Well, the book discussion was last night. I can proudly say that a good time was had by all who attended, both of us. With legitimate excuses, the others who I expected to show up were unable, which left the responsibility of filling two hours with intelligent discussion about George R. R. Martin in the capable hands of my friend Bruce and myself.
By the way, if you don’t want any spoilers for A Game of Thrones, you should stop reading this post and go read A Game of Thrones. But I digress…
After claiming a booth in the back of Graydon’s Crossing, Bruce and I started off the evening with genial conversation. By the time we were done shooting the breeze and settled into the idea of looking over the menu, our waitress has visited the table three times to see if we were ready to order. The fourth time was the charm, however. Bruce ordered the Beer City Pale Ale, a drink that was the collaboration of 10 local breweries in celebration of the fact that Grand Rapids, Michigan was recently crowned “Beer City, USA“. I couldn’t make up my mind, so I got a sampler of three beers, the Beer City Pale Ale, Dragonmead Sin Eater, and Magner’s Irish Cider.
Once the drinks got to the table, our discussion began. Bruce had painstakingly taken and typed up notes for all of the points and themes that he wished to discuss, only to leave them accidentally at home. He did remember the chart that he found though, which proved invaluable in discussing the different characters and remembering all of their names.
We discussed our views on who the main character of the novel was and whether Martin gave us any heroes. Bruce made the case that Eddard Stark was the main character of the book, as most of the plot revolved around him and his struggle to act morally in increasingly evil scenarios. I thought that the true hero of the book was Tyrion Lannister, as his character develops from being the court fool to being instructed to rule over his nephew, the new king. Tyrion’s ability to rise to the top of whatever situation he is in, to inspire others to follow him, and to overcome his brokenness puts him in the hero spot in my opinion.
We talked about what Martin was trying to say by showing that Eddard’s strict moral code led to his downfall, while Tyrion’s flexible morality meant his survival. We didn’t really come to a conclusion on the matter, assuming that the theme had not fully played out by the end of the book one and that we would be able to better see the author’s intentions further into the series.
We talked about how surprising it was that Martin allowed the book to be made into an HBO mini-series, given his views on fan-fiction and allowing others to have control over his characters.
We discussed the different points of view that were used to tell the tale. We both enjoyed the fact that we got to see the story through so many of the character’s eyes. And jumping from conflict to conflict kept the story interesting and fast-paced. We talked about the fact that While most of the Starks got to present the story from their own lips, Robb and Rickon were left out. We see their stories through the lens of either Jon, Bran, or Catelyn. Also, Ser Jaime Lannister was notably absent in the narrator’s seat. The reasons we came up with were that the characters of Rickon and Ser Jaime were mostly one-dimensional (they don’t undergo any great change throughout the book) and narration from their perspective would have been tiresome. For Robb though, we are held at a distance, I think, because he is undergoing too great a change to portray well from his own perspective. At the beginning of the story, Robb is pretend fighting with sticks, but by the end of the story, he is taking on Ser Jaime and leading a group of battle-hardened warriors and ends up being named “King of the North”.
This led to a discussion on the different claims to the throne by the end of the book. With Robert dead, Joffrey takes the throne, though he is not Robert’s real son. The rightful heir of Robert is a bastard working in an armorer’s shop. Though with that knowledge being secret to most, many of those in the realm believe that Stannis Baratheon will challenge Joffrey’s kingship and take it by force, but then who claims the kingship by Stannis’ younger brother Renly. And that is leaving out the fact that the Baratheon line was only just established on the throne after the Targaryen line has been exiled and Daenerys is fast-approaching to reclaim the empire for herself. But very little of this will matter when the Others overcome the wall (across which another character has claimed to be King Beyond the Wall) and reign down their undead terrors upon the living.
After this, we discussed the leadership styles and some of the differences in the societal structures between the kingdoms, the wall, and the plains. We talked about our favorite scenes and favorite quotes (“Mercy is never a mistake” – Eddard Stark) and what really happened in the tent when the maegi took over care for Khal Drogo.
In the end, we both agreed that George R. R. Martin knows how to tell a good tale. And since I got the second book in the series for my birthday, I’m looking forward to digging into the continued story.
That, however, is not the next book club selection. For anyone wishing to join next month’s book discussion (and digitally contributing in the comments is good too), we’ll be reading Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs.
We decided to alternate fiction with non-fiction, and both of us liked the idea of reading Chabon. It’s also topic-appropriate, since Bruce and his wife are going to have a baby, and my wife and I just had another one.
Long post today. Just the way it goes sometimes. Anyway, thanks for reading!