Books vs. television: a battle for the throne

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By Lisa Nault
Staff Writer

The HBO hit phenomenon “Game of Thrones,” has ended its 4th season this summer. As a fan of the show, I can’t wait until next season, I finally decided to start reading the books. There are five books currently in the Song of Fire and Ice saga, written by George R. R. Martin.

The first season of the show encompasses the story that takes place in the first book, “A Game of Thrones.” That’s 10 episodes for the 800 pages. Most fans agree that the first season actually follows the book very closely while later seasons make certain changes that add to the story and also take away from it.

There are several moments which were done differently in the show that were better in the book. There are also scenes that the fans were glad the show added because it brought up small plot lines the book lacked.

The book does a great job making an emotional connection to the characters; since it is written from the perspectives of some main characters, readers view the rest of the cast through their eyes.

For example, I found Robb Stark in the book to be much more interesting and likeable than in the show, probably because I was seeing him through the eyes of his mother Catelyn and brother Bran.   

However, the series has a giant cast of characters and can be difficult to keep track of all of them in the book. In spite of the guide provided in the back, the story makes references to people who you haven’t met yet but are related to people you have. It can be overwhelming.

The show provides an improvement in this context. Since it is visual, you have a face you can put to each name, so even if you do not remember their names specifically, you recall their significance and whose side they are on.

The first season follows the book closely; however, it is not exact. There are certain interactions between characters that add a strange bond between them that is dropped in the show because cuts needed to be made.

A very interesting character from the book is not present in the show, and other characters’ screen times are shortened to trim the story to ten episodes. One of the biggest changes that made the fans upset involved a sex scene between a girl and her newlywed husband. In the book, she is scared of him because the marriage was arranged and he comes from a more “barbaric” culture. However, when they consummate the marriage he is kind to her and she consents to the sex.

The scene the show depicts is rape. As the season progresses, their relationship develops into very pure and true love, just as the book portrays. However, in the context of the book, it is clear that they would end up being truly in love. The show’s portrayal is far more problematic, did not make sense from a storyline perspective, and left fans justifiably upset.

In spite of this, the show is stunning. The cinematography creates impressive scenes and long-lasting impressions on the audience. The show removed content from the book but that allows for it to develop a very coherent and more character-based storyline.

The book is told through only a few characters’ perspectives but the show has the ability to tell everyone’s story. It is not restricted and therefore has more liberty to develop characters and study how this fantasy world impacts them individually.

If I were to recommend the book or the show, which would it be? Both of them. They both tell the same story but in different ways and as the story progresses, they begin to go on different paths. I watched the show and then read the book and the book added to my appreciation of the characters. 

I know people who read the book first and the show helped them understand the story better. They both are significant in their own ways so it is not a question on which is better but which do you prefer. Everyone has their own opinion and they can choose if they like the way the story is told better through written words or through visuals.