There are two factions of Game of Thrones fans. Those who have read the books so far released in the Song of Ice and Fire series, and those that have not. Perhaps the word faction is a misnomer. This could imply that the two groups are at odds, when in reality they often share what could be described as a brotherly relationship. The book readers are of course the older brother, waiting for their younger sibling to discover what life (or the TV show) has in store for them. Of course this anticipation of the newer fans reactions is often not quite so innocent, with much of the book readers fun coming from non-reader’s reactions to horrific on screen events like The Red Wedding in season 3.
Now this type of situation brings up an interesting question: which position is better to be in? A knowledgeable book reader seeing Westeros come to life, but with little surprise over events, or a non-reader who is new to George R. R. Martin’s world and is shocked at every turn? One of the main thrills of Game of Thrones is the sheer unpredictability. Major characters that would be guarded by layers of plot armor in any other story can be killed any moment, unexpected alliances are formed, and the world just keeps getting bigger and more diverse. That being said, one must wonder if there is even more in the book to miss out on because really a television just can’t cover all of it.
In my own humble opinion I always believe it is better to read the book or source material first. Reading the source material can richly enhance a viewers understanding and appreciation of characters and locales. Inner monologues that can’t be put on film are translated via facial expression and the tone of the dialogue. Of course the negative side is when things that a reader is looking forward to seeing are completely left out. Is this a good enough reason not to read the source material of a TV show or movie? Game of Thrones is the one story where I make an exception to my rule. When I began watching the show I had not read the books. The further I got into the series the more engrossed I became. I began to contemplate reading the books and going ahead of where the series had reached. With such long waits between seasons I needed more Westeros! But then I recalled all of the moments that shocked and surprised me. Every new development or tragic death that made me feel incredibly strongly for fictional characters. I decided that such moments were not worth giving up.
When the Game of Thrones series inevitably concludes I will very likely pick up the entire book series to experience the story again in a different way, backwards from my usual process. But again, this is just how I choose to experience it. What do you think? Is knowing the future of your favorite characters worth a little less shock value? Or do you want to experience each episode fresh every Sunday night? Either way George R. R. Martin’s grim world will pull you in.
Written By: Matt Isaacs