Monday, August 4, 2014

"The most lushly imagined, sprawling soap opera ever written..."

Jonathan Last gave up on reading (listening to) George R.R. Martin's books:
.... To read—or listen to—A Game of Thrones is immersive in the best sense of the word. And yet, after the third week, I returned the audiobook to the library. I was bored.

Good genre fiction is always about something more than the story—it’s about a Big Idea. It has something to say. Irving Kristol saw this. “Science fiction,” he wrote, “as every student of the genre knows, is a peculiar vision of power: What it is really about is politics.” That strikes me as more or less true. And fantasy, which is the twin of sci-fi, is really about metaphysics. But A Song of Ice and Fire seemed to me much less a work of ideas than a soap opera. The most lushly imagined, sprawling soap opera ever written, perhaps. But a soap just the same. It’s an endless succession of character scenes where the big questions are who is betraying or scheming with or sleeping with whom. Which, by the by, may account for its enormous mainstream popularity. ....
Tolkien's books really are about metaphysics and I love his books. I read little fantasy otherwise. I have considered watching the HBO series based on the Martin books but this isn't encouraging.

Weekly Standard, August 11, 2014, p. 5.