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A Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin

Buy it? Only if you have a long plane flight ahead of you.

OK, I realize that I was probably the last person on earth to buy this book and hence the last to review it online, but what the heck—it's close to the only fantasy novel I've read recently. So here goes.
     It's not that I didn't like this book, because mostly I did. It's got a nicely convoluted plot, the world itself has plenty of quirks without being confusingly alien, and he does a fine job of depicting just what kind of scumpuppy the average medieval knight probably was. You may need a crib sheet to keep track of everyone's first name, family name, estate name, nickname, and knightly appellation—there are a LOT of characters.
     No, my problem with this book is that most of it is good, but where it isn't, it has serious problems. Those problems hinge upon the fact that, in the course of Martin's unfolding plot, it is apparently necessary for his characters to do some incredibly stupid things. Now, looking at real life, why should that be a problem? People do incredibly stupid things on a daily basis. The problem is that these are characters who are otherwise quite intelligent—even scheming upon occasion—and there is just no excuse for them to be so DUMB. They have almost as much information as the audience does about what's going on, after all, and they're supposedly adept at maneuvering in their own milieu.
     So why, then, does the otherwise sharp Eddard Stark, suspecting a horrible, murderous plot at the very center of the kingdom, TELL his obviously brainless daughter, that they're going to be leaving the city very very quietly in a couple of days, and she's not to tell anyone?
     Could even someone as thick-headed as King Robert apparently is not notice (or not care) that the kingdom is in debt to the tune of some 6 million gold coins to his wife's family—his wife, whom he knows full well hates him, and whose family has managed to wangle their way into just about every important position in the kingdom?
     And could the exiled princess (whose name I forgot), skilled and cunning beyond her years, be told that the spell she is asking for will require a life in payment, and not want to know WHOSE?
     These are things the entire plot turns on, and at each one of these points my suspended belief went WHAT?, shook itself awake and plummeted earthward. Because at most other times, the characters and events are drawn quite well, it just makes these awkward spots all the more painful, so I can't fully recommend it.
     I do intend to read the next book in the series, but only after it's out in paperback.

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