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The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-Century History and Theory
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Bill Watterson
A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin I still love this series so far. But it might take a while before I pick up the third installment. Reading a thousand pages is demanding.

The series is too long and too complex to summarize. You'd better go to the Wiki page for the overview.

This is the first time I am ever so glad to have watched the TV series before actually reading the book. It helps me understand the text better (and see the differences). The song of Ice and Fire is a series with such an army of characters and its own momentous history that I have to keep refering backward and forward, reading its OWN wiki site (http://awoiaf.westeros.org/). Actually, I have even read the summary of its latest book already, but that does not stop me from reading more.

This is indeed the very strength of the series. I am fascinated by how Martin can build such a rich world like that after just two books. Sure, this is not a series in which everything is planned ahead and then works together perfectly and smartly. The plot is developed along the way. I would not say Martin is terribly imaginative, either, for after all, the magic system in the series is not so strong. The series rather focuses on "Games of Thrones", the pseudo-medieval world of wars, knights, princes, and ladies. Nevertheless, the scope of the book's world is breathtaking. That world expands further and further both in the north and south, to the land Beyond the Wall with the scary Others and to Essos and Daenerys' Dragons.

Martin tells the story based on multiple points of views of characters (however I find the voices of these POVS hardly distinguishable). The main POVS belong to the house of Stark in the North. Perhaps this is the most "righteous" family, least evil, perhaps least ambitious as well. But other houses also possess their own prides and respectable family bonds. Each man and woman, however wicked or innocent, have their own beauty and ugliness. I admit that therefore, I hardly like any particular person, except for Tyrion Lannister and some other minor characters (such as Halfhand, or the Reeds siblings, Bronn, Davos, Osha, etc.)

Oh, yes, and of course, unlike the usual children's fictions that I read, in this series there is no nice heroic stories. It is definitely not an epic Hollywood movie where you have so overwhelming emotions indulging in the typical heroes and heroines' courage, strength, and righteousness. Bugger it. Heroes do not exist, they cannot exist to be heroes. Or perhaps not yet. No, winning is based on much much different factors: trickery, treason, luck (sure) whatever. I get frustrated too. Five books already - which is about 5,000 pages, and still no possible winning for the Starks! Such a cruel and abominable world. I struggle but could not feel like I want to live in such a time. Not to mention that the lives of women are so cheap, even lives of men are so easy to lose. One moment, bam, and that's it, one of my favorite character is gone. And, oh yes, Martin loves to kill main characters. He kills Ned Stark right off the first book (makes me scream then). I know that some others will be soon killed off, too. That makes me very very curious about the last two books. The last one is so full of hope: A Dream of Spring. But seeing the Martin's writing speed, I guess that will be in 10 years at least. Shit.