May 17th, 2012

green leaves

Reading _A Dance with Dragons_

No spoilers, please-- I'm only(!) about 600 pages in.

This book strikes me as realistic in a very general sort of way-- history is crowded, with lots of people and nations bumping up against each other. Much as I love LOTR and the Riddlemaster Trilogy [1], those have the nations being much too distinct. Even Martin probably underestimates how much the various cultures would influence each other.

It also has a quality that I can only describe as atheistic-- it seems like a universe where no one is in charge. [2] It's not like The Golden Compass, which is more like an argument for atheism, or at least the badness of organized religion, or possibly the badness of organized religion which looks something like Catholicism. The thing is, if a book is making a strong argument for a single point, it isn't the same as book about a universe that just sort of thrashes along.

A minor nitpick: Martin consistently uses "wroth" when he means "wrath".

[1]I much prefer the first book.

[2]I was tempted to say "not even the author", but that seems unfair-- I'd been worried that Martin had lost track of overall story structure, but this book at least seems as though it's building towards something.

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green leaves

Chapter titles in A Song of Ice and Fire

The chapters are titled after the character whose viewpoint is being followed, so you have the same chapter title showing up again and again in the course of thousands of pages. Lately (I think this is a recent development), we've been getting a few chapters named after a character's situation rather than the character.

I don't exactly find this disorienting, but it does make it harder to find particular events. I can't think of any other books which handle chapters this way, though I think I have some which simply don't have chapter titles.

I can see an advantage for the author-- Martin doesn't have to worry about whether a descriptive chapter title would be a spoiler, he doesn't have to give the characters distinct voices-- they have distinctive concerns, which isn't the same thing, and if a reader wants to follow one character's story, it's relatively easy.

Anyway, if you're reading the books, how do the chapter titles affect your reading experience? Has Martin written anything about why he made that decision long ago, or what he thinks of it now?

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