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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Odds and Ends: A Game of Thrones Debut and a 2011 Translation from David Albahari (by Liviu Suciu)

In my recent review of Embassytown I mentioned how China Mieville will always be for me the author who opened new possibilities in the stranger aspects of fantasy; in the same way George Martin will always be the author who opened core fantasy to me since before his masterpiece A Game of Thrones appeared in 1996, the scene had very little of interest for me as I am not a fan of D&D, S&S, Tolkien, Feist and all their clones from the pre-Martin period.

Yes there was CS Friedman excellent - at least for its time since today it reads slightly dated - Coldfire trilogy, there was Sean Russell superb quasi-Earth series The Initiate Brother and Moontide and Magic Rise, but that was pretty much all for me in fantasy until GRRM opened the door for the much more complex epic and adventure fantasies of today.

I bought and read A Game of Thrones on publication in 1996 because it sounded "right" and the one (famous) sf story by GRRM that I had read many years ago beyond the Iron Curtain , "The Sandkings", still resonated with me. That novel and the second volume of the series A Clash of Kings are still among my all time favorites and I've read them quite a few times across the years. A Storm of Swords while having great moments and an awesome ending, was also a monster sprawl of a novel that scattered the series and lost its focus to a large degree, while A Feast of Crows despite some unforgettable moments, was a moderate disappointment for me, so the upcoming A Dance with Dragons comes with huge expectations.

Fast forward to last Sunday's premiere of the HBO series and all the pre-release snippets, trailers and information pointed to a quality show that will do justice to the masterpiece novel, so I had very high expectations and they were definitely fulfilled. The first episode of the series got the right feel and the production values were superb. The cast so far also represents the novel well and I am curious to see how they will develop, since watching the first episode which was just dominated by Jaime Lannister while having also a very strong presence from Daenerys Tagaryen, I realized that it will be tricky to realize some of the character nuances on screen. Flamboyance from Jaime and otherworldly beauty from Daenerys express well on the screen but let's see how the smart cynicism tinged with bitterness from Tyrion and the dogged faithfulness of Ned Stark will show in detail since so far both were good but not outstanding.

Anyway a great series beginning and I urge every fantasy fan to give it a try whether you can recite the actors' lines from memory or you have not yet read the novels...


Recently I have discovered a very interesting new translation from author David Albahari who hails from Serbia and currently lives in Canada. "Leeches" is a translation of a 2006 novel which has an April 28 official publication date, though it is in stores already and I plan to give it a careful read soon. I loved the first few pages I've read and the novel has the advertised feel of a sort of a tight and denser "Foucault's Pendulum" without U. Eco's smugness and interminable digressions that made that novel an infuriating read which I both loved and hated at the same time.

"Leeches" is a novel in which mainstream meets the speculative and I have really high expectations for it since as 2011 releases go, only pure core-sff novels have blown me away with the two celebrated mainstream novels I've tried being a huge UF formula dud ("A Discovery of Witches") and a well written but somewhat cold and ultimately only partly satisfying reading experience (The Tiger's Wife). Here is the blurb:

"The place is Serbia, the time is the late 1990s. Our protagonist, a single man, writes a regular op-ed column for a Belgrade newspaper and spends the rest of his time with his best friend, smoking pot and talking about sex, politics, and life in general. One day on the shore of the Danube he spots a man slapping a beautiful woman. Intrigued, he follows the woman into the tangled streets of the city until he loses sight of her. A few days later he receives a mysterious manuscript whose contents seem to mutate each time he opens it. To decipher the manuscript—a collection of fragments on the Kabbalah and the history of the Jews of Zemun and Belgrade—he contacts an old schoolmate, now an eccentric mathematician, and a group of men from the Jewish community.

As the narrator delves deeper into arcane topics, he begins to see signs of anti-Semitism, past and present, throughout the city and he feels impelled to denounce it. But his increasingly passionate columns erupt in a scandal culminating in murder. Following in the footsteps of Foucault’s Pendulum, Leeches is a cerebral adventure into the underground worlds of secret societies and conspiracy theories."


James said...

I'm really looking forward to watching the first episode of A Game of Thrones in full (I haven't got Sky Atlantic so I'm relying on a friend to record them for me). My sister who hasn't read the books thought the first episode was okay, but nothing special. My friend, who has read the books, thought it was brilliant. Due to the complexity of the story and the sheer number of charcters, I think this is going to be a common trend. Those who are already fans of the books will love the show, and those who are new to it, would probably get more out of it if they read the books first.

Liviu said...

I agree with your comment - though I think that the show will grow on people who have not read the book

donnitarogers said...

A Game of Thrones has been such an inspiration for many genre writers such as myself. In my mind, it's a contemporary classic. The HBO interpretation only serves as a reminder of just how good the material is.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the first two episodes and right now I'm downloading the book. I was stunned by this production but have nevers seen the book in the stores in Bulgaria :( . It was strange because usually i read a book and than a movie comes on the big screen but this time I was verry surprised by this. :) I really wish somebody to make a movie on the Malazan Empire but i guess it's a kind of impossible :D

Lidia | Adelgazar said...

Game of thrones is, probably, the best TV serie that I've ever seen.
It's raw and real like none, and reflects the European Middle Age (althought was fantastic, not historic) in all over its dimension.
The characters and the script have an incredible depth.
Perhaps, the sex scenes and explicit violence are too frequent.

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