Monday, May 16, 2016

George R R Martin - A Game of Thrones

+Voyager Books
@Bantam Spectra, USA

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin is a work in progress.  A Game of Thrones is the first in the series of books.  It is based on the War of the Roses which lasted for thirty years from 1455 to 1487 between Lancasters and Yorks in England.

These wars were full of intrigue and merciless killings. Likewise, George R R Martin's books are also full of torturous happenings for its characters.

It would be fool-hardy to list all the people who appear in the book.  A Game of Thrones is just a start after all.  It is the first in the seven-book series (as planned).

It is summer in Westeros and Robert Baratheon has been on the throne for 15 years. Lord Eddard Stark is the keeper of the North from his seat in Winterfell.  He is living happily there with his wife Catelyn and children, Robert, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Ricken.  He has a bastard son called Jon Snow.  All the Northern bastards are called Snow to let the world know they are nameless.

Right at the start we find out that the Hand of the King, Jon Arryn has died and the King is on his way to Winterfell.  As feared by Catelyn and Eddard (Ned), he wants Ned to take Jon's place.  All the courtly intrigue is not really Ned's cup of tea but he cannot refuse his one time best friend, Robert.

Robert is wedded to Cersei Lannister, daughter of Tywin Lannister.  He is a very rich and an ambitious man.  Cersei has two brothers, Jamie, her twin, and Tyrion, who is a dwarf.  Tyrion is the black sheep of the family. Jamie is the knight in the shining armour and an accomplished swordsman.

The Lannisters want absolute power and will have it at any cost, no matter who is killed.  They are willing to play dirty.  Ned Stark is too honorable to do any underhand deals.  A couple of courtiers, Petyr Baelish and Lord Varys try to teach court intrigues to Ned but meet with open scorn.

While the War of the Roses had just two contenders, Yorks and Lancasters, the Iron Throne of Westeros has four. The Targaryens, Baratheons, Lannisters and Starks.  The plot of the books is very basic.  It is all about who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne which has the Lannister progeny on it at the time of the end of the book.

The books have been adapted for a blockbuster television series and its aficionados can tell you a lot about their theories and back stories and lineage of the characters.  There are a number of people who present YouTube videos about their analysis of each episode and theories and assessment of each character. You can while away hours upon hours watching them.

In fact, the books and the series have seen unprecedented popularity.

George R R Martin keeps the books plot driven and his language sparse and sparkling.  As you read, you can see the characters speak and move, it is so evocative. There are times when there is too much detailing, you wish he did not have to list each movement of some characters.

The scope of the books is so vast that my mind boggles.  There are myriad characters who are bent on keeping the story racing forward.   It is easy to get hooked to a series, the characters are carried forward from book to book.  If the story is gripping enough, it can keep you wanting for more.

A Song of Ice and Fire keeps you wanting for more.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Robert Galbraith -The Silkworm

+Mulholland Books

This is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series.  The first one, The Cuckoo's Calling was pretty interesting.  A little cluttered, according to me, too many things happened.

Cormoran Strike is ex-Army.  He lost his leg in Afghanistan.  He worked for SIB for a while.  Now he is a private investigator.  He was dating a beauty called Charlotte off and on for the past 16 years.  It has definitely been off now.

Strike managed for find his feet as a Private Investigator after the success of the Lula Landry case (covered in The Cuckoo's Calling).  He has several gigs investigating cheating spouses which are bringing in the bread.  His secretary, Robin, is still around.

One day he gets a call from a distraught woman who wants Strike to look for her missing husband.  He is a famous writer called Owen Quine.  He has often left home for long stretches but has come back eventually.  But this time he hasn't and she is worried.

Cormoran starts looking for the errant husband but soon discovers a gruesome murder/  There are several suspects, conveniently listed in a book called 'Bombyx Mori' or The Silkworm.  So why did the writer disappear?  Who committed the gruesome murder?

Cormoran Strike has to step into the publishing world to get his clues, among literary agents, publishing houses, moody writers, transgender people, learning disabled people.  He has to unravel past secrets before he can get to the truth.

The book is much less cluttered than The Cuckoo's Calling.  The red herrings are not as wild as they were in the first book.  The array of characters are quite as vast, but interesting.  Strike has these very lengthy interviews with various suspects, too lengthy, I feel.  The reveal was another lengthy chapter. We are not filling eight book here, Joanna, we need to be terse.

I was bothered by all the physical pain that poor Strike suffers because of his prosthetic leg.  All that labouring about in snow and falling and swollen knees got at me.  I do wish he gets some decent medical attention and spruces up his health in future.

His secretary, Robin, has a more active role in this book, luckily.  She is a great value add to the series.  All of Strike's angst over a famous father who abandoned him, and the uber beautiful girlfriend who ditched him continues to trouble him.

I would not call The Silkworm a very good detective book; it is decent though.  I see there is a third in the series.

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