Game of Thrones, from TV to books
January 2, 2013 12:17 PM   Subscribe

I spent my holiday break watching the first two seasons of Game of Thrones on HBO, having not read the books. Now I can't wait until late March for the third season and want to pick up with the books. Will I be able start with Storm of Swords, the third book? How closely does the show hew to the books, in terms of plot, character and chronology?
posted by stargell to Media & Arts (17 answers total)
Season 1 and Book 1 track closely. Season 2 skews a bit more, and leaves out some plot elements that become more important as you go. You could maybe skip book 1 if you wanted, though I recommend reading it anyway, but skipping book 2 would likely result in confusion.
posted by tau_ceti at 12:22 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Completely agree with tau_ceti. Came in here to same pretty much the same thing.
posted by royalsong at 12:23 PM on January 2, 2013

I watched Season 1 and skipped Book 1 with no ill effects.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:24 PM on January 2, 2013

Not to be a book snob about this but I completely disagree with the recommendation of skipping the books.

The amount of backstory fit into the books, ESPECIALLY book 1... specifically the Ned chapters are very important to the overall storylines that are still playing out in the later books. You have plenty of time, in fact, you might pick up on things you might have missed in the show (or otherwise missed in the book if you hadn't watched the show).

So, if you want the whole ASOIAF experience, I highly recommend reading all of the books or else you are only getting part of the story.
posted by OuttaHere at 12:33 PM on January 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

In addition, from the GoT subreddit on Reddt:

I've seen the TV show, but should I read the books?

The TV show does an excellent job of translating the main plots of A Song of Ice and Fire, but the story and the way it's told has been changed to fit the visual medium. There are additional layers of complexity, side plots, characters, flashbacks, and prophesies that had to be either simplified or left out of the TV series completely. It is simply impossible to include the entirety of George R. R. Martin's imagination in a 10-episode season. The TV show is great, but the story from the books is deeper and broader. If you like the show, we strongly urge you to read the books or listen to the audiobooks to experience the bigger picture.
posted by OuttaHere at 12:37 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Season 2 changed a lot of scenes from the book, so if you are going to read the books at all, I'd recommend not skipping the first two books. Maybe the first one (since it was represented more accurately), but not the second - otherwise the third book might lose you a little.

Also, book#2 was my favourite of the series so far, so that's an additional reason to not skip it (ymmv, of course).
posted by randomnity at 12:43 PM on January 2, 2013

If you're willing to skim through a wiki entry or two for Clash of Kings (the second book) you can probably get away with going straight to book 3.
posted by tautological at 12:45 PM on January 2, 2013

We call season two the "that's-not-in-the-book" season, or if feeling beneficent, "The Continued Adventures Of." Which is to say...there are significant departures from book two in season two of GoT.

That said, books one and two are fun and fast, and I wouldn't skip them.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't :(

It won't ruin the experience, but you will be missing out.
posted by Strass at 12:58 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are additional layers of complexity, side plots, characters, flashbacks, and prophesies that had to be either simplified or left out of the TV series completely.

On the other hand, when I went to the books after Season 1 (not having read them before), I felt that the TV show was much much better than the books precisely because there was less of GRR Martin's tendency to turn what should have been relatively straightforward into a logorrheic slog. You can certainly skip book one, and probably book two as well.
posted by OmieWise at 12:59 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

I mean, you COULD maybe skip book 1 and still be able to follow the plots of later books, but if you're looking for ways to shave time off the experience this might not be the book series for you.

What I love about Game of Thrones is that Martin creates a complete universe. There is so much intricacy and detail that for weeks after finishing the latest book I actually missed having the characters in my life, like they were real people. And I'm not usually a big fantasy or sci-fi person at all. Other people get other things from the series, but imho skipping any of the books = missing out.

I think OuttaHere is absolutely right about the first book setting up the rest of the series. Having read all the books I can now look back and kind of marvel at how things that seemed like very small events in the first two books put in motion what became huge turning points in the series.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 1:24 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

From a sheer enjoyment standpoint, if you're going to read any of the books, you need to read book two. It's amazingly exciting and fascinating. (Books three and four are kind of a slog and then it picks up again a bit in the fifth one.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:24 PM on January 2, 2013

I'd definitely read Book 1, at least the Ned chapters, because there's a lot of really important background that got necessarily glossed over in the show - stuff that becomes important to know later on. I personally found Book 2 a bit of a slog, but the others are right that there were some significant departures on the show that might make reading the future books a tad confusing if you haven't read Book 2.

If you really just wanna know "what happens next!" (which is understandable!) then you could start with 3 and use Tower of the Hand as background to fill in confusing bits. But only use that, as opposed to the other wikis, because you can set it to only show you stuff for up through what you've read/seen. Trust me on this, you do not want to get spoiled for any of the events in the upcoming books.
posted by lunasol at 1:34 PM on January 2, 2013

You should skip book one. I read the series after watching season one (haven't been able to watch season two) and I while I enjoyed book one, I just kept waiting for something to happen that I didn't already know. If the books were shorter I would say to just read it, but it took me while even as a fast reader.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2013

Well, it depends what kind of experience you want.

The books paint an enormous yet intricately detailed world. Reading them is an awesome and immersive experience. There is a lot more to them than the story as it unfolds in the screen adaptation-- a ton of backstory and character details that can't really translate to the screen.

If you don't care about that stuff then sure, the main story beats are there in seasons 1 and 2. (As a data point, Book 3 is still my far and away favorite of the series, way more awesome/surprising stuff happens than in the others.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:15 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

When you finish the last book you are going to wish you had more of it to read. If you read the first book it will take longer to get to that sad time.
posted by TheRedArmy at 3:44 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

What TheRedArmy said. I wish I had ten more GoT books to read! The thought of skipping any is unthinkable to me. I even read the stupid little appendixes.
posted by silverstatue at 7:24 PM on January 2, 2013

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