Most of us here on at the Ace of Geeks love ourselves some Game of Thrones. However, this season, a ton of people are leaving the series in droves. Whether it’s because the series has crossed a serious line – again – or whether it’s just simply “too brutal,” there’s a lot of “this isn’t what I signed up for” going around. Now, those of us that read the books know that this is what GoT is about – Martin’s bread and butter in this series is beating the characters down again and again. Occasionally the villains get what’s coming to them, but not often. Whether this is all building to a heroic comeback, or whether he’ll simply end the series with the heroes’ failure and everyone dead, well, that’s anyone’s guess. It’s one of the reasons so many people love this series. But, at the same time, I get where people are coming from.
When I was reading the books for the first time, I had to stop. I found myself in a deep funk all of the time. It’s because Martin is such a good writer. He really makes you care about these characters at the same time as he constantly does horrible, horrible things to them. So how do you continue to enjoy the series while still breaking the Game of Thrones Blues? My solution is a simple one: take a break.Right now, I’m waiting for the series to be over before I pick it up. That’s a pretty drastic break. But if you’ve watched one too many innocents die, and you need yourself a series to break the tension, here’s five recommendations – both TV and books – to wash the Game of Thrones from your brain. I’ve tried to pick books that are readily available and TV shows that are currently streaming.
You say you love the fantasy elements of Game of Thones, but you wish the characters could take themselves a little less seriously? Let me introduce you to my favorite book series. The Belgariad has been getting a lot of attention recently, and with good reason. Author David Eddings deliberately set out to write a series that plays with the tropes of epic fantasy. Like Martin, he pulled on familiar ideas and then twisted them to his own, but unlike Martin, he doesn’t do it by murdering every character he can get his hands on. Eddings’ story arc will seem familiar to anyone who’s read Lord of the Rings or its millions of derivative works, but what makes it great is that the characters are so sharp. Belgarath, the Gandalf analogue, is a drunken rogue who despises his image as the Great Wizard of his Time. Imagine Gandalf as played by Jeff Bridges, and you’d get a good idea for the character. The stories are witty and charming, and great popcorn reading. If I was going to try and keep my sanity while experiencing Game of Thrones, this is where I’d start.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
That sound you hear is the hard core Trekkies in the room throwing things at me. Yes, my friends, Deep Space Nine is much closer in tone to Game of Thrones and would work better as a companion piece. But we’re not looking for a companion piece, we’re looking for a show that will still scratch that itch while allowing people to briefly forget that everything is awful and people sometimes get burned to death. TNG is the most hopeful of the newer-generation Star Treks, but it also contains a lot that Game of Thrones fans will love. The series is focused most on diplomacy and character interaction, and least on giant action sequences. Episodes like “Measure of a Man” bring characters wrestling with fascinating moral quandries in a way that’ll really satisfy your King’s-Landing-Diplomacy-Craving. While some of the series looks pretty dated (skip the first season if you can), most of it holds up really well, and the acting is top notch throughout.
THE DRESDEN FILES
The Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher, is an ongoing series of mostly-stand-alone novels that follow Harry Dresden. Dresden is a Wizard for Hire in modern-day Chicago, taking cases that always turn out to be more than they seem. Heavily influenced by comic books and genre films, the series is a joy to read, with a wisecracking narrator in Dresden and a series of loveable cast members. If you’re at all geeky, you’ll find something to love. But while this series is certainly lighthearted, what will draw Game of Thrones fans in are the consequences. Harry’s battles with the supernatural in Chicago are not free or ever easy, but Butcher draws out the darkness with enough sunshine that you never get that overwhelmed feeling Martin often provides. They’re less dense than either the Game of Thrones books or show, too, so it’s easy to plow through two of these while waiting for the next season of Thrones. Or fifteen of them while waiting for the next book.
This is the most modern of the bunch, and the TV show that will probably appeal to Game of Thrones fans the most. While it’s not set in a fantasy world, it has all of the same themes as GoT – ambition, violence, and one or two good people standing in the way of an encroaching darkness. This brutally brilliant show is excellently acted and paced, and just dark enough to hold your attention. But the story will still make an excellent balm – the story of Matt Murdock’s fight to save his tiny corner of New York City will leave you often shocked or saddened, but overall will leave you hopeful for the world. Give it a spin now before Season 2 drops sometime next year.
THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE
I saved the book series Game of Thrones fans will like best for last. Do you like Martin’s beautiful writing? Patrick Rothfuss can give him a run for his money. Do you love a realistic, fully realized world? The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear, the first two books in The Kingkiller Chronicle, will give you that, too. Do you enjoy the exquisite agony of waiting for the next book to maybe come out someday? You’ll get that here, too. But even with the endless (and justified – come on people, give the authors time to write) wait, The Kingkiller Chronicle is a fantastic story that will grab fans of Game of Thrones’ attention and refuse to let it go. Probably-unreliable-narrator Kvothe, a mythical hero now living in obscurity, tells the tale of his life to a passing Chronicler. You follow a young, broken, man on his journey to learning both adulthood and magic, and it’s told in a beautiful way. The world Kvothe lives in is not as simple or happy as the world of David Eddings, but what Rothfuss does that makes this the best books to take a break from Game of Thrones with is fill it with little pockets of hope. If you need a break, this is the way to go.
So that’s our thoughts. What would you recommend?