The book is always better than the movie or the show. Isn't that true? Isn't that what we always say, at least? A Song of Ice and Fire is a remarkable story, and the world George R. R. Martin built is full of a rich history readers can practically drown in. And sometimes, you do whether you want to or not. Game of Thrones takes the best of A Song of Ice and Fire, and feeds it directly to our eye holes without any of the cumbersome slog that comes with five books that are each nearly 1,000 pages.
To be clear, A Song of Ice and Fire is an amazing, fantastic, seminal series of novels. Game of Thrones, however, is phenomenal. Literally. It's a global phenomenon, and it's in that position for good reason: Game of Thrones perfects the storytelling of A Song of Ice and Fire. There's a constantly present tension in the show, created by impeccable pacing and many (so, so many) engaging characters.
Is Game of Thrones better than A Song of Ice and Fire? That's difficult to say, and it's obviously subjective. But, does the show do some things better than the books? Absolutely. So, let's take a look at the things Game of Thrones does better than A Song of Ice and Fire.
The Pacing Is Perfect
In the books, everyone takes forever to do anything. Not even taking into account the vast majority of the events in book five are contemporaneous with book four (although that is a huge deal), there's a lot of plodding along in A Song of Ice and Fire.
Brienne and Podrick pursue Sansa for most of A Feast for Crows, and continue to do so long after they've lost her trail. Worse, however, is being forced to pay attention to the storylines of certain characters who don't exist in the show. The thing is, they don't exist for good reason. Arianne Martell, the daughter of the Prince of Dorne, is introduced in A Feast for Crows, and her chapters are interminable because: A) we haven't been given reason to care about most of the characters in Dorne, and B) there's a lot of hanging out and making plots in Dorne, because of the culture in general.
It doesn't exactly make for page turning action. In Game of Thrones, we are introduced to Dorne through the fascinating character of Oberyn Martell, and then we witness some serious intrigue in Dorne, skipping over the languor.
At their collective heart, the story of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire is a political thriller. Within the regular action of the show, there are enough climactic events to keep your interest. The fantasy genre, as a rule, shares a portion of the blame for A Song of Ice and Fire's less-than-frenetic pace. Of course, this also leaves time for world building, and is what makes this story and others like it so immersive. Still, there's really no point in the show where the audience says, "Stop describing types of roast meat for two seconds!" That's the difference.
The Vistas Are Breathtaking
Westeros is a diverse continent composed of many climates. From the frozen north to the tropical south, most ecosystems are represented. Of course, a book can only describe such things. It's not George R. R. Martin's fault he can't show us sweeping planes or sprawling oceans, but for this very reason, Game of Thrones does deserve credit for the visualization of these environments.
When they show us a scene of rolling green hills immediately after we've witnessed the snow covered wildlands north of the Wall, we can't help but wonder at the sublimity of it all. Martin does as good a job as any author in conveying the nature and scope of his world with the written word, but there's simply no way it can match that which our eyes can see.
The Visualization Of The Violence Adds Another Dimension Of Horror
If you didn't vomit when Oberyn Martell's head was crushed, there's something wrong with you. While the violence in A Song of Ice and Fire is disturbing and at times shocking, it simply cannot compete with the visual medium of television, and the effect that actually seeing the merciless brutality of that world has on the viewer.
The Red Wedding was truly horrifying, as was Princess Shireen's burning at the stake. In fact, the violence of the show can arguably go too far, but it certainly makes an impact. Martin's world of Westeros is bleak and terrible, and Game of Thrones does not let you forget that.
The Timeliness Of Television Be Praised
Whether or not the criticism is fair, there’s something to be said for the reliability of Game of Thrones and its annual release each year. The publication of the books is not quite as... dependable. A Game of Thrones came out in 1996, A Clash of Kings in 1998, and A Storm of Swords in 2000.
Then there was a five-year gap before the release of A Feast for Crows in 2005, followed by a six-year gap until the publication of A Dance with Dragons in 2011. Another six years later, we’re still waiting on an official release date for The Winds of Winter, which will certainly not come out until at least 2018, despite the fact that George R. R. Martin had nearly a third of it written as far back as 2012.
Martin is 68 years old. While he truly doesn’t owe his fans anything, it would be a shame if we did not get to see him complete his work. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.