Yesterday I finished reading A Dance With Dragons, by George R. R. Martin, the fifth and latest book in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series. I don’t really need to tell you what happens in the book, as it was published in 2011 and I’m sure everyone who actually gives a damn has already read it and then some. My blog material is spoiler free (largely.)
For me, what is truly unique about the ASOIAF series is how long it took me to read them. I started reading A Game of Thrones in about March, I believe (maybe April.) Perhaps it was because this was the first time I was reading an entire book series on my phone (using the Android Kindle app), and thus it was more strain on my eyes than a paperback book. Or maybe it was because the books were simply so dense. I don’t know. But usually, for me, I rip through a novel in about 1-2 days, maybe 4-5 at the most if I’m not reading constantly. But usually I am reading constantly. Just a few weeks ago I picked up a Kindle copy of Firebird, the latest novel in the Alex Benedict series by Jack McDevitt, who I think is a superb writer and I absolutely love his Benedict series. I read that in less than a day. I went through that thing like a Death Star beam through a moderately sized terrestrial planet. And I loved it, but still.
Dance With Dragons? That was like a month. It’s dense. And to be fair, after the third book, I stopped reading for a month or so in order to recuperate before I dived in again. And I was really reading most of this while huddling in the bathroom, not out in the open, so I would be focusing on my work. But still, this stuff is long. And, as I said, dense. There’s a lot there. I’m certain I’ve missed a ton. (Including the TV series. Bah.) There is just so much stuff you can’t possibly read it in a day, or even a week (or maybe even three.) I think if I sat here and tried to read even one book straight through, it would take me more than 36 hours, maybe even 48.
The other thing about this series–and this interests me as a writer, not as a reader–is how Martin so strongly colors his viewpoint characters’ perceptions. When you’re with a character, you really feel as if this lens has clicked into place in front of your eyes. When you’re with Cersei, you can see everyone distort into these traitorous fiends, their conspiraces billowing up out of the floorboards to choke you. When you’re Jon, you can see the doddering old fools for what they are and the bonds of honor and justice that bind you. And when you’re Tyrion–well, you see everyone for the gigantic joke that they are.
It is truly marvelous. It’s a trick I think every aspiring writer–myself included!–should developed, as it really adds a layer of depth and versimilitude to the world.
The real question for me, though, is what next. Well, in terms of writing, I need to do more of it. Particularly more fiction. Writing about politics is great and all, but it’s not the same. I need to apply the lesson I mentioned above, as well. And I need to tell my internal editor to shut up. (Though, to be fair–to me, not my internal editor–I have been writing lately. Just…not enough, I suppose.)
As for reading, I’ve always wanted to tackle Ayn Rand’s nonfiction–Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Philosophy: Who Needs It, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Return of the Primitive–but also to read J.S. Mill’s On Liberty. I think those would be good breaks from deep fiction, especially since they wouldn’t distract me nearly as much. And might also help with sleeping.