The Winds of Winter: Expectations and Epic Fantasy

While most book launches from best-selling authors are looked on with anticipation and are built up with hype, few have been on the hype waiting list longer than George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter.

The great fantasist has been working on the sixth installment to the Song of Ice and Fire series for over seven years.

(According to Totally Reliable Internet Theorists, Martin has actually been working on it, though many dispute this claim. Flavorwire reports that Martin has been too busy working on a collection of Tyrion quips, titled The Wit and Wisdom of Tyrion Lannister—among other equally useful endeavors—to be bothered finishing the book his fans want. By the way, that report was made four years ago.)

Though already something of a cult classic, the SOIAF series exploded into viral-levels of fame with the phenomenal success of its HBO adaptation, the more aptly named Game of Thrones. From magazine covers to extended literary works set in Westeros, the epic fantasy has truly become larger than life.

With each episode costing nearly $10 million, and the ratings for each season increasing, there seems no end to the popularity of this series.

Tourism has increased by as much as 40% in the locations where Game of Thrones is shot! The show Supernatural even took the time to have its main characters sit down and watch Game of Thrones (I love the scene where Sam says he doesn’t want to watch the later seasons until he has read all the books; and his brother Dean mocks him for that, saying: Why read the books? That’s stupid.)

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that as of the fifth season, events in the show have (inevitably) passed beyond events and scenes in the books.

So the big question is: Can any book live up to such a crazy level of hype?

You’re right, the question is fundamentally flawed. Readers know that the greatness or crapiness of TV series and movie adaptations don’t have a hope of holding a candle to their book sources. It is very rare (though not unheard of) for movies and shows to surpass their book sources in quality and interest.

The question then becomes: can The Winds of Winter match the greatness of its book predecessors?

Consider this: George R.R. Martin has spent more time writing (or not writing—depending on who you ask) the sixth book of the SOIAF series than on any of the previous books in the series. The first book, A Game of Thrones, won awards when it was published in 1996—though it wasn’t a bestseller until fifteen years later in 2011. Hmm, that’s the same year the HBO hit came out. Coincidence? I think not.

Consider this: he’s been writing the series for more than twenty years, it’s a good bet his skills have improved, though I can’t find anything amiss with the first book, writing-wise, that would require a honing of his writing chops. In most cases (here’s looking at you, Stephen King) writers tend to improve over time.

Consider this: George Martin has had the benefit of working with two extraordinary scriptwriters and producers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who have taken his vision and shown it to the world on the small screen. Benioff is himself an excellent novelist!

They say company rubs off on you. Well, Martin has been keeping some good company in the years that The Winds of Winter has been in production.

Whichever face the coin falls on, you can bet Winds of Winter will become an instant bestseller. It doesn’t matter if the spoilers have been spoiled, or if it follows the pattern of the previous two books in their meandering narratives, where a lot of people die but little progress is made.

If any book can live up to the hype, it is the epic fantasy written by the modern master of epic fantasies. You just have to wonder, if the hype just keeps building, whether he works on the book or not, does George R.R. Martin even feel compelled to finish this unfinished work? Does he even have to finish it? Why not let someone else take over, if he’s too busy writing a superhero anthology with his writing buddies?

Whenever it does come out, The Winds of Winter will break the charts, win awards, and make a rich man even richer. Hmm, perhaps hype isn’t so great after all.

But I’m still going to get the book when it comes out.