It was really nice to see one of our beloved epic fantasy series' get the full high-quality small screen treatment. I'll be the first to admit that up until now I watched every episode eagerly. . . but slowly but surely I've come to realize that we could've done a lot better.
I enjoyed the books too, and I'm eagerly waiting for the next because I want to know what happens.
That being said . . . GoT isn't without it's flaws.
That's right. It doesn't get better. It gets WORSE.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRQPru…
Some would argue that Mr. Martin takes the whole 'leave no good deed unpunished and no bad deed unrewarded' bit a smidge too far.
I am. I mean, don't get me wrong. . . the whole 'arrow-proof everybody with a name' bit DOES get old after a while, but there's a really big middle ground here and the Game of Thrones universe is way on the other end of that spectrum.
I know that occasionally a puppy dies, but when all the puppies are rounded up, tied to anthills, and stomped on by evil children riding ponies because those puppies saved a baby it leaves a squidgy feeling inside sometimes, y'know?
Here are a few other options. Just like GoT, each has flaws and advantages, but when you put all the cards on the table I'd argue that some of GoT's strengths (lots of dialogue that easily translates to the screen for example) aren't really that useful because you can always add dialogue. IMHO these (and many, many more) would be just as entertaining if not more so if only they were given the chance.
So, with no more gilding the lily and no further ado we have. . .
1) Raymond Feist's Midkemia.
While Mr. Feist isn't afraid to kill off a few beloved characters every now and then (I remember my own double-take when Martin Longbow was badly injured when he fell and broke his hip. . . because he was old), he generally treats them on the positive side of fairly. He has some excellent characters and some of them (in particular Nakor the Blue Rider . . . the gambling wise/mad not-mage who insists there is no magic while he pulls oranges out of his bottomless rucksack) hold their own against some of literature's best.
While the whole Riftwar series is excellent there's enough magic and battle that the budget might be a bit higher, but one could always skip ahead to Prince of the Blood where we have a far more swashbuckling feel to things as well as a slightly tighter list of sets.
2) Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn
I know, I know . . . some of you are thinking 'But in Feist's books way too many of the main characters die of old age, and that's just weird.'
There might be a cultural mental health issue being exposed here, but let's roll with it.
We'll hit on another well known classic. . . Sanderson's Mistborn. Sanderson's an excellent worldbuilder and that's definitely to his advantage if his work gets a proper chance because it's hard to undo bad worldbuilding, isn't it? (I'm talking to you, Lost/Heroes/Prometheus/so many things)
Mistborn has a great magic system. . . and I really do consider it great because it has a good set of rules behind it. In so many fantasy works magic is made of unobtanium and held together by midichlorians. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since we do need a little suspension of disbelief every now and then, but it's really nice when that suspension isn't necessary and you can save that disbelief-suspension stockpile for some other part of the story (am I the only one who does that?)
Also, the Koloss would be a blast to see in action. Think Gwar + Smurfs.
3) Joe Abercrombe's First Law
Not gritty enough? Feel the need for some darker characters? Still have an urge for a little bit of torture porn even if it is a bit more rational?
This is for you.
In the first chapter you get to follow Logen Ninefingers as he fights for his life and is separated from his companions while fighting an inhuman foe.
The second is just as tense as Inquisitor Sand dan Glokta descends a flight of stairs.
Each falls in their introductory chapter, Ninefingers falls off a cliff. . . but it's Glokta that makes you feel the pain while painfully descending a flight of stairs.
Glokta once fancied himself a hero. . . king's champion and all that, but an actual battle, capture, and an order of magnitude more torture than what it took to turn Theon into Reek changed all that. He took a different path from 'complete and total wuss' and ended up a fan favorite for good reason.
From there it just gets better. Or worse. But rationally worse. Not 'the author hates you and wants to make you cry' worse.
4) Jim Butcher's Dresden Files
Yes, yes, I know. There already WAS a Dresden Files series. I remember too. I also died a little inside. It wasn't awful . . . it was just . . . nongood.
But look how many shows get second chances! Did we give up on Lord of the Rings just because of what happened back in the 70s?
No, no we didn't.
So let's give it another chance. It's a format that translates amazingly well to a serial presentation and it's not like the whole 'magical detective in a trenchcoat' is likely to do poorly with your typical audience.
IMHO Mr. Butcher started out a bit weak in the first couple of books but he really fleshed things out and he has some excellent characters that I'd love to see get the chance to see the light of day.
Also. . . undead T-rex. Please?
Moving on . . .
5) Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn/Ravenor or Gaunt's Ghosts
The Warhammer 40K universe is really, really weird.
We have Lovecraftian deities that corrupt entire populations with forbidden knowledge, Orks that have the collective power of optimism (If they paint something red it goes faster because red is fast), the most interestingly creepy tech-priesthood I've ever read, and I'm barely scratching the surface.
Mr. Abnett really has done more than his fair share at adding some personality to the universe and has created some delightful(ly wrong) characters and stories.
Eisenhorn/Ravenor and Gaunt's Ghosts are two very different series, but each deserves a look.
The first is about an Inquisitor and his plucky band of sidekicks (and by plucky I mean entertaining, violent, and somewhat insane) and later his charred protege and the box he rode in on.
The second is your classic squad-based military violence porn, but done so well that there are entire sites dedicated to figuring out who could play which of the ghosts. It's hard not to read them and think 'this should be a movie!'
I'd love to see Eisenhorn and Ravenor a bit more . . . but the budget might be a bit much. It would be awesome, however.
6) Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance
Now that's a dragon.
I expected to dislike the Dragonlance books, I definitely wasn't impressed by the world when TSR introduced it.
But Weiss and Hickman make an excellent writing team and they not only managed to give us some unexpectedly good stories but also gave us some characters that would be a delight to see on the big screen. There's a good range of adventures and plenty of them are a little less epic/less damaging to the special effects budget. I'm not sure if I want to see Lord Soth or Tasslehoff Burrfoot more . . . but any show would benefit from their presence.
This is just a tiny sampling, there are SO many excellent books out there. I know I skipped a bunch (and probably don't know about more!) but I wanted to get a little diversity in there. Because that's what we need, some quality in our variety.
We deserve all of these and much, much more.
Some of us secretly want an epic geektastic series that's a little less. . . traumatic.
Either that or HBO needs to give us something in the credits to lift us up a little bit.