Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#87: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

Whooooooooa Boy. So much happens in this text that it is sort of unfair to do a "review" of it. I don't want to ruin anything for people who have not read the book, but I want to go on and on about how good it was. How the hell do I do that?

So, there were a lot of killings. I mean, A LOT. Heads chopped off and crushed, throats slit, arms cut off at the elbow, eagles taking out eyes. So many in fact that there was some yahoo running around with bone armor. That's right, bone armor. Bad Ass! Martin is called the "American Tolkien". What is fascinating about these books is that there are several small homages to Tolkien in these pages, but there is a lot more of several things, violence and destruction being two of them. It fits, however.

That is the thing that gets me about these books. No matter how I might squirm at the destruction of someone by The Mountain that Rides, the severe disfigurement of The Hound, the deflowering of maidens of any name, it all fits in the broader scope of the tale. It is not gratuitous, which is something that many authors need to learn. Martin's world is brutal. This is in some way why this series is so good. Many readers have some intuitive understanding that the Middle Ages would not have been "romantic" for many of us and our modern sensibilities. Violence was not done from long range, but up close and personal. People died from infections that are now treatable. People stank, were dirty, poor, could not read. People worked hard for most of their lives, the exception being the rich men and women at the top.

Martin does not romanticize this at all, and it makes his characters believable. The Hound is the antithesis of King Arthur's knights, because he sees the hypocrisy of the system. Knights blather about honor and do their best to fuck over anyone who actually has it. It reminds me of the treatment of the samurai by most people who have no conception about the samurai. Would a samurai stab someone in the back? Does a bear shit in the woods? War is not a beauty contest about honor. As Sherman said in the U.S. Civil War: "War means fighting, and fighting means killing." Honor is for those who have a choice about survival or 12 year olds with black belts who will never use their karate moves in anger.

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