Friday, 11 May 2012

A Storm of Swords

George R R Martin, 2000
(April 2012)

I started reading the Song of Ice and Fire books last year, in all the excitement surrounding the TV series. They’re very good, but catching up on all the published ones in a dash meant they fell prey to Box-set Syndrome a touch. More than that though, I actually started then stopped reading this book last August, before picking it up again recently (TV hype once more). The reason for that hiatus has less to do with reading them all at once and more to do with girls in bikinis and Kim Bauer.

You should be aware than in the course of explaining that, I’ll be pissing spoilers everywhere. Pissing them like a nervous toddler taking his first swimming lesson.

I know how incontinent kids can be. I used to work as a lifeguard. Every Saturday morning the pool would host swimming lessons for primary school kids, and we’d have to throw chemicals into water with a haste normally only matched by a dealer who’s just heard the police kicking in his front door.

The rest of the week was fine. It was in the city centre and the usual clientele were a mix of students from a nearby university and harried office workers getting in their 25 lengths at lunchtime. Lane swimming only, not recreational, so at least we didn’t have to worry about hordes of scally teens dive-bombing and the like.

At the start of every academic term you’d get a few students who’d made a resolution to ‘get fit’. Obviously their first time in the pool, they’d come in, look around nervously, then get in the slow lane and spend 20 minutes doing head-up breast-stroke with such ineptitude that all the normally ‘slow’ swimmers would move to the intermediate lane. This lane would itself become clogged so people would move up to the fast lane and so on. Eventually you’d get Mr Hyper-serious ‘I’m Training for a Triathlon’ Guy having a small lane-rage tantrum over all the people suddenly in ‘his’ lane and you’d have to call the manager.

This was as inevitable as night following day, and the surest sign that new people had no idea what they were doing was that they weren’t wearing purposefully sporty swimming costumes, but fashionable beachwear which obviously hadn’t seen the light of day since last year’s summer holiday. The upshot of this is that the sight of attractive young women wearing bikinis would actually make me slightly depressed. That is not a sentence a healthy heterosexual male should ever have to write.

This is also why I’ll never forgive the writers of 24. I’ve mentioned this before, but watching a load of episodes back-to-back really doesn’t improve things. You end up screaming at the TV, “No! You made exactly the same decision in the last episode and it was a fucking terrible one then! Exactly exactly how much do you think the world has changed in the intervening 45 minutes?”

Kim Bauer was the worst character for this. Again, to the point where I was actively disappointed to see her on screen. At the time I would have rated Elisha Cuthbert as one of the most attractive women on the planet. It takes a very special (lack of) talent to make something so beautiful seem so unappealing.

Which brings us back to the book, and specifically Catelyn Stark. This is another woman whose entire character synopsis reads: ‘lousy decision-maker/shit magnet’. She seems to do nothing but mope about being depressed, only to periodically take time out from her busy schedule of stoic self-pity in order to make another fucking awful decision. Decisions which invariably lead to the death of people close to her, which just makes her more depressed. You can imagine how happy I was when the Freys did everyone a favour and murdered her.

Told you there’d be spoilers.


  1. "in all the excitement surrounding the TV series."

    man....I'm really in a cave cuz I never heard of it :(

    I spend too much time watching W.H. pressers. I should stop that.

    You didn't spoil anything for assured ;)

    1. Well that's a relief ;)

      Google suggests the WH pressers are White House Press Conferences, and not a family run dry-cleaning business? We've all got to get our jollies somehow I suppose.

      I bet it's like the West Wing every time, killer intellects and lightning fast repartee left, right, and centre...

  2. I wondered when I read A Storm of Swords if the many years between the writing of it and the previous book were enough for Martin to say to himself, What the hell was I thinking with this Catelyn nonsense. Oh well, everyone must hate her so why not just be done with her...

    1. How I wish that were true. Unfortunately hew also seems to have forgotten that, as well. "How could I possibly make her more miserable and depressing? I know..."

  3. For a moment there, it looked like Kamo had really cracked and was going to fall from his walk along the tight-wire of sanity when he said,"The upshot of this is that the sight of attractive young women wearing bikinis would actually make me slightly depressed."

    That's kind of like saying,"Gee, twenty meters up...what a spectacular way to die. Yep, looks like it's going to rain. Will save some trouble mopping up. I couldn't have wished for anything better now, could I?"

    But the sentence that you followed up with saved it, just in the nick of time.

    Or so I thought. Cause later, you says,"It takes a very special (lack of) talent to make something so beautiful seem so unappealing."

    I kind of want to nudge someone next to me in the small audience gathered far below the Fighting Blue Blogger and ask,"He knows there's no safety net below, doesn't he? I mean, he's truly talented and all," starting to whisper,"but he's...what the hell is he doing now?!" Gasps and laughter. The former theirs, the latter his.

    A horrifically beautiful read. Just enough sweet mixed in with the bitter. Damn good cup of tea, this one.

    1. :) Cheers.

      Not suicidal, but I'd be lying if that bloody Stark woman didn't make me wish death on someone.

  4. Martin's third instalment in the "A Song of Fire and Ice" series runs to about 924 pages, which makes it some 200 pages longer than its predecessor, "A Clash of Kings".
    But never once does the pace let up: "Swords" is every bit as ferocious and grim as the earlier volumes. In fact, at one especially nasty and unexpected turn, I had to stop reading for a minute just to catch my breath (something that hadn't happened whilst reading either of the two earlier books).

    I'll not say all too much about the story (or rather stories, as again each chapter focuses on a different main character). But I could mention that, at the end of "Swords", almost half of the main contenders for the Iron Throne are dead. That ought to give you some idea.

    1. Umm, yeah. Thanks for the comment and all, but some idea of what, exactly? Surely it's clear that I've actually read the damn thing. And it's sequel come to that, if you're digging around in the archives. 'Not saying too much about the story' is a little late, considering I've already spoilered it all to fuck.

      Is this just very specific spam? There are enough tired marketing cliches here to make me wonder...