When George R. R. Martin first published A Game of Thrones, the first book in his series A Song of Ice and Fire, it set off a chain of events which led to one of the most popular and beloved television shows of all time. Now that the final episode has aired many fans are wondering which is better, the show or the books. While there are passionate arguments to be had on both sides of the debate, the reality is that there are pros and cons to both sides. Here are some of the things the books do right, and places where the show does it better.
Better as a Book: The Point of View Characters
One of the interesting approaches Martin takes in the novels is to tell each chapter through the eyes of a specific character. While they are not written in the first person, you still read and perceive what goes down as each character does. This allows for a more thorough understanding of those characters and their motivations. It also allows for some twists where characters the reader is familiar with encounter a POV character they haven’t met yet, allowing for surprising twists when you learn their true identity. With actors playing the roles, this perspective simply can not be replicated on screen.
Superior as a Show: The Non-Point of View Characters
Fans who come to the books may be surprised to learn who is and is not a POV character. Despite being an important and popular character on the show, Robb Stark never receives a chapter of his own. Other popular characters like Bronn and Tormund also benefit from the show’s ability to increase focus on characters without their own chapters.
Better as a Book: More Plots for the Throne
While it’s believed the books will ultimately follow some of the plot points since the show passed them by, there will have to be changes as well. There are entire plots for the Iron Throne which never make an appearance on the show. With many fans loving the scheming of the series, the extra plots mean extra intrigue.
Superior as a Show: Faster Pacing
Martin is known for his attention to detail, but sometimes that detail goes just a bit too far. While intricate details of the decoration and food spread at a feast may help set the tone, one of the benefits when comparing the book vs. the movie or show is the ability to convey the same information with visuals that add little or no time to the shots.
Better as a Book: The Iron Islands and Dorne
The Iron Throne may rest under the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, but the show is rarely concerned with more than a few of them at a given time. Interesting power struggles in Dorne and the Iron Islands are particularly notable victims of the need to streamline for TV. The books offer far richer plots for both regions.
Superior as a Show: The Characters’ Ages
Despite its fantasy setting, Martin took strong inspiration in his story from real history, including some of its unseemly realities. While sex and violence carry some of the appeal of the show, the decision to age up many of the characters, notably the Stark children and Daenerys, makes the scenes much more palatable.