Review: “Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire” by James Lowder and Others


Title: “Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R R Martin’s ‘ A Song of Ice & Fire'”

Author: James Lowder and Others

Genre: Anthology, Fantasy, Non-Fiction Commentary

Publication Date: June 26, 2012

Source: NetGalley review copy

Summary: Go beyond the Wall and across the narrow sea with this collection about George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons. The epic game of thrones chronicled in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. In Beyond the Wall, bestselling authors and acclaimed critics offer up thought-provoking essays and compelling insights:

Daniel Abraham reveals the unique challenges of adapting the original books into graphic novels.
Westeros.org founders Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García, Jr., explore the series’ complex heroes and villains, and their roots in the Romantic movement.
Wild Cards contributor Caroline Spector delves into the books’ controversial depictions of power and gender.

Plus much more, from military science fiction writer Myke Cole on the way Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder shapes many of the leading characters to author and television writer Ned Vizzini on the biases against genre fiction that color critical reactions to the series.

☆: 4/5 stars – a definite MUST READ for any ‘Song of Ice & Fire’ fan!

Review: When it comes to series I love, I love reading any kind of scholarly (or even pseudo-scholarly) discourse and discussion on it. George R R Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” has long warranted at least one kind of anthology with essays about the series, and I’m happy to say that Ben Bella books has really done fans a solid by releasing this gem of a book. “Beyond the Wall” isn’t just useful for fans, but for aspiring authors, as well (regardless if you’re writing fantasy or contemporary). Whether you’re a casual or a die hard fan of the series, or if you’re just getting into “ASOIAF”, “Beyond the Wall” is definitely a must read for you.

There are quite a few awesome essays in this book – covering everything from magic to politics, sexism and sexual violence to religion, how fantasy series compare, and more. The authors for each essay make the language of their work very easy to access so that you don’t have to be in academia to understand what they’re saying or the argument they’re making. They lay out their points very clearly, and use the text of the book (and interviews with the author) to back up what they’re saying. Reading something like this is a joy because of the ease in which you can just dive in and really kind of get into the conversation about some of the long-argued areas (both controversial and not) that the fans have been talking about for the last 15 years.

I think, though, my favorite essays are the ones by Alyssa Rosenberg (“On Men & Monsters” – on the controversial ‘rape culture’ within ‘ASOIAF’), Susan Vaught (“The Brutal Cost of Redemption in Westeros” – on how ‘ASOIAF’ can be seen as a series of tales of redemption and moral ambiguity), Myke Cole (“Art Imitates War” – on PTSD within the series), Jesse Scoble (“A Sword Without a Hilt” – on magic within the series), and Ned Vizzini (“Beyond the Ghetto” – how GRRM’s work transcends genres). These five essays are my favorite because each author really hits the nail on the head for all of their arguments, and gives some really brilliant examples within their discourse from the actual text. If you’re just going to skim a few essays from this anthology, make it these five – they cover all of the hotly contested areas of the series, as well as go into places I hadn’t even thought about in terms of symbolism, foreshadowing, and how time flows within the books. If you’re a fan, you really need to read this book as it’ll definitely illuminate things you had brewing in your head or things you’d noticed subconsciously when reading.

I really hope this is just the first of many books to come on this series, if we’re going to get more of the same brilliant essays that we were given in this book. We all know that there are a lot more arguments to make about and within the “ASOIAF” series, so here’s hoping that this is just the first one. And bravo to Ben Bella books for releasing it first – they tend to release some absolutely awesome essay collections on some of my favorite TV shows and books with high-quality academic-type of discourse on each topic.

“Beyond the Wall” is now available from Ben Bella books in North America, so be sure to check it out! It was an absolute treat to read, and perfect for that in between TV season and book wait for the series.

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2 thoughts on “Review: “Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire” by James Lowder and Others

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 09 – ALA Edition Part 1! | birth of a new witch.

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