This isn't a book review, per se. It's about looking at a book author to author. Once you start writing and have achieved a modest level of competence, the reading process is never the same. It's much like seeing a woman who is flawlessly made up, stripped naked of all her make-up, and what you're left with is the bones. Sometimes she's even more beautiful without all that crap on her face, and sometimes she's not. When I dislike a book, I really tend to dislike it. Because I know that it's not that hard to fix holes in a plot, and I can smell when an author is being lazy and phoning it in (which tends to happen in a long-running series), or is enamored with their status as an author and thinks that anything can pretty well fly. All of the above make me extremely intolerant and, as this blog so often attests, something of a cranky pants when it comes to writing.
However, the converse is also true. When I see an author make a decent stab at a book, even a book that has one or two major flaws, I am so willing to forgive. Because it's both incredibly easy and astonishingly hard to write a book. And when someone's passion flies off the page, I am more than willing to forgive, well, an awful lot if they care about their characters.
This brings us to the Game of Thrones series. I've just finished book 2 and have books 3 and 4 all lined up to go. Why do I love this series so much? Are there flaws? Yes, there are flaws. When George R.R. Martin's characterization is brilliant, it is really brilliant. When it is awful, then, it's pretty bad. I have hopes for Sansa Stark, but she started off ridiculously stupid in a family of very bright people, and if it hadn't been for the stunning, just jaw-dropping characterization of Tyrion Lannister, I don't know if I would have finished the book. But Tyrion is truly amazing and Sansa is improving. I don't know anything about Martin's personal life, but I'm guessing he doesn't have children, because the children in these books are both far too young and far too old, but he tells a cracking good story, so, yes, the magic is still working for me.
But what he does, and I admire this so much, is that he's fearless. He kills off people we love. He humiliates people we admire. He makes proud, decent men do ugly, awful things. He has the bastards be triumphant. For this alone he should be read by anyone who wants to write a book. Because if you become a fearless author, then your reader will always be on tenterhooks. Because you're not afraid to do anything with your characters. Which means that the person turning the page has no idea what's going to happen next.
Bravo, George! Bravo!