Of Fire And IceGame Of Thrones is also a recently released game on 360 and PS3, a board game, a card game, a tabletop role playing game, a graphic novel, the subject of several iOS and Google Play apps, and an upcoming Facebook game. It’s also one of the hottest IP’s around right now, thanks largely in part to the wildly popular HBO program currently airing its second season, as well as the DVD/Blu-ray release of the Emmy and Golden Globe winning first season, available now game of thrones merchandise.

I’ll be honest. I’m a proponent of the tenet that the book is always better than the movie. Only in the cases where the book was written first, that is. If it says “The novelization based on the film” on the cover, then it’s kindling. I’m snooty that way. Even when I know that the book is better, because it’s always better, I’m still occasionally drawn to see a film adaptation. Maybe it’s because a friend, or naive critic, says something like, “every bit as good as the book.” Sometimes it’s because I’m such a fan of the source material that I have to see how they butcher it with my own eyes.

Either way, whenever I see a film based on a book I’ve read, I always have one of three reactions: 1) Pleasantly surprised (i.e. Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). 2) Decidedly indifferent (Trainspotting, Stephen King’s It,). 3) Desporrified, a made-up word combining despair and horrified (Breakfast of Champions, everything else Stephen King’s let become a movie that’s not already listed here). In every case, whether surprised, indifferent or desporrified, I still come away thinking the book is superior to the film in every way. Until Game of Thrones that is. Now my worldview has been shattered.

To HBO’s credit, the show remains very true to the source material, differing on only the very slightest of details. Much of the dialogue is straight from the novel, and in retrospect the pacing of the book is almost ideal for screenwriting. This may be due to Martin’s previous work as a television writer, most notably for the mid-80′s revival of The Twilight Zone. From the outset, the show seems to focus on Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Early on in the series, he’s tapped by his old friend Robert Baratheon, who has become King of the Seven Kingdoms, to help him rule as the king’s top advisor, the Hand. Over the course of 10 episodes we’re introduced to a myriad of nobles, charlatans, rogues and scoundrels, but at the close of season one it is apparent that the only real stars of the show are intrigue, the machinations of the court, and the things people will do while chasing power. Of course while people play their game, the shadow of a larger threat looms. Winter is coming.

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