Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

26 April 2015

Short Conversations about A Dance with Dragons (Book 5)

SPOILERS FOR BOOK FIVE OF A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE BELOW.  

Me: I'm only on "Tyrion I" of A Dance with Dragons and GRRM has already cooked his best meal yet. Magister Illyrio and Tyrion are eating the most delicious meal. And they're having a dialogue about mushrooms stewed in butter and garlic. I already love this book.
Catie: It is such a good book. I need Tyrion all the time.

Me: Jon Snow is a fucking badass. Beheading Janus Slint?? Amazing. I was applauding in my car.
Mike: Ha. Just wait.

Me: I am into this fifth book, but I miss Jaime and Arianne and – you won't believe this – even Brienne. Oooo and Loras. What is going to happen to beautiful Loras and his crafty sister??? And Sansa! Lord. What is going on in the world.
Jeanne: I know! It was so crazy to me when Arya disappeared completely from whichever book it was. It's getting crazy. I read a theory the other day about how Jaime and Cersei may be Targaryens. What!!!! It actually made some sense to me.
Me: That totally makes sense. Incest and all.
Jeanne: Right. And blondes, though no purple eyes.
Me: Yeah. They are Lannisters.

Catie: I just want him to kill off everyone except who we love.
Me: Hahahaha. Me too. Tell me that we will return to Jaime and Sansa and co. in the later part of this book...

Me: Roy Dotrice [the guy who reads the audiobook] changed the voice of Melisandre. I am bereft. It was my favorite thing.
Caleb: Yeah. I didn't want to say since you hate knowing if a character will still be alive, but yeah. There are some others that he does that for. Also, some change because of how the TV show is shaping up. I am not sure if there is more than one version of the audiobook.
Me: Yeah. I figured this was partially because of the TV. But Melisandre had the best voice. Why would he do that? It's awful. The voices all stayed the same until AFFC, but now Daenerys is different too. Ugh.
Caleb: Well, as Neil Gaiman says, George R.R. Martin is not your bitch. Perhaps Roy is not either.
Me: Apparently not.
Caleb: Wow. There's actually a song version of "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch". (http://johnanealio.com/track/george-r-r-martin-is-not-your-bitch)
Me: Hahaha. Why are you googling that?
Caleb: Because I read Neil Gaiman's blog. And he wrote a post about people complaining that GRRM is working on other projects and not working on other projects and not writing on the series. And is super unhealthy and likely to die without finishing it. So I was checking to reference the post and found that the internet has turned the post into a song.
Me: I think Roy Dotrice sort of sucks, actually.
Caleb: Yeah, as readers go, Roy is not my favorite. He's good, but I don't love him. He doesn't create the tender feelings that I have for some audio performances. I guess I feel that he doesn't love the characters.
Me: He mispronounces too many things. And he – exactly – doesn't really like the characters.
Caleb: Most of the readers that I like really love the characters. It comes through. Simon Vance with Master and Commander spent twenty years recording those books.
Me: Yeah. Neville Jason, who read the Recherche clearly loved those characters. I had a lot of feelings with those books.
Caleb: Robert Inglis spent ten years doing a one-man version of Lord of the Rings on the West End before recording those books. But honestly I don't love the Song of Ice and Fire characters. I enjoy the series, but I don't feel fond of them. I like some of them and I'm interested in what happens to them, but they aren't like old friends.
Me: I love lots of them.
Caleb: So I sort of understand where Roy is coming from.
Me: That's the writing, though. It's just not that good.
Caleb: Yeah... it's good storytelling but not great writing. I can't see myself wanting ro re-read or listen after I finish. It's more of a thriller.
Me: Yeah, I'm sending the CDs right out back for sale. Not planning to re-listen.

Me: Ooo! I have a theory. I think Varys is actually already hanging out with Daenerys in Meereen and we just don't know it yet.
Catie: Yes!!!! Stannis is so zzzzzz right now, isn't he?
Me: I love Davos, though.
Catie: That onion knight. He's got an appropriate amount of honor.
Me: I love Davos. He is such a good man. I am not complaining about any of these POV characters. I am happy with all of them. Just so perplexed as to how few of them there are. Tyrion, Davos, Dani, Jon. That's this whole book! Except for the sad sad sad sad section with Theon.
Catie: Ugh, poor Theon. Just: poor Theon. Nothing like a bit of castration to make you like an asshole.
Me: But I always liked him, remember?
Catie: Ugh. You always see right through people.

Me: Ask me how many fucks I give about Daenerys and her difficulties in Meereen.
Catie: One for every day you've been alive?
Me: Hahaha.
Catie: Where are you in The Wall saga?
Me: Jon Snow (whom I have begun to like again) has just recruited like 65 wildlings to fight for The Wall.
Catie: Ah yes. I am a sucker for him. Also in a literal sense.

Me: This book is sort of terrible. Although, I suppose it's no worse than its predecessors.
Caleb: No, it is. At least the others were tight and kept moving. They were at least somewhat focused. This one just goes off. Some characters take up 70% of the book and who knows what's going on elsewhere. It's one thing to have a lot of open plots running parallel. But it's different to just let most of them fall off while others go on some epic wild-goose chase. I think it loses all sense and narrative focus. Just my take.
Me: I am really frustrated. There is this new dragon prince. And that's nice, but I want to get to know him a little. This book wants me to be interested in him without me knowing a thing about him.
Caleb: It's more of the Dornish plot. The Sunspear people. That ties in a little there.
Me: And as for all of the drama with the cities in Slaver's Bay? I don't give two shits. I love the Dornish plot!
Caleb: The three sisters thing? I don't want to say too much.
Me: But Quentyn Martell has literally had two chapters. And GRRM hasn't even made him an official POV character.
Caleb: Yeah. There's a lot of GRRM telling us that characters have backstory without really showing us. Like oh yeah, we've been through so much together, right, old pal? And as a reader it's just cheap.
Me: And the red city and the yellow city and Daenerys in Meereen and all of that shit. I do not care.
Caleb: Uh... well... there's a lot of that. Sons of the Harpy and all. Hours in my memory.
Me: Zzzzzzzz. I do feel, at least, as though he has known all along what he's gonna do. Unlike somebody like JK Rowling who is just making it up as she goes along.
Caleb: Really? I don't think he totally knows where he's going with it all. I think this is going to be like Lost where the writers have no idea how to end it in the final season. I mean is winter fucking coming or not? We're five books in and it's not even fall yet.
Me: It's fall. What do you mean? It is fall.
Caleb: Is it, though? Child of Summer?
Me: Hahaha.

Me: It doesn't matter where we are – the river lands, the North, the Vale, White Harbor – each of these heart trees is bigger than the last one.
Catie: Hahahaha. I want to have a godswood.
Me: You live in Manhattan. Your apartment is smaller than a heart tree.
Catie: That is an actual fact. It is smaller than the Iron Throne.
Me: Please carve Bran's face into the kitchen wall.
Catie: Hahaha. Fuck that. Varys.
Me: Haha. I only said Bran because he is a fucking heart tree now.
Catie: Isn't that so weird? I like hearing these because I forget!!
Me: Where is Varys? We haven't seen that queen in two whole books! I miss him!
Catie: Haha. Me too! I think you're right: with Dani.
Me: He must be, right? But if he is, then why not just take Tyrion with him? I don't get it. Maybe he is with yet another hidden Targeryan. Also, no one has died. In like 800 pages. I don't believe he is going to kill anyone anymore.
Catie: Well I am keeping my mouth shut.
Me: Oh that's good to hear. I need some death.
Catie: Let me know ASAP when you read it. It's left very open ended.
Me: I'm not reading these books for psychological depth. I need assassinations.
Catie: They are works of literature.
Me: Hahahahaha. I just got to the first Jaime chapter in this book. Honestly my favorite people in this book: Theon, Davos, Jon. Because everything else is happening on the other side of the Sea and I don't give a shit.
Catie: Yes. No shits. At all. So boring lately. So whiny.
Me: But Theon really is so interesting. And I fucking love Jaime. He is so complex.
Catie: I would also love doing him,
Me: Oh hell yes.

Me: "Plots within plots, but all roads lead down the dragon's gullet."
Caleb: I assume you aren't holding that up as a model of prose.
Me: Hahaha. I like Tyrion's japes.

Me: "The road beneath the wall was as dark and cold as the belly of an ice dragon." The simile makes no sense. We have never met an ice dragon. What the fuck is he talking about?
Caleb: No, he's just making stuff up. Even if we had met an ice dragon the comparison is meaningless. It doesn't aid our understanding or give us a mental picture. If the sentence was like a dragon made of ice that's a little better. But no one has ever been inside a dragon made of ice to help the comparison. You could just say like a big icy hallway and it would be about the same level of meaning.
Me: Exactly. If he actually described the inside of it, it would be much more helpful. I think we've finally reached where AFFC left off.

Me: I'm feeling kind of proud because I think I've just figured something out before GRRM told me. There is a singer at Winterfell helping Stannis by killing men. He brought like five women with him and he keeps trying to talk to Theon. It is Mance Rayder.
Caleb: Could be. If he didn't tell you, he at least hinted very heavily. That whole story of how he's done that before maybe.
Me: Sure, but that was in book 2!

Jeanne: I'm gonna have to speed read them all again if book 6 ever comes out.
Me: Naw. You can just wiki all of that stuff. Also I love Theon. I've always loved Theon, but even I had to look up all of that Reek/Ramsey Bolton business. We are in book 5 and that was in book 2.
Jeanne: Ugh. I hate Theon. We have no common loves in GoT. Maybe Arya? How can you love him!!
Me: He is so sad. And he tries so hard. He wanted to be just like Ned and Robb and Jon, but he was lower than the bastard even. At least Ned loved Jon even if evil Catelyn couldn't see it in her to love him. But no one loved Theon.
Jeanne: Yeah, that's true. I suppose that's why he displays such a lack of loyalty. Ugh.
Me: Dig!!! To whom ought he to be loyal??
Jeanne: Pick one - family, friends.... Anyone? Himself!
Me: He is foolish, but he is not powerful, so I pity him. Unlike Cersei who is foolish but in power.
Jeanne: That is a valid point about lack of power. I struggle with fools.
Me: I struggle with fools, too, but you liked Ned! And he was the biggest fool. And Robb! Fool.
Jeanne: They at least knew what they wanted. I have no idea what I respect!! Haha. I am too tired to tie the strings together.

Me: Who can keep all of the people in Daenerys's retinue straight? I actually laughed out loud when the reader said the name of the fat Yunkish merchant who buys Tyrion. All of the people who live in Slaver's Bay are named some variation of Zohxoxo hizda Kazadan.
Catie: Yeah. Their names lack all vowels except for O.
Me: Xzzhkko mis Hixhxhos.
Catie: Hahaha. Zxzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzo.

Me: You are so right about Roy Dotrice not liking the characters in these books.
Caleb: Told you. His disdain really starts to come through after a while.
Me: Also: a Victarion Greyjoy chapter? I do not give one fuck about that misogynist asshole.
Caleb: I feel like there are going to be a lot of chapters and subplots that you really aren't going to care about coming up. The plot just becomes so defused and lost in too many characters and plots that you don't even have enough care to go around, even if you had some at the beginning.
Me: Well, I am almost done with this book. Maybe 25% left. Everyone seems headed to Meereen where Daenerys has just gone missing riding her giant black dragon. I really only care about Westeros, though. My favorite chapters are Davos's and Theon's. Daenerys makes too many dumb mistakes these days. And Tyrion's cleverness is being wasted at the moment. I miss the  people actually playing the game of thrones: Baelish, Varys, Melisandre. Wyman Manderly has emerged as a favorite just because he is actually in the game.
Caleb: The last quarter of the book is going to be dull for you, then. The way I remember it, there are maybe only two chapters back in Westeros. The whole question of who gets the Iron Throne is pretty much ignored for a while.
Me: Zzz. I am over it. I was glad to have a Cersei chapter finally even though I hate her. Just because she can tell me what's happening in King's Landing!

Me: Oooo! Finally some death. Wyman Manderly just got his throat opened. The Theon chapters in this book are the best chapters. No question.
Catie: Yes!!!! You bloodthirsty heathen.
Me: I know, but I have lost faith in GRRM's ability to kill people off. This brought it back a little. Oh no, wait. He's still alive.
Catie: Keep the faith. It ain't over yet.
Me: Honestly though, I don't think he will kill any of them. Maybe Hizdar?
Catie: Maybe.
Me: I think maybe he will also pretend to kill some people: Jaime? Jon? Cersei?

Me: Remember Eddard Stark?
Caleb: Ugh. That goodie goodie.
Me: Haha. He was boring.
Caleb: You know, I'm not sure if GRRM has decided if Ned is really dead or not. It would be just like him to bring Ned back in book 7. It still bothers me. The whole unrecognizable tarred head thing and his last meeting with Varys.
Me: I believe it. He can't really let anyone die. I no longer trust him. No one really dies. Are any of the "dead" really dead? Catelyn came back. The Hound? Brienne? Jaime? Stannis? They are all probably alive.
Caleb: Shit, we're at a place where I can't really remember where you're at / if those characters alive / if I care.
Me: Haha. I'm almost done with the book. I am so close to being done that I ordered some new audiobooks. I am so happy to put this behind me. I have serious song of ice and fire fatigue.
Caleb: I told you. Book 5 is that way. I stopped halfway through. Although... with the 6th season of the HBO show coming out in the fall(?) I feel that we have to watch it.
Me: ...
Caleb: Hear me out.
Me: Hahaha.
Caleb: Because it will be unacceptable for people who only watched the show to be able to know what happens before those of us who labored through the books. We've earned this. They haven't. And if they get to say spoiler alert I'm going to cut a bitch.
Me: Haha.
Caleb: So we have to watch the show. As painful as that will be.
Me: No. The show has got to be better than these terribly written books.
Caleb: Yeah, it's written more like a serial TV show, like a fantasy soap opera.

Me: Never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually glad to have a Cersei chapter. We haven't had any eyes in King's Landing for 70% of this book.
Jeanne: I know! And especially how things ended there at the end of the last book.

Me: Each Daenerys chapter is more racist than the last.
Catie: You misspelled boring.
Me: Bahahaha. The most recent narrators have been Quentyn Martell, Barristan Selmy, Asha Greyjoy, and Jon Connington. Is he fucking serious? And now a Victarion chapter? Fuck my life.
Catie: I honestly don't even know who that is.
Me: Haha.

Me: If I never hear the phrase Half a heartbeat later again...
Caleb: I'm just waiting for him to write it was big like a very big thing. It's only a matter of time.
Me: Hahaha. You're right. With hands the size of hams.
Caleb: Like an ice dragon's throat is already pretty close. Whenever you are making a comparison but comparing it to something we have no reference for, it's just a waste of words.
Me: While I'm reading sometimes I'll say Oh was it? Was his waist really as big as a tree trunk? Wow.
Caleb: Well, how big is the tree? I mean, there are big trees and little trees. It doesn't tell you anything. It's just a fancy way of saying It was  big waist similar to other big things but not really making the image richer or the story deeper.
Me: It's so bad, really.
Caleb: Oh god, we are arguing about the quality of writing in a fantasy novel series. Some line has been crossed here.
Me: We are agreeing. Haha. If we were arguing we would have crossed a line, yes. But we are on the same side of Hadrian's Wall.
Caleb: I know, but it's a little sad we're taking something we know to be bad so seriously.
Me: Are we? I am mocking it.
Caleb: Like, it's not bloody Shakespeare, and no one thinks it is, it's just funny that we're expecting more. Like someone who says Oh, professional wrestling isn't very realistic. And you're like Yeah, no shit. Or people who complain that superhero costumes aren't very practical. Yeah... they aren't. But it's not real.
Me: I will perhaps read a synopsis of an episode if the show moves past the books.
Caleb: I think I will have to watch the shows. I won't be able to stand those people who watch the show and think they are fans but couldn't make it through book 2. And you know you'll never read 6 and 7 after you find out what happens.
Me: It is different for me. I started reading book 1 after everyone already knew about the red wedding. I don't pay any attention to discourse about TV. So I can stay in the dark mostly.
Caleb: It's more the internal anger I will feel at people who feel they are better than me but haven't worked for it.... that is, TV watchers. I know it's a personal issue. But I can't let them beat me.
Me: You're on the other side of Hadrian's Wall now.
Caleb: I think I just feel more strongly about it. It seems like you don't feel knowing what happens in Game of Thrones gives you a higher status in life... Apparently I do as revealed by this conversation.
Me: Ummmm yes I believe you are correct. Queer abjection perhaps?
Caleb: Uh... sure... we can call it that. But I think it's just that you have a more healthy relationship with bad literature.
Me: I think that is definitely true.

Me: Two hilarious moments have happened in the final Cersei chapter of this book. First, GRRM described her as "clad only in goosepimples and pride". And then someone yelled "behold the royal teats". It's sort of terrible to laugh at this absurd pseudo-religious punishment they're inflicting on her, but I dislike her and this is funny.
Catie: YESSSS. Also the word teats is the funniest word ever.
Jeanne: Hahahaha. That's the walk of shame, right? How low has she fallen!
Caleb: I thought the intimate shave they gave her was just gratuitous titillation. But that's not the end of the book...

Me: Will Daenerys ever cross the Narrow Sea?
Catie: I will die if she doesn't. I refuse to read another chapter of her unless her bossy ass is in Westeros.
Me: Haha. Good luck with that promise.

Me: Here's a question. Is Stannis dead? Is Jon dead? Is Jaime dead? Is Brienne dead?
Catie: I don't think Jon is, right? Brienne... I will die.
Me: I am guessing no on all counts.
Catie: I'm a little nervous about Brienne. The others I agree.
Me: In this book he pretended to kill Asha. Pretended to kill Davos. Pretended to kill Tyrion. Pretended to kill Theon. Pretended to kill Dani. It would suck if he killed Brienne. She is one of his best characters.
Catie: Right? It's like he's teasing us – someone has to drop soon, definitely.
Me: Well, Kevan. I wasn't expecting that. For sure.