Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, May 6, 2013

Has HBO's "Game of Thrones" Surpassed the Books?


In a battle fitting for Westeros, I've started wondering if the HBO series "Game of Thrones" has managed to surpass George R.R. Martin's books.

The list of movies and TV shows that have managed to be better than the books they're based on is pretty small. The Godfather, basically, and a few others.

It's simply extremely difficult for filmmakers to match the depth and scope of novels, and seeing characters and events on the screen almost always fails to match our imagination.

I approached the series thusly: I read Game of Thrones before I watched the series. Then I watched Season 1, and marveled at how faithful it was to the book. I plowed forward with Season 2, which was terrific, without reading Clash of Kings. I'm now simultaneously watching Season 3 and reading Clash of Kings.

I have to say, right now I'm preferring Season 3 to Clash of Kings. Yes, that could partly be because I already know roughly what's going to happen in the book, but I think it's a testament to how judicious show creators David Benioff (a terrific author himself) and D.B. Weiss are at keeping the best of the series, discarding the excess threads, and even improving certain key characters.

Neither series is finished, and it will be interesting to see how (or whether) George R.R. Martin wraps up his series and whether the HBO show will eventually beat him to it.

But right now my vote is for the show.

What do you think? Poll below:








36 comments:

Drew Cheney said...

That's the problem, though: Judged purely on the ability to entertain, the show blows the books out of the water, while the narrative is so much chewier in the books.

Matt Borgard said...

I think it's a different beast. Yes, the show gets rid of a lot of the boring parts that probably should never have been in the book in the first place. But when the book is good, it's substantially better than the show simply because we can get further into the characters' heads. Take, for instance, the Jaime/Brienne bath scene. Great in the show, fantastic in the book.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Bransford said...

Hey can we try to avoid spoilers in the comments or at least give fair warning? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

i am really sorry about that, i actually meant to type spoiler before the second link and forgot.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

No worries! I'm going to re-post your comment here.

SPOILER WARNING!

anon:

there are so, so many reasons why the show will never be better than the books and last night's episode highlights a big one: the needless and violent death of Ros. As you're reading the book that coincides with season two and A Storm of Swords is arguably the best book of the series and one of the best books I've ever read, it's difficult do explain how wrong you are. but here are some links that express it better:

http://aquestionofdiscipline.tumblr.com/post/48842377529

http://sweet-lady-justice.tumblr.com/post/49723087386/ofhouseadama-things-in-asos-that-help

in the books, there's a point to everything and while the show is enjoyable, it's adds in a lot of unnecessary sex and violence, among other things.

Ted Cross said...

My favorite movie that is better than the book is The Princess Bride (glad to note that they had it on their list). You are right about Benioff--I've read two of his books and they were great.

I LOVE the show, but I still had to vote for the books. The depth just can't be beaten, and the show too often has to skim over great parts of the books.

Cynthia Hand said...

I have read the books and watch the show faithfully and I agree that the show is better than the books in many ways, although I also agree that it continues to add a lot of gratuitous nudity and violence that feels unnecessary--and I'm no prude, but sheesh. I loved that SNL skit where they claimed that the biggest advisor on the show is a 13 year old boy.

stacy said...

Wish I could vote, but I've only seen the show. I actually started off not liking it much (mostly because I didn't like the dialogue at first), but now I'm hooked. I will be reading the books. Uh, soon.

Anonymous said...

You really can't judge whether the show is better than the books until you've read Storm of Swords, which is one of the best books I've ever read, and by far the best of the series.

Matt Mc said...

I've read all the books (which were great, with the exception of Book 4, which was merely really good), and watched the first season (which was equally great). In my experience, any book sucks after you've already seen the movie (or show, in this case). Knowing the outcome of a book that size--especially if you read A Storm of Swords after watching the third and fourth seasons--is going to make it seem tedious and boring. Methinks you might be skewing your own opinion by reading and watching them this way.

Erica S. said...

It's interesting to ask this question now, when HBO is on Storm of Swords, arguably the best in the series. By the time Game of Thrones gets to Feast and Dance, I have a feeling there will be no question as to which is superior.

Without giving spoilers, the quality of the books has just gone downhill since Storm, and I'm looking forward to HBO removing a lot of the useless chaff that bloated those two novels. GRRM's been lapped by the genre he helped create -- the gritty fantasy genre is common now, and he's running out of ways to top himself.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Different medias make it difficult to compare but I agree the show has done an exceptional job keeping true to the books and still managing to use only the best, more important scenes.

Bruce Bonafede said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Bonafede said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce Bonafede said...

Sorry...typo: A bit off the GOT subject, but wanted to point out that an superb example left off the HuffPost list is the original mini-series adaptation of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" with Alec Guinness. I had loved the book and was stunned that the film version was even better.

1st time poster, btw, outstanding blog.

Shannon said...

They're about the same if you view them as different mediums. If you force me to compare the two then I would vote for the novels. BTW, I gave them a tie in the polls as the show has expressed perceptions that add flavor to the novels.

Matthew MacNish said...

Better? No way. Excellent in it's own right? Certainly. Better at certain moments? Yep. Jaime in the tub, for example. Including ridiculous extraneous characters only for their breasts? Yep. Ros.

SPOILER ALERT.

Thankfully, she's dead now.

END SPOILER.

Stephen del Mar said...

After the first season I checked out the first book and I just couldn't get into it. I agree this is one time when the visual media has surpassed the book. IMHO.

thewriteedge said...

This is kind of funny because I just had a conversation today with some people about movies that were better than the books that inspired them. In my opinion, there are only three movie adaptations that fit this bill: The Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia (Meryl Streep in both -- need I say more?,) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (no one's imagination can conjure up that much chocolate!)

Kelly A Egan said...

oh my gosh no! The books are much better in terms of plot and deviance and intrigue.

However, the show is really great and I think they have done an amazing job choosing the actors. I watched both seasons one and two before reading the books and then spent the time between seasons two and three reading the rest of the books.

So far I am liking book three more than season three. But I've gotta say, the show come season four will definitely be better than the book. Book four was such a chore.

Anonymous said...

After doing a marathon viewing of S1&2 recently, I started reading the books and am currently in AFFC. I was impressed by how faithfully the books have been translated on screen, but GRRM's familiarity with both media may have contributed to that. I don't always like to have a movie cast in my head when I read the original novel afterward, but in this case, I have appreciated it very much, feeling that the casting has been brilliant.

Vishwas said...

I have not seen "Game of Thrones" so a comparison between the books and the shows would obviously not be fair or even possible. But I am intrigued by the whole art, craft and business of transferring stories from print to film. I have shared my thoughts below, if anybody is interested:
Part 1: http://ow.ly/hRY3B
Part 2: http://ow.ly/jgBP7
Part 3: http://ow.ly/jVTzo

Anonymous said...

Game of Thrones is one of those books I'd love to enjoy, because so many of my friends do. They all swear it gets good after about two hundred pages.

Can I just skip those two hundred pages, I ask.

The answer is always, No! So I haven't read it.

For now I'm just going to stick with the books that are good on page one.

Meghan Ward said...

I haven't seen the show or read the books, but I am dying to start watching the show. I just started House of Cards and like that, but I think I'll like Game of Thrones even more. If only I had more time!

Marsha Sigman said...

I've NEVER said this before but...I'm leaning toward the show being better.

I love it. I'm almost as bad as those peeps in the snl skit.lol Game of Game of Thrones.

Bryan Russell said...

It depends on your views about gratuitous nudity...

Scott Atkinson said...

I haven't read them yet, and so far am holding off. What I really want is another Benioff novel.

Dawn Maria said...

I've read all the books and I love the show. While I don't mind expediting some stories line (the dragons grow faster on TV- huzzah!) I've never been a fan of doing things that never happened in the books (do you hear me Universal? Deathly Hallows- enough said).

Despite the additions and changes, the heart of the books and the depth of the characters remain the same, if not even better and for that I am eternally grateful.

M.G. Silverstein said...

To be honest, I'm bored by the show right now. Really bored. Even my husband (who doesn't read at all, let alone anything as epic as GRRM) thought the last episode was dull.

I thought the book was one of the most entertaining and beautifully written books. I absolutely love it. There were times when I wanted to stop reading and squeal like a little kid. The book really excited me. I'm considering taking Game of Thrones off my DVR.

I know I'm a harsh critic of books-to-movies. The fact that I can tell my husbands the changes in dialogue among many other details in the television show, does hinder my ability to enjoy it as its own entity.

I probably should wait a few years, and then give the series a chance. The only Harry Potter movie I enjoyed was the last, and that was probably because my memory of the original story was dimmed.



Anonymous said...

TV writers have gotten significantly better over the last decade. I mean there are some really high quality TV shows with well thought out characters, great acting, and good story arcs. This is a lot different from how it was even a decade ago.

However, this is a trick question since the author also writes one episode each season for the series.

And right now, I'd say 9/10 times the movie/TV adaptation is better than the book.

Anonymous said...

I agree a lot of material unnecessary to the plot is excluded from the show, but some of those scenes contain interesting character developments. A lot of the gratuitous sex scenes could be removed to make room for such scenes.

Also, a lot of awesome scenes are left out. The stuff that Jon and Qhorin half-hand do during their scouting mission are a glaring example.

Technically, the show most of the major plot points. But fans of the show who don't read the books have no idea what they're missing.

D.Isaac said...

Firstly why does everyone keeping saying Storm of Swords is the best novel in the series? Yes it does reach a new peak but Feast for Crows maintains that peak and Dance with Dragons leaves you absolutely out of breath. Also the series is taking major liberties with the plot, ie. Reek is only introduced in DwD but here he is in season 3. The series is fantastic because the characters are and those characters are more vivid, but understood, much more deeply flawed in the novels than they are in the series.

Shanna said...

I have to say that I prefer the books. I don't like a lot of the changes that they're making to the show, and there are parts that even seem a bit fanfiction-y to me.

Not that I dislike the show, though! For the most part, I like it a lot. It's just... GRRM wrote the ASoIaF series to break a lot of clichés, and the show sometimes just plays them straight.

For instance, in the show I believe, Brienne tells Jaime to not act like a girl at one point, but in the books she never would have said that, as she compared the birthing bed to women's version of war.

And how they handled Robb's marriage to "Talisa" in this was just stupid. First off, he's supposed to be married to a lady named Jayne Westerling. And this is going to mess up a lot, since Jayne is alive and well (as they wisely didn't have her attend the Red Wedding in the books), and is coming back to Westeros!

Also, during his trial in ASoS, Sandor Clegane was in tears, but in the show they stand by the "men can't cry or show emotion" ideal, which really rubs me the wrong way sometimes.

And I don't think they always write Dany, and display her reasoning, that well. Which is a shame, because she's completely amazing in the books, and my favorite character pretty much. In the show, though... Well, I can somewhat understand why some people might not understand or like her.

Technically, these are just minor things, though...

Though I do wonder what will happen, and how I'll feel, when more of the show's changes start piling up. Like how it looks like there might be dragons in Westeros in S4, which is actually yet to happen in the books...

Shanna said...

I have to say that I prefer the books. I don't like a lot of the changes that they're making to the show, and there are parts that even seem a bit fanfiction-y to me.

Not that I dislike the show, though! For the most part, I like it a lot. It's just... GRRM wrote the ASoIaF series to break a lot of clichés, and the show sometimes just plays them straight.

For instance, in the show I believe, Brienne tells Jaime to not act like a girl at one point, but in the books she never would have said that, as she compared the birthing bed to women's version of war.

And how they handled Robb's marriage to "Talisa" in this was just stupid. First off, he's supposed to be married to a lady named Jayne Westerling. And this is going to mess up a lot, since Jayne is alive and well (as they wisely didn't have her attend the Red Wedding in the books), and is coming back to Westeros!

Also, during his trial in ASoS, Sandor Clegane was in tears, but in the show they stand by the "men can't cry or show emotion" ideal, which really rubs me the wrong way sometimes.

And I don't think they always write Dany, and display her reasoning, that well. Which is a shame, because she's completely amazing in the books, and my favorite character pretty much. In the show, though... Well, I can somewhat understand why some people might not understand or like her.

Technically, these are just minor things, though...

Though I do wonder what will happen, and how I'll feel, when more of the show's changes start piling up. Like how it looks like there might be dragons in Westeros in S4, which is actually yet to happen in the books...

Shanna said...

I have to say that I prefer the books. I don't like a lot of the changes that they're making to the show, and there are parts that even seem a bit fanfiction-y to me.

Not that I dislike the show, though! For the most part, I like it a lot. It's just... GRRM wrote the ASoIaF series to break a lot of clichés, and the show sometimes just plays them straight.

For instance, in the show I believe, Brienne tells Jaime to not act like a girl at one point, but in the books she never would have said that, as she compared the birthing bed to women's version of war.

And how they handled Robb's marriage to "Talisa" in this was just stupid. First off, he's supposed to be married to a lady named Jayne Westerling. And this is going to mess up a lot, since Jayne is alive and well (as they wisely didn't have her attend the Red Wedding in the books), and is coming back to Westeros!

Also, during his trial in ASoS, Sandor Clegane was in tears, but in the show they stand by the "men can't cry or show emotion" ideal, which really rubs me the wrong way sometimes.

And I don't think they always write Dany, and display her reasoning, that well. Which is a shame, because she's completely amazing in the books, and my favorite character pretty much. In the show, though... Well, I can somewhat understand why some people might not understand or like her.

Technically, these are just minor things, though...

Though I do wonder what will happen, and how I'll feel, when more of the show's changes start piling up. Like how it looks like there might be dragons in Westeros in S4, which is actually yet to happen in the books...

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