Why I've only read the Game of Thrones books and not watched the show
Lately, I’ve been turning away from every glance of Facebook.
No, not because they steal my data and let trolls sway how I vote: it’s much worse than that.
My feed is filled with nothing but Game of Thrones posts.
From random friends to the New York Times to every single publication and person in between, the only question anyone wants to ask me seems to be: “What’d you think of the Game of Thrones episode?”
Here’s the thing: I like Game of Thrones. I bought the Risk version of it basically to play it once. I’ve read every single book.
But I’ve seen exactly 1.5 episodes of the show.
So my answer is always: “I’ve read the books but haven’t watched the show.” To which most people laugh, assuming I’m joking.
This is no joke.
So why, WHY. haven’t I watched the show? Why haven’t I joined seemingly most of America in one of the all-time popular nerdy TV shows?
I don’t have the damn time
Reading the books was an investment.
The only reason I got through them was because I listened to a good chunk of each on Audible while going on long training runs. When you’re on a 22-mile training run, you’ve got some free time. The names of lords and ladies could easily be zoned out and when something exciting happened it would distract me from the feeling of death in my legs.
For those that don’t know, and SPOILER alert for anyone who hasn’t got this far in the books or show — the books leave off well before where the show currently is. And “the books” are actually known collectively as A Song of Fire and Ice.
The lasting image from book five, A Dance With Dragons, is that of Jon Snow lying in the ice, having been stabbed, mutinied in essence, by his fellow members of the Night’s Watch. Of course, he knew there could be repercussions for breaking the code of the Night’s Watch after asking those willing to join him and exact revenge for his family’s name.
Does this happen in the TV show? I know Jon Snow gets stabbed, thanks to endless memes, but that’s all I could tell you. That’s all I want to tell you right now.
So here’s the thing: It took me nearly two years to work through those damn books. I’ve earned my damn GoT keep. And even though I’d love to sit back and spend time watching the visual incarnation of the books I enjoyed, I’m a parent to a young child.
Squeezing in hour-long episodes for seven seasons of nudity, betrayal, and excessive drinking is not really something that’s in the cards for me. Not right now, at least.
It’s estimated that it would take 2 days and 17 hours to watch every GoT episode. That’s without taking a single break to, you know, use the bathroom, eat, work or ensure your child isn’t eating his own feces. And now there’s a new season blowing past me.
Picking up a book at bedtime, however, is doable. Listening to audiobooks on long training runs — I can do that. It’s simply too daunting of an undertaking to start up the show now.
Books are always better
Besides, I’m in a place where my images and impressions of characters are still my own, and haven’t really been influenced by the actors or production of the show. I saw one image of the Hound, Sandor Clegane, and I was all like:
And that’s why books are always better: You get a say in how things look, how people speak and how many scales the dragons have. And, of course, it’s simply not possible to transfer everything from the books to a TV format. The production budget would have to be even bigger, and fans would have to be on board for many, many more seasons.
Not to mention you get to learn the character’s true inner thoughts and motivations. You don’t have to glean them or have them spoon-fed to you.
Do I want to see a real-life King’s Landing? Of frigging course I do! But with the next book nearly here (lol), I may as well wait, at least until I work through Winds of Winter.
Bran is annoying enough as it is
From what I can gather, Bran’s character in the TV show is a whiny little biatch.
The same is very much true in the books. But, at least I can pretend he doesn’t have the same awful haircut he has in the show, and I can pretend he doesn’t always have a the Smiths song playing in head.
Again, I’m speaking second-hand here in terms of the show, but he’s definitely just annoying. Sure, there’s some cool stuff that happens with his storyline, but when his name comes up as a chapter heading, something inside me dies a little.
Why would I want to force myself into more Bran when I don’t have to? Give me one good reason.
It’s not the same storyline
The storylines already differ, albeit mostly in minor ways that don’t affect the overall story arc.
But, I’m invested in different characters. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to abandon them like a cold, heartless undead king, but today is NOT that day!
And it’s unclear just how much the two will ultimately differ in the end. The writers swear it will all ultimately end up at the same place, although it will take some divergent paths to get there.
On the other hand, George RR Martin has yet to even complete Wind of Winters, and will have an entire book to finish the saga after that one’s done. And for A Dream of Spring, the final book, Martin won’t have the burden of a major TV show.
It’s entirely possible Martin will say “eff it” and throw in a twist ending just when no one’s expecting it. I mean, this is the guy that came up with the Red Wedding! How can we possibly trust him?!
I’m willing to see this thing out in the (not so) off chance Martin goes rogue.
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible Martin’s GoT TV contract specifies he’ll have to pay back a bunch of money if the endings are too different.
Also, he told 60 minutes the main storyline will likely end up more or less the same:
“I don’t think Dan and Dave’s ending is gonna be that different from my ending because of the conversations we did have,” he told 60 Minutes. “But they may be on certain secondary characters, there may be big differences.”
I can’t just start watching Season 8 now, can I? It would immediately shatter everything I’ve been looking forward to in the next book without so much as a dwarf’s slap. All of it, gone like so much dust in the wind.
That would suck.
Look, I’m not one of those people that’s actively boasting about only reading the books. It’s just something that happened. I didn’t try to do it. I’ve watched the first episode three times trying to get this thing going, but each time if fizzled out.
It’s not my fault, but now here I am, and I have but two abysses to jump into it. So, I’ll stick with the abyss I know, at least, for now. And perhaps sometime in the 2050s, when George RR Martin’s uploaded brain has finished the series, I’ll finally be finished with the books.
Then, perhaps, assuming we’re not all slaves for the coming alien race of super-smart grasshoppers by then, I’ll give it another try.