I'm not going to deny it any longer. I have a problem. It keeps me up at night. It stops me from sleeping. It stops me from doing homework. It stops me from writing articles. It sometimes even stops me from eating. It's called A Game of Thrones.
It's easily the best book series I've ever read in my life and I've yet to finish it. I only just finished the fourth book, A Feast For Crows, and I don't know what to do with my life anymore. I finished it last night and I want - nay, I need - the next book. I need to know what happens next.
I have a problem. I'm willing to admit it, but I'm not willing to stop. I'm convinced I can't stop at any time.
And this obsession isn't going to end after I finish the books because there is an entire television series to binge once I do. This obsession won't even end after I finish the TV series, either. I don't know what I'll do to fill my time then (re-read or re-watch the series most likely) but I will find some way.
I know now that by reading this series I've made an amazing choice. But I've also made a terrible mistake. Never before have I wanted so much to read a thousand page book. Never before have I yearned so much for a love story to come to fruition (and I hate love stories). Never before have I hoped so much that a character will die. Never before have I been so conflicted on who I actually hate and who I actually love.
All these feelings are amazingly awesome and awful. And it's all thanks to George R. R. Martin, that genius who managed to get millions of fans to somehow be okay with at least one incestuous relationship for even half a second. The same guy who somehow got us all to simultaneously root for just about every character in the series (except for the select few i.e. Joffrey, Tywin, Melisandre) and not know who we truly want to succeed until after that character is dead.
I have so much to say about this series and I feel like I've only just begun to enter the world of Westeros (mainly because I only just started back in Easter). Reading this series was both the best and worst decision I've made. And this realization didn't dawn on me until just recently, after going through the three following stages of reading (or watching) A Game of Thrones.
Stage 1: This is so well written and a great read, what could possibly go wrong?
I started reading this series Easter weekend. It took me an entire day looking for a good book to finally settle down on Game of Thrones, and to be honest, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I knew that everyone would die, to not get attached to anyone, and that it took place in what can best be described as Medieval England.
To say the least, my expectations were surpassed. This series snuck up on me and took me along for the most heart-wrenching, feels-overload, edge-of-my-seat ride that I've ever been on.
All I did was read the prologue. The prologue of the first book, all of about fifteen pages. That's all it took. I didn't meet a single important character yet, but I was in it for the long haul. And I'm so glad that I made this decision.
George R. R. Martin does something truly amazing with this series that as a writer (even though a meager creator on a singular website) I can only aspire to come close to matching. He created an entire world, several languages, even more religions, and a magic both within the pages of those books and without. What he did is truly remarkable.
What is most interesting, is the way he gets us as the audience to care about his story. He doesn't do so with a compelling story (though he does that as well), he does so with a compelling cast full of dynamic, constantly changing variables with each character having their own character arc, story, and thought process that we have to understand and value in order to fully perceive the story he has laid out before us.
As a result of watching so many characters change, grow, fight for their lives, for their family's lives, watching these same characters lose repeatedly, win every once in a while, and on occasion finding a brief reverie from the hell around them, we as an audience now have a profoundly larger respect for other people than we did walking into this series. Or at least, that's how I've found the series affected me.
The most intriguing part about this series is the brutality of their characters, most importantly their female characters. We've all seen the awful world of Westeros and what the women of this world have to deal with every day. And we all know that that just isn't fair. And though everyone is angry about this and almost all of us have voiced our opinions about this, I believe that George R. R. Martin has actually found another way to unite us readers. Aside from just reading (or watching) the series and having a mutual love for it, we also all fight for gender equality because of what we've seen on this show. Yes, we're angry at him for doing this to the female characters, but we are collectively angry about it. Guided by this work of fiction, we are able to talk about these hard topics in reference to the series, but also relay these thoughts and ideas into the real world.
And, of course we all collectively have a love-hate relationship with George R. R. Martin because he kills everyone that we've ever cared about. But that's more of a reason why this was a bad decision... which leads me directly into my next point.
Stage 2: Everything. That's what could possibly go wrong. Everything.
George R. R. Martin is one sadistic son of a bitch. As I've said, and as you know, he kills everyone we've ever cared about. Nothing is sacred. Anyone can die. And in fact, everyone will probably die. He's probably going to end the series with an epilogue told maybe a hundred years in the future of some random kid at the Citadel reading about what happened during the War of the Five Kings (or whatever else this war will be called). The brutality of everyone's death is mentioned in the tome and we all cry over how they all die. And then before the kid can leave and go back to his quarters, an explosion happens killing him and everyone else at the Citadel.
Maybe that's taking it too far, but this is the sort of material I've come to expect out of George R. R. Martin. The only way he can entirely surprise me at this point is if it ends with Ned Stark waking up back at Winterfell next to Catelyn with all the Stark children still asleep in their beds, Robert is still alive and the kingdom is no longer in debt, Daenerys is married to Khal Drogo happily with their son, Jaime and Cersei have come forward and Gendry (or one of Robert's other twelve bastards) is now the heir to the Iron Throne, Tyrion inherits Casterly Rock from the deceased Tywin Lannister, Stannis kicks Melisandre out of his castle, we learn who Jon Snow's mother really is, and whatever other happy stuff we all want to happen but know never will is now going on. Catelyn asks Ned what happened and he has a puzzled look and tells her about what an awful dream he had. But this will never happen, because George R. R. Martin loves killing off our favorite characters.
But that's not the worst part. No, the deaths aren't even that bad. The worst part are the spoilers. And I know that's partially my fault and I should've known that coming so late to the party, but I did not anticipate it being this bad. I can't look at anything Game of Thrones related without seeing some sort of spoilery thing going on. And this doesn't just have to be online. I know several people who watch or have read the series, and I can't mention it to them because they will say something they didn't mean to and spoil something for me.
This is only a problem because Martin loves killing off his character. And I know he has his reasons. We've all seen the movies where the characters are in danger, but we know that they're not going to die because the movie's not over yet and they're the protagonist. If Martin went that way, the books would be equally as predictable. Martin wants to break away from that, and boy does he do a good job. So good that our hearts are nearly ripped out every time someone else dies. Because no one dies alone, and in every blood bath we love at least one character who died.
Martin thoroughly enjoys watching us suffer. He likes revealing little to nothing about what will happen next. He enjoys killing off his characters, he enjoys throwing obstacles at them, and he enjoys the ensuing mayhem.
But it is the fans that need to talk about it. We know what happens and we all want to talk about it. We all need someone to talk to. Even if it is at three in the morning on a Sunday night where we just finished the most recent season or book and need to contact a friend to freak out about what just happened. Not that I've done that or anything...
This series becomes an obsession. We don't want to hear any spoilers, but we desperately need to know what happens. We hate watching our favorite characters get killed off, but we also can't wait for it to happen so we can get it out of the way and move on from the awfully sad and terrible moment.
I have gotten to the point where whenever I walk into a store, I look for a book section to hopefully find the next installment. I already know someone who owns the seasons on DVD so I can borrow that once ready. But for right now, I need to find the next book.
Stage 3: I don't care what happens anymore
After getting so attached to this series and these characters, there comes a point where every fan decides that it doesn't matter what happens anymore. They're going to continue to watch the series no matter who dies, who lives, who wins, and who loses. They're going to not shed another tear for another death. They're not going to worry about another cliff hanger. They're going to enjoy the series, but they're not going to get so emotional over it.
This stage doesn't last long, but we do all get to this point. Once here, there's no turning back. We don't care as much when a character dies, but a part of us still weeps for these characters. A part of us still freaks out when something surprising happens. A part of us still worries over what will happen next at the end of the season of book. Sometimes that's a big part, sometimes a small part. But we will always care. No matter how hard we try or how cold we become.
Because this series is fantastic, and because we know we made a good decision by starting it. And because, frankly, we don't give a damn that this series is taking over our lives - It's worth it.