Pop Culture Homework Assignment #4: A Game of Thrones

When it comes to the fantasy genre, I'm halfway between casual fan and hardcore geek. I can't quote Tolkien by heart, but love fantasy MMORPGs. I've never picked up a Wheel of Time book, but am timidly exploring Magic: The Gathering. I'm like the Persephone of the fantasy world, spending half my year happily nerding out, and half my year scratching my head over the properties coming out of Comic-Con.

Since there seems to be an endless stream of books and games in the fantasy realm these days, I'm not surprised that the Game of Thrones series didn't catch my attention until it became a big deal in the mainstream. I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance if it hadn't caught on with such a wide segment of pop culture enthusiasts. But it did, so it had to go on the Pop Culture Homework Project list. The HBO series looks fascinating, but my aversion to gory movies and television means I'll probably never see it, so I turned to the book that inspired the widespread popularity in the first place.

Because the story is so sprawling, trying to describe the plot with any amount of specificity would take forever. Simply put, there are multiple lords, all of whom serve under a high king. Not everyone likes their monarch, though, and there are several characters who plot to overthrow him, and that includes the greedy, power-hungry family he's married into. This first book mostly revolves around three families: The noble Starks, the deposed Targaryens, and the aforementioned greedy, power-hungry Lannisters. You won't want for detail in this book. Every family has loads of members, and there are scores of tertiary characters as well, all with their own motives.

As with many things I'm catching up to late, I had a few issues figuring out just exactly why something is as popular as it is. Not that this book was bad; I enjoyed it, and am already on to the second book in the series. Still, nothing really stood out as special enough to capture the nation's collective interest. An interesting story is still an interesting story, but there wasn't anything new here. In fact, I think I counted at least four lines that appear word-for-word in I, Claudius.

Perhaps this series uses the first book to lay groundwork that pays off later, much like the first season of Mad Men. If not, I may never understand why this book caught fire in the popular consciousness, but as far as mega-violent, epic series go, you could do a whole lot worse.

A Game of Thrones: B


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