A Game of Boners [book review]

Posted on April 11, 2013 at 8:30 PM

More than fair warning: I don't like A Game Of Thrones.   I've never watched the TV version, either, because the book was such a let-down - and I don't plan to just because a bunch of HBO fanatics want me to "give it a second chance".   Why should it be any better than the cringe-worthy pool of offal that is True Blood?  Which, I will say, did not encourage me to read Charlaine Harris's books (though TB at least had the diamond-in-the-rough excellence that is the character of Eric Northman.)  Therefore, listen and listen well: if you have very fragile, delicate feelings of love for the "Song Of Ass And Phallus" series, I really encourage you not to read beyond this point.   Dead serious, here.  I know I've stumbled across many vitriolic blog-rants about other serieseses (how many "es"es?) that mean a lot to me, and this made me feel sad in the pants, so here I am giving you a chance to bail before I come out swinging.   If you're not scared off by all that, read on, Macduff - just don't cry foul in the eleventh hour.  Also, there are major spoilers for the whole book (first season) in this post, but that should go without saying.  Also, it's super verbose, so it may incite a "tl:dr" reaction.

Another disclaimer: I actually don't think A Game Of Thrones is the worst book I've ever read.   In fact, it comes pretty close to being as moderately-decent of a literary work as Twilight.   See?  I'm reasonable.  There is another reason unrelated to the prose itself that I'm tearing it a new one: George R. R Martin is a hypocritical old codger who needs to be taken down a peg.   Now, from what I hear Martin is allegedly a pretty personable guy and cool where most topics are concerned, but I'm sure there were lots of friendly, amiable Nazis, too.  Understand that for all of my cynicism and sardonic bile, I mean this part sincerely: only because MrRRRR Martin seems to think his writing is so loftily Sacred and Holy that nobody should be "allowed" to write fanfiction (or, as he puts it, "so-called 'fan fiction'" complete with snide quotation marks) about his beloved series, and also because so many people have looked at me with shock and revulsion when I say I'm not interested in the show ("OMG yyyy but its teh BEST EVARR, ur crazey or sumthing") have I gone to such lengths to pick apart everything wrong with his book.  But this is turning into another fanfiction rant, so I'll head myself off here and get back to A Game Of Thrones.  Maybe if Martin had a less grumpy and disappointing attitude toward his fellow writers, if he was more open-minded, I would be kinder (or wouldn't care enough to bother).   Too bad, too late.   Claiming fanfiction authors are "thieves" or are "wasting their time" opens up the floodgates to a critique of your multi-thousand-page waste of time.  Hold out your hand, Georgie, because I am about to plop your own ass into it.

We will now hear the Airing of Grievances!  "I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you're gonna hear about it!' (~Frank Costanza)


1. Everybody's a jerk.   Worse yet, many characters are the same jerk.   Viserys and Joffrey are almost identical "petulant children with god complexes", both of whom needed a good smack upside the forehead (and only one of whom got his comeuppance).   Thing is, I really dislike characters like that in the first place, but I understand they are a necessary evil to create conflict and keep things interesting.   Could they at least not be clones of each other?   Heh, Game of Clones.  There is one character that, I feel, shines above the rest in this pageantry of asshattedness - and this character will get their own bullet point.

2. Sansa is the worst.  Defend her if you want, but good friggin' luck.  A completely self-absorbed and whiny brat who can't even stand up for herself when she finally stops being blinded by Breeding and Rank and, belatedly, does realize Joffrey is a douche.   Bravo!   You couldn't have come up with that one before both your wolf and your father were slain, your sister run out of King's Landing (as far as she knows, at least), and the rest of your family plunged into war?   She gets her own wolf killed - at the hand of her beloved and his mother - and somehow continues to gallingly blame her sister instead of the true guilty parties.  Even after the execution of her father finally forces her to realize Prince Draco Malfoy Jr. isn't worth her time, her plan seems to be "Okay, I'll hang around kissing his ass and wait for an opportunity to escape and/or take my revenge," but how am I supposed to give a flying turd when she's made every wrong decision possible up to that point?   By the way, you should never, ever create a character this annoying and unlovable and then write any chapters from their viewpoint; it mostly just makes the reader want to use the book for kindling.   Which I wanted to do every single time a chapter started with the word "Sansa".

3. "The dragon".  "You don't want to wake the dragon", "I am the blood of the dragon."  Dragon, dragon, dragon.  Here's an even better quote: "Could someone stop that man from yelling 'dragon'?"  Know who said that?  Yakko Warner, from Animaniacs.   Children's television circa 1993 already knew that was beyond annoying, yet Georgie can't seem to figure it out.   SHUT UP ABOUT THE DAMN DRAGON.  And its blood, and its fossilized eggs, and all of it.  Instead of epically awesome, it sounds cheesy - and mostly because you hear it every three seconds in the Daenerys chapters.  Enough already!

4. Frequent sexy times that are more execrable than erotic.   Ooh baby, I really wanna read about man-seed running down the inside of a thirteen-year-old girl's legs.  It's not creepy at all, tell me more!   Tell me about her 30-year-old husband's "manhood glistening wetly" - even better!  Smelling like semen, man, that's pretty much what revs the motors of all women across the globe.   Axe should get on that!   While we're on this subject, all the application of perfume on vaginas, described in loving detail (or vile gratuity, depending on your perspective) needed to be curtailed.   Have you also noticed that it's only underage women you get the most awkward detail about being sexually molested?   Incestuous abuse, too, once in a while.   Women who are actually of age might be bare-chested or star in a brief brother/sister love scene (?!?!?!) or some such, but only incidentally; the main event is pubescent girls.  Yeah, that's not uncomfortable or anything.   And for the love of GOD, somebody get that man a wet nurse, because he's got this crazy obsession with lactating breasts!   Why so much explicit detail about a tween-ager's swollen, engorged boobs with milk running down from the red, inflamed nipples?  (And I know most of you are squirming because I wrote that just now, so how could it be any less weird that the original author did?)  Dany even breastfeeds the freaking DRAGONS!   Is that insane or what?!  Georgie probably just rubber-banded a Bic Stic around his dick and used that to write the whole book.  Don't forget: you can't spell Westeros without "eros"!  That trash should be in Penthouse Forum, not the New York Times bestseller list.  (From what I hear, the show isn't much better... except the characters are at least closer to being age-appropriate.)

5. Nonstandard swearing.  "Cock" was stlll just a rooster in the Middle Ages, not a euphamism for the penis.  And "Bunghole", really?   Sir Beavis of Winterfell?  Also, he seems to have a real thing about mutilation of genitals, which might as well go here, too - it's all kind of generally offensive and crude.   If I make a new number for every sub-bullet-point I'll be in the hundreds soon enough... but yes, I got tired of being subjected to closeted homoerotic idiocy like "cut his cock off and shove it in his mouth - that'll shut him up!"  And no, I didn't bother to double-check the quote for exact phrasing.   Why would I ever willingly read that again?   I'm crossing my legs just retyping it.  No thanks.

6. Lukewarm adjectives that are meant to sound especially robust and eloquent, but instead are stupid. Example: "Her own silver-gold hair".   Explain to me how that makes sense; silver and gold are two completely different colors!   That'd be like saying, "Her red-green shirt."  Either it's red, it's green, it's red-and-green coexisting in some kind of pattern, or it's an ugly muddy brown color because that's what you get when you mix red and green!  If you can't bust out the poetic brush without making a complete mess, then be simple and clear instead of embarrassing yourself.

7. Rampant Orientalism.   "Black eyes", "eyes shaped like almonds", "coppery skin".   It's clear the Dothraki are supposed to be Mongol hordes, warlike "savages".   "Khal" is one letter's difference from "Khan" (not this one).   Drogo's father's name is even "Bharbo", as in "barbarian".  Good job pretty much just slapping a new label on a preexisting ancient culture; there's some real creativity!  Then we go out of our way to make them out to be nothing but animals, rutting in the streets - not just figuratively, but actually grabbing random wenches and raping them right there on the side of the road.   Seriously, regardless of potential historical accuracy, we needed the "Asian" race to be portrayed this way?  I kept waiting for the "omg, and they even eat with CHOPSTICKS" scene.

8. GENEALOGIES.  Oh, the genealogies.  I don't care who some obscure lord's great-uncle's cousin once removed was.  Georgie-poo, If he's not in the plot, or didn't affect it dramatically, forget that mess.   Leave it out.   Keep the damn story rolling.   Your book ended up being 835 exruciating pages because you've never heard of the word "concise."  What the hell was your editor doing instead of catching this?  Oh, right - getting off on the statutory rape scenes.  Forgot.

9. Similarly, there are long, meandering descriptions of trivial information.   Do we so desperately need to know the name of every single lordling in the entire room?   Georgie tries to cover it once or twice, by wrapping up with "and there were many more" or something, but not nearly soon enough.   The Rule Of Three is held in high esteem for a reason; if you keep listing things off beyond three of them, people get freaking bored.   More often than not, he blows past three and doesn't start to contemplate a stopping point until seven or eight have gone by.  If I wanted to read endless lists of random crap, I'd be on Reddit or Buzzfeed.

10. Women, "cripples", the elderly, illegitimate children, little people, fat people, homely people, gays, and pretty much anybody who's not a young strapping heterosexual male is, at best, of little-to-no consequence.   At worst, they're abominations in the same category as attractions in a Cirque du Grotesque.   He comes close to redeeming the whole thing with Sam being such a decent guy, but still can't resist describing him as "fat" at every opportunity as if that's the one defining attribute about his character (and this is extremely surprising to me, given that Mr. Martin himself is not at all svelte).  There's only so much you can cover this with either the "That's just the way the world was back then" excuse or the "Drawing attention to the injustice by portraying it in your art" argument before either one falls apart.   He does it so damn much that it quickly becomes clear he's not really trying to make any kind of equality statement, and is instead just having fun laughing at the expense of anything non-manly.  Way to be racist, ageist, sexist and bigoted, Georgie.  Are you by any chance secretly a Republican?

11. Setting up Important Portents, such as events or Chosen People or whatever, and then kind of throwing them out the window.   What was the point of squandering all that time, making such a big fucking deal about Daenerys's son being the Blood of the Dragon and the Stallion Who Mounts The World (what a shitty title, anyway), and then killing him off?  I feel like I just drove eleven hours to see my favorite band in concert, only to be told the band decided not to perform.   And I really couldn't care less if this serves to "temper Dany's character" or something equally pathetic.   Really, it feels more like Georgie couldn't think of any decent way to continue the storyline if Rhaego lived, so he axed him.   This is done over and over with multiple characters and concepts.   The whole thing about "five direwolves for five Starks, plus an albino one for the 'bastard' son" was actually extremely cool... until he bumped off one of them and had another run away.  Ruined the whole idea.  Also, you'll notice the two wolves removed from the lineup are the two that belonged to the girls, because clearly women aren't worth anything and therefore there's no point in letting them keep their trusty animal sidekicks.   After all, soon enough they'll just be popping out babies and fulfilling their only legitimate reason for existing, right?  I don't even care if Nymeria comes back at a later point in the series for a Last-Moment Heroic Save.  Lady is still dead as a doornail.  Prophecy shattered, cool plot device equally destroyed.  Masterful.

12. Let's expand on this.  Anything I liked about the book, sooner or later, he either neglects or throws out.   Arya was one of the few characters I actually enjoyed reading about and was interested to see what became of her.   A girl who (gasp) actually wants to fight?  Like, with a sword?!  Alas, my hopes were dashed against the rocks.  She gets like, two scenes in the whole book.   Hundreds of pages fly by with nothing, and then we get a chapter of her eating pigeons and witnessing her father's death before she's whisked away once more, never to be seen again.  Great.   Same with Jon: he gets a tiny bit more "screen time", but not nearly enough when you consider how much time is squandered on Sansa and Tyrion (not that I dislike Tyrion; he's just not all that sympathetic beyond the "dwarf" thing.  A douchey Lannister through and through, despite the brief flash of camaraderie with Jon.)  Oh, and let's not forget how many pages are also taken up by sex scenes between Old Man Drogo and the jailbait.

13. Ravens are not parrots.  I don't care if they can be trained to speak, too.  Who would bother?  NEXT.

14. "Bastard", "Manhood", "Dragon" and "Dwarf" are all words I could go years without hearing again and be perfectly happy.  Especially because I actually am a bastard.   Do you think I really would refer to myself as a bastard at every given opportunity?   "Hey, good to meet you; I'm Dustin, the bastard.  Did I mention I'm a bastard?"  Let me lay that one to rest for you: I DON'T.   This does tie in with the "everybody not a virile male is of no value" thing and also the "overuse of dragon" thing, but gets a separate point because those four words themselves are annoying to read over and over and over and over and over and over and over.   See?  Oh, not yet?   Hang on.   Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.  Done now?  Thought so.

15. Speaking of "bastards", let's talk about Jon.   I cannot, cannot imagine this family, with Eddard being as loving a father as he is, caring so little that he's going north to "take the black" (another overused phrase that only brings to mind images of interracial porn).  Doesn't hold water.  Bastard or no, he's been living with them for what is it, 15 years?  16?  Don't care enough to look it up.   Anyway, nobody with the character of a man like Lord Ned (how do you even get 'Ned' from 'Eddard'?) would look after the well-being of his own child for that long and then just go, "Okay, now go on up to the Wall there and join all those criminals and rapists, because that's about all I think of you.   There's a good lad!"  At the very least, he could be put in command of a regiment of soldiers, or sit as an advisor on some council or other.  But no, lineage is everything.  I don't buy that, even during the "ye olden age" that aGoT is set within.  It would be one thing if he was a bastard that Eddard had barely seen since his birth, but he's been living with them.  Bonds form.  Pretending Ned would be okay with Jon leaving for the Night's Watch is just laziness, and probably the product of someone who's never had any strong familial connections.

16. Creativity of names.   He steals the protagonist surname from Iron Man and uses it for... the protagonists.  I'm surprised the boys never mentioned an Uncle Anthony.  Then there's Joffrey.   Good job slightly misspelling Geoffrey/Jeffrey.   That's like people who think they invented a new name when they butcher Kaitlin into "Catelyn".  OH WAIT...

Believe it or not, I could go on.   No really, as much as I just vented all over the keyboard, if I didn't have anything else to do today I would keep it up and throw down maybe another six or seven bullet points.  And seriously, I don't wanna hear any "But this and that happens in book two that tooootally justifies such and such in book one!"  Don't care.  If book one licked so much asscrack that I don't even want to be in the same room with it, you had better damn well believe I'm not going to put myself through the fresh hell that would likely be A Clash Of Kings.  I've got better things to read... like Naruto.  Or Frog And Toad Are Still Friends Even Knowing What Toad Did Last Summer.  ANYTHING AT ALL.

But again, I promise you, I have read other books I enjoyed less that were written by authors I admire more (*cough*Casual Vacancy*cough*).  That still doesn't make this steaming pile of horse excrement smell any more like roses.  I'm glad some people got something more out of it than wasted time, but you are never going to find me in that category.  Sorry, GOT fans.


Categories: Malapropos, Rants

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In