Game of Thrones

March 25th, 2012

To my great shame I only just got around to watching this – if you don’t have Sky it’s actually been quite difficult to get hold of in the UK.  I myself – and I don’t recommend this for everyone – was given a boxed set as a reward for singing to a sales conference.  Long story.  Anyway, I thought it was an excellent adaptation of one of the most – perhaps becoming the most – important epic fantasies since Lord of the Rings.  I’ve spoken about the book at some length before, and you can actually read the piece I wrote for SFX about it on t’internet as well.  Stone me if it wasn’t four years ago already that I wrote that, and it still sums up my feelings pretty well.  But great books don’t necessarily make great TV, do they?

If you want to see quality science fiction on screen, you don’t have to look far.  There’s Terminator and sequels, Alien and sequels, Blade Runner, 2001, Total Recall, Robocop, there’s Star Wars and Star Trek, there’s at least two pretty excellent seasons of Battlestar Galactica and we’re scarcely scratching the surface.  I think it’s probably fair to say that fantasy – particularly of the epic/heroic type – is a little less well served by the visual media.  There’s the Lord of the Rings films, of course, and there’s … um … the original Conan the Barbarian, maybe?  Not the new one!  And not the Destroyer, God help us, not the Destroyer!  Xena?  Krull?  Hawk the Slayer?  You see what I’m saying.  I’m not entirely sure why it is that filmed fantasy, when it happens at all, tends to come out so … naff.

But Game of Thrones is not naff.  From the excellent title sequence on, the whole thing smacks of quality, thought, investment, and faith in creative freedom.  Best of all it’s stayed very, very close to the source material.  Unashamedly nasty, grimy, sexy, tough, filthy, edgy and unpredictable.   Unashamedly gritty in content and character.  It feels as if only HBO could really have put something so bold, dark, unexpected, uncommercial in a sense (though it’s clearly been successful) together.  Different people involved of course, but it’s a logical progression in a way of the approach they took to things like the Wire and the Sopranos.  It is to fantasy very much what Deadwood is to the western.

I guess if you were being really critical you could say you inevitably don’t tend to get the mighty scale that you see in, say, the Lord of the Rings films.  You don’t really get more than a couple of score of Khal Drogo’s numberless host on screen together.  No sweeping shots of crawling masses.  The tourney, a vast and elaborate affair in the book, looks a little cut down to size here.  But that doesn’t really matter much, actually, because what’s there looks very good, costume and design is excellent, effects have been used sparingly and well, and the book is really focused much more on the individuals and the interactions between them – it’s told much more in close up than wide shot.  And the much greater length of a TV treatment gives the opportunity to get a lot deeper into the characters and setting.  Great casting, script, and acting, therefore, is at the heart of the success of the adaptation.  A huge and diverse cast, obviously, and scarcely a weak link among them.  It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Sean Bean doing Eddard Stark, Peter Dinklage was predictably good as Tyrion and Charles Dance as Tywin, Emilia Clarke did very well with a tough role as Daenerys, some great turns from the kids, especially Arya, but some of the more surprising castings were the real revelations.  Jerome Flynn as Bronn,  Mark Addy as King Robert, and Iain Glen as Jorah Mormont I thought was brilliant – surely one of Britain’s most underrated actors.

What else to say?  I thought it was very, very good, and actually reminded me how good the books are.  It switched smoothly between the many different settings, brought in a huge array of characters without every becoming confusing.  It did not dumb down the material – there was plenty of the history and worldbuilding left intact – but it didn’t get dull and dumpy.  They let the nature of the people, their relationships and their pasts, seep through naturally in snatches of conversation, in looks and gestures.  There was an effortless quality to it after a couple of episodes, no doubt born of an awful lot of effort in many departments – the designers of sets, props and costume certainly had, and did, a hell of a job.  I forgot that this is a very big thing in the circles that I work.  I stopped watching it critically as a writer or a tv editor or even a fan of the book.  I just got caught up in a great piece of entertainment.

Finally, there’s a really strong, high quality filmic vision of epic fantasy to put alongside Lord of the Rings, and one that will reach an audience that would never have read the books.  The effect on Martin’s sales and profile has been profound.  Clearly he was already one of the very biggest players within epic fantasy , a New York Times no. 1 bestseller, but since the tv series came out and Dance With Dragons was released he seems to have shifted to a new level.  Right now, and this is sixteen years after the first book came out and eleven months after the TV series first showed, the NYT paperback bestseller list, which goes up to 35, still features 6 titles from Martin’s series.  How can that be, since only four have been published in paperback?  Two are in twice, in trade and mass market paperback.  It’s impossible to say whether they can keep up the quality and popularity of the series, particularly as the books broaden and more work of adaptation is required.  But you couldn’t really ask for a better start.  It’ll be interesting to see what the effect on the genre more generally will be.  More grit, anyone…?

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on March 25th, 2012.

67 comments so far

  • Theo says:

    I have to say,I agree with you on most of this. I thought the thing was truly great looking. But, as a girl, I thought the naked women:naked men ratio was a little skewed (to put it mildly), and I thought the relationship between Dany and the Khal looked awfully nonconsensual when compared with its presentation in the books. I genuinely enjoyed it, and I thought the performances were great. That just bugged me. It was certainly a lot better than the bulk of TV fantasy, though, and indeed than the bulk of fantasy movies. It definitely does compare well to LOTR, though.

  • Yuric says:

    Perhaps this is the first step on the road towards a First Law TV adaptation? *wink wink nudge nudge*

  • Thomas James says:

    How long before Mr. Abercrombie’s masterworks get adapted to film? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • Rob Neal says:

    The Game of Thrones TV show got me interested in the Martin books, after which I listened to all of the audio books. I then asked around some friends for other top draw novels in the genre which led me to your crazy world, with only Best Served Cold left to listen to.
    I hope the popularity of the Game of Thrones series does have an effect on another talented author with a skill for dark humour and a good yarn.
    Have any of your books been optioned for TV or the big screen? I’ve been trying to work out how to stage the heroes version Chivers; contacts, prosthetics or CGI for that cold metal eye? Van Gorsts internal monologues were brutally honest and funny, they could be put on the screen successfully like Peep Show.
    Throw on more grit, Rob

  • Rob Neal says:

    Dan Gorst sorry. Something sharp in my back *gark*(great noise that Stephen Pacy makes).

  • Tykh02 says:

    I too have just finished watching Game of Thrones, and watched with glee as hints of future characters were dropped, glimpses were seen, and I just shook with excitement for what the future holds!

    But I’ve heard rumblings that series 2 strays from the books with a certain character not being killed off… how will this effect the rest of the saga? I don’t know how long I have to wait before I can watch series 2. Atlantic is a very evil thing for Sky to have pulled 🙁

  • Bob says:

    Joe, I love you and your work dearly. But if you’ve got anything bad to say about Hawk the Slayer then we’ve got a problem. I suggest an honest fist fight then we can put this unpleasantness behind us. Hugs.

  • Chris Upton says:

    Still think Pan’s Labyrinth is the best fantasy on film or tv but I certainly prefer GOT to LOTR’s.
    Highlight for me was Tyrion explaining to Mord the concept of ownership/possesion.
    Everyone should have a Mord.

  • TysVdB says:

    Shame on you for only getting around to watching it now! But better late than never. 🙂 I think there’s a lot of GRRM fans out there that were very excited (and worried!) about having one of their favorite book series come to life on TV. I’m personally very happy with the way it turned out, it’s as good as TV gets ( generally lacking the resources of the giant movie productions). I have high hopes for the further seasons but I would love to see some more epic/heroic fantasy on my tv…I’m hoping that The First Law trilogy will make it’s way to the big screen someday…more grit!

  • Chris Upton says:

    I’ll hasten to add I rather enjoyed LOTR’s but was slightly put off by ‘Extreme Legolas’ and ‘Gimli the Comedy Dwarf.’
    A comic cliche that GOT did not fall into.

  • periklis says:

    > “It’ll be interesting to see what the effect on the genre more generally will be.”

    Sadly film & tv don’t learn from their mistakes. After the LOtR films I did expect a series of well made fantasies to hit the screen, but a decade later only a barrage of cheaply made “dragon” films happened (mostly from Asylum studios)…

  • wonkybowels says:

    Willow was a good fantasy film. 🙂

  • wonkybowels says:

    personally i hope abercrombie’s books never make it to TV or film. i say this out of love and respect for the world and characters he’s created with his written words.

    i love the audio books read by pacy…but even herein….Logan’s voice is not how it sounds in my head.

    and god forbid something like this happens; has anyone tried to reread LOTR lately? does gandalf sound like he used to (in your head), or does he sound like Iand McKellan now? tear.

  • kev mcveigh says:

    I too am late to the series, but enjoying it so far, despite some issues with minor cliched elements. I disagree however with your initial assertion that SF is well served on TV. Film, yes, but in drama series (comparing like for like) there is not actually much decent TV SF either. In fact I’d say that GoT is the first SF or Fantasy that even comes close to The Wire, Treme, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, and similar.

  • Anne Lyle says:

    I’m enjoying the blu-ray boxed set right now, having waited patiently since last Easter (we don’t have Sky either), and I’m enjoying it immensely. I read the book a couple of years ago, mainly because it was a set text for a writing course I was doing – I had more or less given up on epic fantasy after all the dreary derivative stuff that came out in the 80s.

    I hope the success of Came of Thrones will lead to some more good adaptations. I’d love to see Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet done to the same high quality – I’m working my way through it in between other books, and think it’s the best fantasy I’ve read in a long time, GRRM included. But then I can’t be having with all these dragons and wizards 😉

  • Elfy says:

    Hopefully the success of GoT will convince TV to do more fantasy and do it right. So, I’m with Anne there. It’s going to be very interesting to see how GoT the show unfolds and where it differs from the books in coming seasons.

  • Matt says:

    It would be interesting to see if there is a trickle down effect that makes Joe’s work more popular. A lot of folks will watch the series, then read Martin, then look for similar books. Joe’s books are a logical next choice.

    Also, the Harry Potter movies are pretty decent for fantasy. The upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman looks promising too. But yeah, it’s a short list for sure.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    My most significant criticism would have been the level of boobs and whores. Couple of scenes were more than a bit cringy from that point of view, and just didn’t seem necessary. But I guess given how sanitised a lot of traditional fantasy is you can see why they might have chosen to go the other way.

    Film & tv don’t learn from their mistakes implies the entirety of visual entertainment is one homogenous blob. Big studios and big networks tend to be very risk averse, especially these days, but HBO work on a very different model from most others which is one of the reasons I think we got such a successful adaptation here. But only a very few things will ever be adapted at all – it’s the effect on the written form I’m more interested in, really. Gritty already seems in the ascendant – will it be more so?

    On SF TV, I think the first couple of seasons of Battlestar Galactica are right up there. And there are some great episodes of star trek (next generation in particular) though also some pretty wretched ones. But not much TV lives up to the Sopranos, 6 feet under etc. There’s certainly been a lot of (relatively) serious and successful attempts at SF TV series – many star treks, several stargates, andromeda, doctor who, blakes 7 (in its era), Firefly, Babylon 5, without getting into the more supernatural present day set stuff along X-Files lines, of which there is a fair bit. How many epic fantasy TV series have even been attempted? I can’t think of any. And yet written fantasy outsells written scifi by three or four to one. Sure, there’s a big effort involved in filming anything ostensibly not set in our world, but that would surely apply to a lot of explorational scifi shows in the star trek fashion.

    On the adaptation of the First Law, at the same rate as Game of Thrones (15 years after publication) it will appear in 2021.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Tried replying before, but I think the link I put in must’ve made the internet eat it.

    Anyway, I largely agree with you. Bean and Dinklage were excellent, and Dance had something of Francis Urquhart about him (as Tywin should). Normally child actors irritate me, but they did a brilliant job casting them. Arya was great, though Sansa might be a bit overlooked because her character’s less likeable.

    I hope the season 2 DVD comes out a bit sooner. Was slightly baffled as to why the first season came out so late.

  • Iangr says:

    The only thing that makes me a bit sad is the fact that the quality of his later books has diminished.
    The first 3 were absolutely brilliant,however – especially “A Feast for Crows” was very very weak to say the least.

    Got to agree with you regarding the lack of decent epic fantasy fims/series,the only thing that comes close in resemblance might be the so-called “historical” films

  • Michael says:

    GoT remains unfinished forever on my bookshelves, about 200 pages in. Dull, devoid of character, and messy prose. I just don’t get it. There are very few instances of a dramatic interpretation being infinitely better than the original work, but this is one of them. And it works principally because of the high calibre acting.

  • Liam says:

    So far my favourite scene from the show is the one where Dance does an entire monologue while skinning that deer. Holy fuck that was badass. I had to pause and watch it again – once to admire the sheer thespian brilliance of Dance, and a second for how fucking badass Tywin Lannister is.

    As for HBO adaptation, I’d be really curious to know how well you think your works would translate, Joe. As close as GRRM gets to his characters, he doesn’t take you *right* into their heads like you do. I don’t know how well Glotka would come across if his cutting internal dialogue didn’t follow at the heels of everything he said out loud. Or worse, how Gorst would play on the screen without the eloquent monologues that never leave his head.

    I feel like the relatively small cast and set list would be an asset in adaptation, but the characters thoughts might not make the translation to spoken dialogue nearly as well.

  • Liam says:

    @Michael: 200 pages is the “hump” in GoT. After that it picks up really quickly (though it slows down again during Feast/Dance. Those two books work best when you’re powering through them with momentum gained in reading the first, and superior, three).

  • Michael says:

    @Liam – Thanks for this but someone told me the same thing about Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and I struggled, I really struggled, to get up to The Song of Susannah before calling time. Perhaps the audiobook is the way to go, has anyone listened?

  • JonathanL says:

    My biggest pet peeve with the show that isn’t related to budget or time constraints is Roz, who gains some small celebrity after meeting or being discussed by roughly half of the male cast and is part of the most uncomfortable scene in the whole series. But yes, the show is great overall, I think it’s an excellent adaptation, and I can’t wait for HBO’s next big fantasy, the adaptation of “American Gods.”

    It’s not “epic fantasy”, being more of the urban type popularized by authors such as Mr. Gaiman and China Mieville (I don’t pretend to be a source of great knowledge on the topic), but BBC’s “Neverwhere” was a good little piece of TV fantasy (and has the benefit of a book that sticks to it like glue since it was written based on the show, not the other way around).

    I wish there was more quality fantasy in TV’s history. Too much of it is syndication from the last 20 years, with little concern regarding the plot itself, but I’m hoping that Game of Thrones proves that shows like Rome and Spartacus, which bear some artificial similarities to epic fantasy, are speaking to an audience that isn’t at all different. At the end of the day, the story is what matters, and if it’s dressed up in tunics and halfhelms, well, that just sets it apart.

    I would be incredibly happy to see your universe get a TV series. Best Served Cold struck me as the most mini-series ready work of fiction I’d ever read, if anyone could stand the gut-wrenching violence, but I’d be perfectly happy to watch several seasons, especially to see a show that had leads come and go. disappear and reappear, or grow smaller or larger as the seasons progressed.

  • JonathanL says:

    @Michael – The first time I read Game of Thrones, I finished the whole thing and didn’t think much of it one way or the other. Then I read Clash of Kings, and I liked ir all right, but I didn’t love it. Then I read Storm of Swords, and my whole view on the series flipped, and instead of being mildly interested, I was hooked. When I went back and re-read the books, I understood a ton more, the backstory started to come together more coherently (and with this series, that’s the secret sauce – we’re coming into a story where the core is about 20 years in the telling already, and all of these old war stories matter), and I had come to care very deeply for these characters.

  • Graham says:

    I loved the GoT books until the last couple where the quality dipped so sharply, the tv series has reignited my interest and I can’t wait for season 2.

    It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, there are another 2 or 3 seasons of quality material for HBO to work with but after that will they have the guts to stray from the source material and do the editing and tightening of the story GRRM’s book publisher so spetacularly failed at?

    This will be the first TV adaptation where I want them to drift away the source material, feels weird.

  • Graham says:

    And I am looking forward to the Hobbit!

  • Gary says:

    Hi Joe,

    Liam makes a good point in his comment about the First Law being adapted to the screen. He touches upon the idea of Glokta’s (and others) thoughts being heard on screen.

    How would you envisage this if an adaptation was ever made? I thought the monologues of the characters in the Sin City film worked really well, with John Hartigan and Marv being especially good. Although, the Sin City characters narrate the story and neither Glokta or Jezal do that as such. Hmm, tricky one that..

  • Gordon says:


    Have you read Feast for Crows/Dance with Dragons yet? Your previous chatter about Game of Thrones said you would likely wait and read them together. Would be curious to hear your opinion, and thoughts on the overall spread/pacing of the story.

  • Phil Norris says:

    I frequent the SFX forum, and over there the title “sexposition” has been used for the (sometimes) overuse of sex and boobage just to move the plot forward (was the whole Littlefinger/Lesbian scene really needed?). I know GRRM doesn’t shy away from it in the books, but it seemed more prominent on TV (perhaps because its HBO?).

    I’ve read all the books, and am now halfway into the blu-ray (even though already seen it on TV). Its a must see show in my opinion and miles better than anything on offer elsewhere.

    @Joe – “How many epic fantasy TV series have even been attempted?” – Robin Of Sherwood had a good stab, maybe not epic fantasy in the GRRM sense, but it was fantast and pretty epic for its time.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Top call on the Robin of Sherwood, I watched the first two seasons of those again not long ago and in spite of some 80s hair they still hold up surprisingly well. Did you spot Clive Mantle as Greatjon Umber, who played Little John in Robin of Sherwood? Nice casting, that.

  • Jacob says:

    I like the show, feel it’s a worthy adaption, but at the same time I get this sense that it could have been…a little bigger in scale. A more epic scale. I often feel as if the atmosphere gives off this Xena/Hercules feeling, budget wise, whereas the show is more deserving of a Lord of the Rings budget. The way they did the first season didn’t properly convey the grandeur and rich history of the Westeros in my view. Felt watered down. Casting choices, as said by Joe himself, are spot on.

  • Chris says:

    I love this show, and it introduced me to the book series, which I love somehow EVEN MORE, so its thumbs up all round! And I can sympathise with you, it is really annoying trying to watch this show in the UK if you don’t have Sky, I have to watch it on SkyGo on my crappy computer. cannot wait til season 2 and of course 3, very interested to see how they do the books after that…

  • Dav says:

    My favourite casting was certainly Jerome Flynn as Brom. Very much a case of Tom Hanks Syndrome, as I was bowled over by seeing this one-time pop singer as probably the most skilled swordsman in the series.

    Ray Stevenson for Logen Ninefingers. I called it, folks.

  • Phil Norris says:


    To my shame my first thought when seeing Clive Mantle was Casualty…

  • JonathanL says:

    Lord of the Rings budget – $285 million
    Game of Thrones Season 1 budget – $80 million

    HBO made an $80 million bet that a TV genre that has never succeeded on a large scale would succeed. This upcoming season was already in production before Game of Thrones got huge, so the budget and episode count weren’t expanded on, but hopefully the sets and props that were already established will help the production put more cost on-screen.

  • Sedulo says:

    Watching the HBO series got my father to read the entire series and my mother is frothing at the mouth about how much she hates Joffrey. They are really excited about the new season. My mother would phone me after each episode and beg for spoilers, which was particularly delightful.

    I was amazed that they liked it so well. They aren’t exactly fans. Now they are watching Spartacus Vengeance! Astonishing.

  • Sedulo says:

    I loved The Game of Thrones right away. The stuff in the beginning with Bran blew my mind. When I ran to the bookstore for the second book, the clerk (who is a big fan) and I spent quite some time talking about the last chapter with Danaerys. Back in the 20th century when I first read GoT it was a big deal for me.

    I think they did just fine with the series. Although Littlefinger and Varys seemed more heavy-handed than they needed to be. I am all for as much ambiguity as they can muster and still tell the tale!

  • Hammer says:

    Something was mentioned about a major character not being killed off, my great hope is that someone was a she(no spoilers to people who haven’t read) and a main character. I’ve heard GRRM himself say that he felt he would have changed her dying had he to do it over and I concur, the supernatural element that follows became a bit over the top and not up to the seriousness of the rest of the story.

    Also, if you count “space” fantasy I would put Farscape near the top of my list for entertainment. Far from Game of Thrones in its quality but I feel it was far superior to Firefly(which I enjoyed) another “space” fantasy.

    Thanks for the post Joe. You are much appreciated for great books and your commentary here. Cheers

  • Hammer says:

    There has been allot of fun childrens fantasy, if that counts.

    The Princess Bride
    The Neverending Story

    Somewhat ashamedly I thought the english version of “Just Visiting” was very funny. However Joe liked “Total Recall”(chuckles) so I can throw out any crap and make it stick!

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I think they made the right call by putting the resources mostly into costume and props and so on, and making small, tight scenes look great, which I think they did. I could do without the massive scale in the end. Not saying a few immense shots wouldn’t be nice but if it’s a choice (and it is), I think they made the right one by mostly keeping it small scale. That general approach is faithful to the books as well – Martin actually makes some interesting decisions sometimes to ‘cut around’ the really big events, as with showing the biggest battle via Catelyn hearing it from a safe distance.

    Good call on the Princess Bride. Strange that, while it’s obviously fantasy and obviously good, it would never have occurred to me to put it in that category. Maybe because the book is very much in the children’s bracket (in many ways an arbitrary decision, but it does have an effect on how things are perceived). Also, maybe, something about the way it’s framed as very consciously a story being told within our, real world?

    And how dare you not like Total Recall? Name me another film in which Schwarzenegger uses a pneumatic drill.

  • nekro-kun says:

    I guess, Stardust was very good adaptation. As Neil Gaiman added mainstream stuff to the work of Hope Mirrlees, they add more common elements (captain of the ship, batle with the witches, etc.) and get fantasy exactly for “an audience that would never have read the books”. One more example – (Witcher 1 game noy series) was a good adaptation.

    There is no suprise, that LOTR had no effect into comming more fantasy on screens. In the opinion of filmmekers their succes was based mostly on the popularity of the books and high budget, and it certainly is. So Harry Potter and Twilight came on screen and was commercialy succesful, while The Sword of Truth series was not.

    It could be compared with Star Wars: no new setting or new story, or revolutionary effects (i’m not reaaly shure in compearing of visual effects with respect to production times), just as one can imagine Tolkien’s world and story. So it was good itself. But Martin’s series’s success could lead to The First Law on screens. In any way ASOIAF has its own minuses – almost no intersections betwean to plots (Dany and all the rest) during four books (four seasons), looks very bad for filming.

  • Phil Norris says:


    Have you seen any of the trailers/teasers released for S2. The scenes filmed in Iceland featuring events beyond the Wall have scale that goes off the scale!

  • I hope that the success of GoT does not result in a flood of cheap knockoffs. That’s always damaging. Personally, I’d like to see more fantasy films outside the medieval or classical setting.

  • Jay says:

    Nothing to say on GOT, but nice “Hawk the Slayer” reference. I now have that goddamn whistling theme thingy stuck in my head.

    For those of you not in the know…

  • Hammer says:

    I think Hollywood has got to take notice now that faithful adaptations are showing such huge success. I just watched “The Hunger Games” and found it was quite good and faithful to the source material. It also helped that the author was one of the scriptwriters. As GRRM wrote a episode of G.O.T’s and was an adviser this should bode well for the future. Unless the studios are just completely made up of idiots. Hmmmmmmm, having the author aide in the production generally helps the film, what a concept!

  • Robb says:

    Let’s not forget the TV adaption of Legend of the Seeker………..or should we….?

  • Jacob says:


    I was torn between liking that scene and disliking that scene, because I saw nothing. Can see it from both ways though. It was cool to see the aftermath once Robb was victorious. “I would offer my sword, but it appears I’ve misplaced it…”. Such a villainous line. Loved it.

    The props and costumes are good, but they just…give off this “Hollywood set” feel at times. The scene when Arya is watching from the statue of Baelor took me out of the atmosphere itself because I noticed all the fake platforms, rocks, how regal the characters were dressed, and so forth. Still, it is a good adaption nonetheless. I am just a nitpicky sort.

    @Phil Norris

    I have seen it. Sandor reigns supreme in that one…

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    George had spent a lot of time working in TV already, though, so there’s nothing more natural than him being involved. It’s a great thing that he was closely involved, don’t get me wrong, and by all accounts he waited for the right team and the right offer which was going to give the best chance of a good result, but not every writer is going to offer the same skill set. I’m not sure how closely I’d want to be involved with an adaptation of my own work. Sometimes that kind of closeness to the material isn’t a good thing.

  • Giasone says:

    “Dull, devoid of character, and messy prose. I just don’t get it.”

    Oh, please. It’s anything but. Martin’s epic is infused with character – that’s why it’s head, shoulders, torso, legs and feet above most of the genre of the past fifty years – including LOTR, which suffers from some major plot and artistic flaws. Indeed, the strength of ASOIAF, what gives it a strong sense of depth and character, besides the illuminating details of Martin’s world, is precisely the author’s interest in his characters, which is quite unlike so many fantasy writers, whose characters are inferior Tolkien clones or just two-dimensional figures suffering from the writer’s excessive interest in magic and monsters.
    Indeed, LOTR itself suffers from this – most notably in the case of Aragorn, who should be a complex character and the central protagonist, but instead is almost a cipher. It says something that the most interesting characters in the book are Merry and Pippin, who otherwise are a couple of dickheads. (Perhaps Tolkien should have ditched Frodo and Sam and made it ‘Merry and Pippin’s Excellent Adventure’ – which would be much more in keeping with ‘The Hobbit’, which is a perfect story.)
    But, on the subject of adaptations, the LOTR film didn’t really improve matters. The snippets of humour provided to Gimli was a welcome relief that made him flesh-and-blood, and there was a real opportunity to take some of the other characters and give them more presence and depth – instead of just relying on the skills of the excellent cast, all of whom were good bar one. But the excessive focus on battle sequences and special effects – particularly that long sequence of Legolas’ escapades on the Pelennor Fields – stole time that would better have been spent exploring the psychology of characters and their relationships (which is largely where LOTR falls short), or at least fleshing out the story. The crude and simplistic distortions of some characters (Saruman as mere catspaw of Sauron, Denethor as undignified slob) was a real failing that begs a new adaptation at a later time.

    “Messy prose.” Hmmm… what does that mean? Logically it suggests repetitive or disjointed or running off into irrelevant tangents, none of which apply to GRRM’s writing – the first chapter of GOT alone is excellent.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Not wanting to cuss anyone in particular, but I find people very rarely make any criticism of prose style that I find very meaningful. As with ‘well written’ or ‘badly written’, it tends to be a shorthand for ‘I liked this’ or ‘I didn’t’. For me, prose style is a little like film editing, in that it’s usually (by no means always) something that should almost vanish into the background, allow immersion, effortlessly contribute to the mood the author is going for. Obviously that sense of effortlessness can take a lot of hard work to achieve, and every reader’s reaction to every piece of writing will be different, and is influenced by how much they’re liking a book in general. One person’s horribly clunky is another’s artfully jagged, one person’s profound and complex is another’s pretentious and jarring.

  • Murray says:

    My personal pet hate is unpronounceable names, for people or places. Its very nice trying to make characters sound alien and different by giving them odd names but when you have to struggle to read the name every time, well it soon gets pretty frustrating.

  • Graham says:

    I think what has made people angry about GoT is the that the last couple of books do not read like they were written by the same author, the change in pace and lack of focus is just so extreme.

    If the last two books had the same style as the earlier ones I would be a ver happy camper indeed, if the first book had been like the most recent books I wouldn’t have got past the first 100 pages and would have moved on with my life.

  • Phil Norris says:


    “having the author aide in the production generally helps the film, what a concept!”

    Wasn’t Joss Whedon heavily involved in the original Buffy film…

  • Dan says:

    Totally agree Murray. Which is why I could never get into the prince of nothing books.

  • Derek says:

    Bit off topic but nice interview with Joe in SFX FANTASY SPECIAL….Two pictures of him looking like a reject from Take That as well.

  • How many times must I say this? I was offered a place in Take That and turned them down, not the other way around.

  • Adam says:

    Dear Joe Abercrombie,

    Catch up.


    (Hahaha – sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

  • Dan says:

    Giasone – “…the excellent cast, all of whom were good bar one”

    I counted three. Liv Tyler, Orlando Bloom (who obviously subscribed to the Joey Tribbiani acting method of trying to divide 232 by 13 when receiving bad news) and some ugly bearded bloke who popped up in a different role in all three films.

  • Gary says:

    I actually don’t think the last couple of George’s books are all that bad. They are pretty good in fact. Sure Storm of Swords finished with a bang and had a lot more pace in it, but the more recent books add a great deal to the bigger picture/main plotline as it were.

    I’m sure when the remaining books come out they will blow us all away. I also don’t get why a lot of people have a go at him for taking so long to bring out his books. Not all authors can write blindingly fast, just like some people are quicker at running than others. A ridiculous amount of time goes into writing a novel, especially one as complex as The Song of Ice and Fire series.

    People need to take a step back and look at the overall picture, view the story in all its entirety and appreciate George for the genius he is.

    Feast for Crows is bloody good and Dance with Dragons is pretty darn good too!

    BTW- Game of Thrones TV series was excellent, can’t wait for series two 🙂

  • Phil Norris says:

    I didn’t think AFfC was as bad as everyone made out, and I will admit to being slightly disappointed with ADwD, but that was mainly down to the amount of time spent with Daenerys mooning over her lover.

    As for GRRMs writing speed, not sure how many people visit his site and read his Not A Blog, but if you do you’ll know that writing ASoIaF is not the only thing he is doing. Along side he’s wrote episode 9 of S2, he’s editing several anthologies, as well as writing stories for them (there is a new Dunc & Egg due out this year), he’s also involved in several writers groups.

    On top of all that there is the personal appearances, his in the UK at the moment (due to appear in Bath early in April) and at Eastercon. Just this year he’s been abroad 3 times if I remember correctly. He’s also had a hand in the TV series promo work, giving talks and interviews.

    All this takes time, and lets not forget GRRM is in his 60s. Quite a workload when you consider.

  • Brandon says:

    Now all we need is David Milch (Deadwood) to pick up one of Joe’s books, and walk into the HBO office, and say this is it. Seriously a pant wetting dream of mine. Milch is a phenomenal director, and writer, and the moment I read The First Law Trilogy, I immediately said to my self, “Man David Milch would have a fucking hay day making this into a show,”

  • Kurt says:

    @ Brandon

    There is so much inner dialogue in Joe’s books, especially with Glokta, I think it would be really hard to make an adaptation.

  • percy says:

    For as much as the pace slowed down after Storm of Swords, I still could barely put the following two books down. The pacing couldn’t have been too terrible.
    Martin, Abercrombie, and R. Scott Bakker (Prince of Nothing) are the class today’s fantasy writers. Their stories just seem much more engaging and relevant than other author’s works.

  • Giasone says:

    Glokta’s inner monologues are excellent. One solution would be the old ‘voice over’, though this might not work if it is only used for one character. (I’m trying to recall a film where it is used repeatedly for a character who isn’t the sole central protagonist.) Otherwise the monologues might have to be sacrificed, but I think, good as they are, there is so much more in JA’s stories that cinematic/TV adaptations would withstand the loss.

    Yes, well, I’m probably being kinder than you. I’m afraid, as good as she is in everything else, I found CB’s performance disappointing – kind of spaced out, as if Galadriel had been eating too many magic mushies in the forest (which would help explain what the hell those forest-dwelling elves eat – it can’t just be venison and berries – don’t they have cropland? Of course, the low carb diet would help explain why none of them have weight problems…).
    But I’m inclined to put a lot of the other inadequacies in performance down to script and direction. There were some cheesy lines and those dreadful facial shots where the actors had to laugh in pleasure (e.g. at being reunited) or look concerned without actually having a line to speak… one felt sorry for them. (Thank goodness there’ll be none of that when JA’s stories hit the screen.) And this apparent need to whisper Elvish all the time! What’s going on there.
    But no, I’m going to give Bloom the benefit of the doubt on this, and reject Anthony Horowitz’s cruel and unjust remark that it would have been better if Orlando had really been stabbed with a pitchfork in ‘Midsomer Murders’ so that we’d all be spared so many terrible films. At least he looked the part (except for the fact that he had blond hair like a Vanyarin elf, which is totally wrong for a Teleri – and WHERE IN TOLKIEN DOES IT SAY THAT ELVES HAVE POINTY EARS???!!! And Hobbits, for that matter???)

    BTW, on the subject of Bloom, for those of you who haven’t already seen this, Google “The other side of The Lord of the Rings youtube’.

    Good points all, but one can’t help wishing that, since GRRM is in his 60’s, he’d just drop everything else and work on ASOIAF to completion, even if it’s the last thing he does – especially since it’s hard to see how he can bring it to a close in 2 more books – it will be begging for a sequel – and frankly I think many of us would like it if there were 10 or 12 books in the end.

  • Brian Turner says:

    The most impressive thing about the TV adaption is that it – for the most part – tries to keep to the spirit of the books, if not the letter.

    I’ve seen criticisms online from readers looking to abandon the TV series because it does not *exactly* follow the books and makes changes. Which I find a daft argument, because any adaptation will do these things.

    The difference is, with Game of Thrones, they are not making any serious chances to the story. It’s not like Jar Jar Binks suddenly appears to lead the Hobbits into a revolution or anything.

    I first learned about the differences between film adaptations and their constituent novels by reading Peter Benchley’s “Jaws”. Matt Hooper is a very different character in that book, and that’s all I’m saying …

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