To Listen or Not to Listen

I’ve Watched Game of Thrones on HBO, Should I listen to the Audio Books?

I have a dilemma; a serious one at that. For those of you who know me, I’m into audio books. I actually prefer a small commute to work so I have time to get through a few chapters of whatever I'm listening to.

My favorite genre is fantasy/science-fiction. I recently was fortunate enough to begin and finish the first two books in the Kingkiller Chronicles: The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. This post is not about these books, although it probably should be. But suffice to say, if you even remotely like the fantasy genre, and/or if you only modestly enjoyed Game of Thrones, I can promise you that Patrick’s books deliver. I have never been more compelled to continue a piece of literature than I was when I began listening to The Name of the Wind. Listening to the second book of the trilogy (the third of which is not yet even completed), was forty of the greatest hours of my life, literally, I am not kidding.

I digress; this is about Game of Thrones, an equally enthralling story by the great George R. R. Martin, and the real dilemma I'm facing. I didn't read (err listen to) the books, well not yet. I did watch the HBO series however. And like many of you I love it — it’s the best piece of television ever made in my opinion. This is of course partly due to the source material, but also the quality of the interpretation. Which leads me to my problem.

Sometimes adaptations of books stray far from the original story. This is usually why most people that have read a book before seeing the movie or TV show are left disappointed. This is the case particularly with epic stories like Game of Thrones, which is one of the largest and most expansive fantasy adventure novels of all time, sprawling 7 massive volumes.

But what about seeing the television adaptation before listening to the books? What is the experience going backward? Certainly I would not imagine being disappointed by the lack of detail, quite the opposite, but perhaps more upsetting may be the fact that there won't be any surprises.

SPOILER ALERTS IF YOU DON’T KNOW GAME OF THRONES

No Red Wedding? No Khaleesi freeing the Unsullied? No Bran falling from the tower in very first episode. So many twists and turns to be missed, will it be satisfying?

Well, I started A Song of Ice and Fire Book 1 audiobook this past week, which incidentally is read by Roy Dotrice . An Important side note about audio books if you've not delved into this world — the voice talent is a critical factor in an audio book experience. They're like the lead actor, but often they act out all the characters, and truly bring them to life. It’s an experience you will want to have if you've not done so.

I’ve reached the exact point where Bran is ruthlessly pushed to his near death by Jaime Lannister, the King Killer. My experience thus far is as I somewhat expected — lacking the dramatic unfolding of a story never heard.

Of course there is far more detail in the book than on the show, but I'm rather impressed at how accurately the show follows the book. It must be such a monumental challenge to adapt a book as detailed as this into a television show — kudos to David Benioff and the crew at HBO. To that end, I'm just not sure if it’s worth spending 300+ hours of my life listening to a story that won't shock me.

So far, it’s just not that interesting. I'm bummed, because after completing the two aforementioned books about Kvothe the Bloodless and his swashbuckling tales, I really need something to hold my time until Mr. Rothfuss completes the trilogy.

So which is worse? Watching the show after you already listened to the books or vice-versa? I'm at a total loss, what should I do? Continue; or did I simply miss a boat in not listening to the audio before watching the show? Heeeeelp!

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