OT: GoT books vs tv series

Submitted by crg on August 6th, 2017 at 1:01 PM

Since we are (thankfully) almost done with OT season, I figured I would post this now since a new episode is airing tonight.

I only recently got into GoT; I read the books last summer and streamed the tv series over the last month or so - catching up the current episode this week. Having both fresh in mind, it was no surprise that there were many differences between the two. Yet, it seems like there are a number of plot holes and other issues that could have been resolved with better episode writing (even if different from books). I'm curious to read what the board thinks about it - both good and bad.

Football is coming.



August 6th, 2017 at 1:04 PM ^

think that Martin lost all meaningful narrative structure at about the beginning of Feast, and that the show is doing a remarkable job of actually covering up the holes that not even he can fill by sheer breakneck momentum. I am really impressed with the writing, direction, and phenomenal acting this season.


August 6th, 2017 at 1:21 PM ^

I agree that the plot threads became more chaotic and disjointed after book 2, but it also looked like Martin was trying to resolve that by book 5 (with varying degrees of success). Personally, I think his decision to publish in piecemeal (with many years between books) is a major factor. A good counter example would be Lord of the Rings: it took 10+ years to write, but the plot structure was fully developed and consistent from beginning to end before publication. Higher quality writing at the cost of delayed payback.


August 6th, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

I've read all three way through five times. After my first read I was really disappointed in Feast and DWD.

Around my third read through they started to really click, and after five reads Feast and DWD are easily my favorites.

The series evolves from a story about a kingdom into a story about characters which is difficult at first to accept as a reader. But as you establish a connection and empathy towards the characters (Jamie, Arya - I'm looking at you), you grow to appreciate the character growth. All while knowing that soon in WOW, you'll be taken back to the fate of kingdom.

Vehemently disagree that the show is better than the books as someone mentioned below. I think that sentiment is rooted from a lot of the activity on GoT the past 2 seasons. But keep in mind that much of that story (though certainly not all) will come from the books


August 7th, 2017 at 1:05 AM ^

Seems ridiculous now, as books are routinely that long, and epic series are several thousands of pages.  But LOTR was so unbelievably ground breaking when it was written that no one knew what to do with it.  Tolkien essentially created the "modern epic fiction" genre. 


August 6th, 2017 at 4:55 PM ^

I tend to divide the books into the first three, which were fucking outstanding, and the fourth, which is slow and long and kinda boring for large chunks. I think the books were superior for the material up to and including the red wedding, but the show picked up where Martin lost focus. This season has been outstanding thus far.


August 6th, 2017 at 1:12 PM ^

My wife is an avid fiction reader and she claims that GoT is the sole series where the shows are actually better than the books. I guess prepare to be disappointed?

PS, I also hear that the latest episode was leaked.

UM Fan from Sydney

August 6th, 2017 at 2:25 PM ^

It has certainly been leaked. HBO is working with the FBI on this case. Part of the fun of GoT is the anticipation. Why anyone wants to know the outcome prior to watching it or see it before most others is a mystery to me.

Blue since birthed

August 6th, 2017 at 11:26 PM ^

I started the show first and got invested in it. I read up to The Red Wedding in the books, catching up to where I was in the show at the time... Haven't went back to the books. I enjoyed what I read, but I didn't fall in love with it, like I did the show. To be fair, I haven't been a big reader of fiction in recent years, the show is probably my all time favorite tv show (definitely top 3)... And again, I started with (and fell in love with) the show.


August 6th, 2017 at 1:13 PM ^

I gave up on the show after a few seasons as I found the changes were detracting from the story. For instance Jaimies character arc was pretty drastically changed. And the changes were leaving holes in the story.

yes the story got away from GRRM in the last two books, and it lost all structure, but at least I found that the plot and story were consistent.

swan flu

August 6th, 2017 at 1:15 PM ^

Been reading the books since 2005, at this point in time if he doeant finish the books because the guys who wrote The Expanse would do a fantastic job if needed.

I have to look at them seperately because I think on their own both are excellent, but if u try to compare the show to the books it is not really fair.


August 7th, 2017 at 1:12 AM ^

one of the guys who write the expanse WORKED for Martin as an assistant.  The big difference seems to be that the Expanse writers actually know how to complete their books.  I love Martin's writing, but damn, the dude is the slowest damn writier on the planet.  I love the fact that the Expanse books come out every year and the quality is consitently top shelf. 

OMG Shirtless

August 6th, 2017 at 1:21 PM ^

When they took the job, they were adapting books into a tv show.  Now they're trying to write a story that the author can't even figure out how to finish.  


August 6th, 2017 at 1:35 PM ^

I don't believe this is true. I think I even read that Martin told the producers and writers how the books will end, in specific detail. I think he has most of the last two books written as well (again, IIRC). I think he is just having a hard time filling them out and finishing them up, given that the psycho-fans of the books are expecting 1,500 page epics like the first 5 books, and he is burned out by the project. 


August 6th, 2017 at 1:58 PM ^

You have it a bit wrong. He has the broad strokes of the end game figured out and that's what he has told the show runners. However, he doesn't have all the details as to how the books are logically going to get to that point. And that's why the recent seasons have some plot holes/illogical actions because its the show runners just trying to speed through stuff without a blueprint to follow.


August 6th, 2017 at 2:14 PM ^

Yeah, that sounds right. I didn't go back to find the article I read, but I think you're correct. Regardless, it's not the case that Martin "doesn't know how the books will end," it's more that he hasn't outlined every detail. Regardless, I doubt the show runners are just making up important plot points without a lot of input from Martin; if they did, the books could be way, way off, and that doesn't seem like Martin's style. 

OMG Shirtless

August 6th, 2017 at 3:47 PM ^

The producers aren't making up plot points, but they are making up all the dialogue and details between the plot points.  They've done a good job making the dialogue sound like something from Martin's books, but they no longer have the option of using Martin's dialogue nearly word for word as they did in some of the first few seasons.

I really just wanted to point out that there's a difference between writing a screenplay/television show using an outline/summary/cliff notes and adapting a screenplay/television show from a book.  

Note: You may have responded before I changed "doesn't know how the books will end" to "doesn't know how to finish the books."    


August 6th, 2017 at 4:07 PM ^

Yeah, I think this is all 100% correct. S7 E3, in fact, seemed extremely rushed, like storylines Martin would have unfold throughout an entire book. The Unsullied sail from Dragonstone to Casterly Rock, and take the castle, while the Lannister armies travel overland from Casterly Rock and take Highgarden, while the Ironborn have time after destroying Yara's fleet near Dragonstone to still make it to Casterly Rock to destroy the Unsullied fleet, all in one episode??? I'm not going to totally nerd-out and calculate all that based on known distances and rates of travel (Westeros is absolutely huge in the books, which many people don't know based on the show only, with a distance of 3000 miles from the Wall to Dorne, greater than the distance from NYC to LA), but that was months and months of travel right there, I think. The running S7 joke is that teleportation technology was created between S6 and S7... 


August 6th, 2017 at 4:58 PM ^

I must admit that I don't understand the argument about Euron's fleet.  He intercepted Yara's fleet (which left Dragonstone when the Unsullied left) and then followed the Unsullied to Casterly Rock, geting there just after they did.

Now, him knowing where to be tells us that he knew where they were going, and thus that there is a traitor in Dani's camp *coughVaryscough*  Clearly time passes quickly in the episode; Jaime arrives outside Highgarden one minute and is inside the gates the next.  Clearly, there would have to be siege preparations, assault equipment fabrication, wearing down the defenders, etc, but that all takes place off-screen.  Jon is in Winterfell at the end of Ep 2 (when Yara's fleet is attacked) and in Dragonstone at the start of Ep 3 (before the Unsullied fleet is attacked).  So, yeah, a lot of time had to pass.  If Euron had to sail 2000 miles to get from where e attacked Yara's fleet to Casterly Rock, that was maybe 20 days with good winds (and he had wind magic of some sort, remember).  It wouldn't have taken him "months and months" unless he sailed the other way around the world.

Inertia Policeman

August 6th, 2017 at 6:03 PM ^

I used to get caught up in how "uncrealistic" it was for characters (Littlefinger especially) to get around the continent so quickly, and then had the epiphany that I was missing the forest for the trees. There's not necessarily a set time period (or even a linear one for that matter) between scenes, episodes, and seasons. Better to just enjoy what we get to see rather than argue that we should have had to wait an entire season for someone to get somewhere to see what they would do for realism's sake.


August 6th, 2017 at 1:28 PM ^

Since I've only watched the series and haven't read a line of the books, I can say with the utmost certainty the series is so much better.

Inertia Policeman

August 6th, 2017 at 1:31 PM ^

I've always thought the books vs. show debate was tiresome. People who read the books think show only watchers can't understand the plot complexity. Show only watchers think book readers just seem snobby and act superior.

My preference is absolutely for the storyline from the books (maybe helped by reading AFFC and ADWD simultaneously according to the 'Boiled Leather' reading order). I thought seasons 5 and 6 of GoT were somewhat disappointing overall, with great action moments.

But God damn if season 7 hasn't been fantastic so far (I've already seen the leaked episode 4 and all I'll say is it's incredible). Every episode has been better than the last, and I think as others have mentioned, the best approach is to enjoy them both for what they are, and realize the 'show ending' may be the only one we get.


August 6th, 2017 at 5:06 PM ^

Agree that comparing the books and the show is pointless, as they are different mediums with different requirements.

I would not that both badly bungled the Dorne storyline:  Martin, by being too verbose and complex, the show by cutting so many corners that the result was simply not credible.  The show did do Oberyn perfectly.  The writers and  Pedro Pascal did a better job portraying Martin's idea of the character than Martin did himself in his writing, IMO.  


August 6th, 2017 at 6:42 PM ^

Benioff and Weiss transparently hated AFFC and ADWD, and especially Dorne.  So they butchered them in ways the plots don't even make a cursory amount of sense.  I suspect (F)Aegon and all of that stuff will be fairly important if WOW ever comes out.


August 6th, 2017 at 1:38 PM ^

Read the books and watch the shows both. I think they both have their merits and there are some differences that matter. But both are truly incredible, IMO... 


August 6th, 2017 at 1:39 PM ^

I read all the books.  I think the first 3 books are better than the first 3 or 4 seasons.  Then the next seasons are better than books 4 and 5.   

Book 4 especially, just introduces a bunch of new characters that you have little to care about.  And his editor let him desrible everyone's breakfast.

I find the series better,  the books help explain things and allow you to come up with new theories.  However,  Books 4 and 5 are really slow.     I think he spent 200 pages on the Kingsmoot in the Iron Islands, while the show spent 5 minutes.

Books 4 and 5 needed better editing, hence people reading them out of order.

Almost everything of this scope will have plot holes and the biggest problem now is pacing of the show.  


August 6th, 2017 at 1:48 PM ^

"Book 4 especially, just introduces a bunch of new characters that you have little to care about."

I don't think he had much choice: He'd killed off so many that he had to bring more in. Otherwise we'd have had 200 pages on Cersei picking out clothes to wear for the day.


August 6th, 2017 at 2:07 PM ^

There were a ton of ways for him to talk about what was going on without the introduction of Victarion, et al. For some reason he became very reluctant to let almost anything happen offscreen and it made the books quality suffer as a result. I get the opinion that book four is more of a thematic book and while that may be true it suffers a bit from "Show, don't tell."


August 7th, 2017 at 10:22 AM ^

Or it's a hippy who was JUST a little bit too late for the 60's indulging in his need to make meta-comments about how much he hated Bush.  There are some redeeming qualities to book four, but it's also the point where his, "Needs to listen to his editor" came out.  Book Five is only improved by the fact that his hippy-rage was somewhat soothed by having a new President.  God only knows what book six will look like(if he's even written anything beyond the samples on his website, which Frankly I doubt very much).