Realism in "A Song of Ice and Fire"
Game of Thrones takes place in a land that feels somewhat post-apocalyptic — there are occasional glimmers of hints that something really bad might have happened to Westeros long ago, and that's the reason for the irregular and attenuated seasons. But even more than that, we know Westeros is on the brink of a zombie apocalypse from the very first moment of the story. And part of the genius of Martin's slow-as-soil-erosion storytelling is that the zombie threat never quite arrives, but we keep seeing it getting closer and closer on the horizon.
In other words, even more than 2012 or whatever, Game of Thrones captures the real anxiety at the root of our apocalyptic fascination — the sense that disaster is coming closer at an almost imperceptible rate, and we can never really know when it will arrive. We all sense that our unsustainable economic system will collapse, and/or our biosphere will no longer support so many humans, but we don't know if the crunch will come next week or in 50 years.
And the endless wars and scheming show how short-sighted people can overlook a looming disaster, due to political infighting and stupidity. You wonder why they don't look over their shoulder and see the ice zombies creeping closer — until you realize that their denial is nothing compared to our own.
And meanwhile, Game of Thrones is the kind of dystopia that Hunger Games aspires to be — one in which we see in horrible detail how entrenched power and wealth gives certain people the right to walk all over everybody else. And how this injustice forces people to reinvent themselves and become monstrous in their own right. But it's also messy, showing the internal conflicts among the ruling classes, and the conflicting and contradictory ideologies that underpin this inequality. This is a dystopia that's enough removed from our own world that we can see its faults clearly, but it remains recognizeable.
The engaging storytelling is the result of its connection to how the world works with gray characters and glacial problems.
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A Song of Ice and Fire (0.975537): website | dbpedia | freebase
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War of the Five Kings (0.577693): dbpedia | yago