The world-wide popularity of author George Raymond Richard Martin’s Game of Thrones series is truly astounding. The bestselling author is being hailed as a modern day J R R Tolkien; awards have been lavished on his creations, both in their book format and in their TV version. What is the secret behind this success?
While Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring trilogy can at least be explained in terms of a war-weary nation wanting to see good win over evil for once, the political machinations of Game of Thrones are a far more sophisticated theme for young readers to tackle than Tolkien’s elves and hobbits going to war to protect their way of life. This makes the success of Games of Thrones even more astonishing, especially when considering voter apathy on Election Day in the Western World.
Fantasy and science fiction are the only two genres in literature today addressing the big philosophical issues of our times, a role “serious” literature no longer fulfils.
If young adults read books at all, they prefer reading series of books, getting to know their heroes and heroines over a period of time in ever changing adventures – such as the seven Harry Potter books by J K Rowling for example or Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass series.
The most successful video games are also based on this “series” principle: once readers/viewers are hooked on believable, 3-dimensional characters, they want to learn more about the characters’ individual development and understand humanity as a whole better in the process.They want to grow up with their fictional heroes and heroines. Such books and TV programs help young adults to make sense of a very complex modern world.Game of Thrones author Martin taps into that need to make sense of the modern world.
Issues of loyalty versus betrayal, friendship versus enmity and power struggles are as applicable to multinational office environments in the 21st century as they are to a medieval worlds set in distant lands.
Themes like the corruptive nature of powerfor example remain as fascinating to us as ever. Corruption applies to African or South American dictators, medieval kings, sporting heroes and chief executives of global concerns equally. The human condition in all its glory and misery, as authors like G R R Martin have shown, can be packaged into a tasty morsel and dished up in a sexy fashion.
Young adults watch or read Game of Thrones because they want to understand the nature of political power AND be dazzled by Machiavellian strokes of genius as Martin’s protagonists try to outwit each other to gain power, test loyalties among their alleys, family members and friends.
The series of books presents politics in action in the truest sense of the word. Set against the backdrop of a medieval world, which is far less sophisticated than the 21st century, Game of Thrones draws on age-old values such as “an eye for an eye”, thus presenting sophisticated issues concerning our civilizationin a simplified way every one can understand.