So, as part of my ongoing novel writing class, we were assigned to write a certain number of pages each week (which I am well ahead of) and to read one book on writing novels (I’m about halfway through) and to read at least one book in the genre in which we are attempting to write our novel.

So I picked “Game of Thrones” as the book I would read. I mostly picked it because I was curious about it having heard lots of good things about it, as well as seeing part of the first episode of the HBO series based on the book.

Of course “Game of Thrones” is just the first book in an ongoing series that was intended to be a trilogy, but has now grown into five published novels (each with more than 1,000 pages) and at least one more in the works. The series is known as “A Song of Ice and Fire” (hereafter referred to as “ASOIAF”).

Reading ASOIAF I have been struck by some rather startling similarities between that and my own novel. Things like main characters having a connection with animal companions, or obsidian blades having special powers/uses. But those similarities are completely overshadowed by the differences.

ASOIAF is a bloated monstrosity of a story. It rambles from one viewpoint to the next seemingly at random. Characters live and die as if on the whim of the author. Gratuitous sexual encounters and foul language are so commonplace that even in the royal court obscene words are thrown around with wild abandon.

ASOIAF is a wildly successful series. It has received widespread critical acclaim, and has been nominated for numerous awards. Books from the series have topped the NY Times bestseller lists.

So why do I find it so laborious to read the books? I enjoyed the first book, but as the story has plodded (and I mean “plodded”) along, I am finding it harder and harder to care about some of the story lines. I can’t read more than a few pages without thinking about why the author chose to do this or that or some other thing. Each chapter ends with a breathless crisis, many times ending with a clear intention of the author to make the reader wonder if a character has been killed or not. The first couple of times he did that it was sort of interesting to wonder if the plunging knife had found a heart or was turned aside at the last instant by a shield or armor… But it has become old and tired, and I no longer really care about the outcome. He kills so many characters to so little purpose that any sense of urgency about a threat has been long lost. I understand that he wants to make the reader think that anything can happen to any character at any time, but all he’s really done is teach me not to care about any character since I can’t expect any character to survive any length of time.

Also his characters are described in all of the reviews I’ve read as “deeply complex characters” and I disagree entirely. Virtually all of his characters are mostly a caricature, and have ridiculously appropros names to boot. In his efforts to distinguish characters one from another he has them repeat actions or words to the point of absurdity. “You know nothing Jon Snow.” I swear, I was GLAD when Ygritte died so I didn’t have to read that ten more times per page. It’s like he thinks rote repetition of actions or dialog is the only way to distinguish a character.

I do think he does an excellent job with “names” that are given to characters against their will. The Imp, Kingslayer, Hound, Littlefinger, etc. I really like that. He also does a credible job of building a “palace intrigue” backstory, although not nearly so well as Frank Herbert in “Dune.” The rapidity which major characters reassign their alliances is unrealistic, imho, but entertaining.

What really interests (and concerns) me is that his approach to writing seems to be competely counter to my own approach. And he writes a bestseller which get great critical reviews. Where he is verbose, I try to be concise. Where he is profane, I try to be subtle. Where he is arbitrary, I try to be logical. Where he is in the reader’s face, I try to stay behind the curtain. All in all my whole approach seems to be counter to his. And yet our stories have surprising similarities.

It makes me wonder if my writing style has any market at all.