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Martin finally finishes his Feast, but not really

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After more than six years, George R. R. Martin has finally finished another novel in his best-selling Song of Fire and Ice, well kind of, but not really.

Since publishing A Storm of Swords, which stayed in hardcover an extraordinarily long time before going to paperback, fans have waited six long years with no further word on the ongoing war in the Westernos, until Monday.

On Sunday Martin announced on his website he finally released A Feast for Crows to his publishers. It’s not the book he intended to publish; rather it was the book he was forced into publishing because the weight of his own word had overgrown the ability of book binders.

Martin wrote more then 1,500 pages of story for Feast and had another hundred to go. His publishers wanted to break the story up into two volumes and publish it that way, but Martin didn’t go for it.

In his previous books Martin has told a massive war epic from many various perspectives; his solution is to publish Feast with only half the number of perspectives and move the rest into the fourth book.

The end result is that there will be two books detailing events that are happening simultaneously. I’m not a big fan of this idea. It’s like getting one person’s perspective and then (knowing Martin) waiting three to five years to hear the other side of the story.

To put it in broader fantasy terms it’s like J.K. Rowling writing a Harry Potter novel that doesn’t involve Hermione or Ron.

I realize writing is a hard thing. I know I’ve been working on my own book for the better part of three years now. But at a certain point I think you have to sacrifice part of the story in order to tell a better one.

Clearly in 1,500 pages there are parts of the story one can cut, it’s just that Martin has reached star proportions in the fantasy world and no one is willing to force him to do that.

It’s also increased the length of the series from originally three books, to four, then to five, six and now probably seven, if not more. I’m betting number four, even though it is “finished,” won’t make it to bookshelves until 2006.

The first book was published in 1996. If Martin can keep up this pace, which is hard for him, the last book in the series should be published sometime in 2014.

I don’t buy many hardbacks, but this is one I had planned to run out and buy when it hit bookshelves. Now I’ll probably just pick up a copy from the library; it’s free, and after taking six years to not complete a book, I really don’t feel like supporting Martin by buying a $30 hardback.

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About Eric James

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I don’t think star proportion ha anything to do with it – Robert Heinlein was certainly a star, and his stuff was edited for length throughout his career. In fact, if you’ve read the original (edited) version of Stranger in a Strange Land, then read the unedited version published after RAH’s death, its easy to see that the editing strengthened the novel.

  • http://leoniceno.journalspace.com Leoniceno

    I hate having to slog through pages upon pages of the kind of self-important pontifications that writers sometimes throw at you after they’re fairly sure that whatever they slog out is going to get published.

    With the whole parallel novels thing, I can think of only one time that it’s really worked, and that’s Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow.

  • http://pewview.mu.nu Warren

    I’ve been eagerly waiting for this book — now I’m not so sure it’s worth the wait. Think I’ll be doing the library thing as you are.

  • Brian

    I think this it’s a fantastic solution. According the the reports, AFFC will take place mostly in the South. This means we’ll get to see the political reactions to the events in the last book — plus we’ll probably get to see what happens to UnCatelyn Stark and Lord Frey — which will be Dee-lish. Plus, we might get some immediate perspective on the Dornish storyline.
    This leaves the East and the North for the other book — which will be out much faster than the last interminable wait. I love this part of it because we’ll get concentrated doses of Jon and Bran as they make their ways toward warg-dom.
    We’ll be able to see what happens to Arya and Tyrion as they head East.

    I can hardly contain my enthusiasm for this solution. Stop being such negative -nancies. It’s going to be terrific!

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    It’s an opinion, Brian – yours may vary. But in a word of warning to wordy authors, the library option is more likely to be exercised after your fans discover they have to wade through too much bumpf to get the story.

    Either that, or they quit reading you at all. (See the post and comments about Harry Turtledove’s lengthy alternate-history series, for another example.)

  • Brian

    I know it’s an opinion — no prob — I guess it’s just my enthusiasm for this series that got me…
    Truly, I have also exercised the library option, and the “this stinks, and I’m dropping this guy” option, too. Robert Jordan started out fairly strong, and then he started treading water. Then he sunk. IMHO, GRRM has managed to keep some very very strong momentum in this series. I don’t see it sinking anytime soon. I think it will be very much worth the wait.

  • Jason

    Bah, it is an unfortunate result, but it’s terrible to abandon such a creative and high quality author over the specifics of how his books come out. Suck it up and wait, a few hardbacks aren’t a very unreasonable price to pay for this particular story; and if you got A Storm of Swords as one book, you already owe Martin for a two-for-one.

  • http://www.mycatharsis.com Rob

    I gotta agree with Jason and Brian’s comments on this one. After six years of waiting, I’m just glad he has AFFC done. No doubt I’ll buy it in hardcover, first day I can get my hands on it. Maybe even call in sick to work, heh. GRRM’s telling a very big and very complex story, even by epic standards. With his other options being either cutting out a lot of material, or only telling half the story, I’m glad he decided on the course he did. Especially after six years, it’s nice to know that two big and unabridged books are on their way.

  • Michael

    Well, this is the best solution in my opinion as well. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t have wanted to read the first half of the story, and then wait three years for the second half. This way I can read the whole story, and wait maybe a year for the other sub-stories within the big story. This series has so many sub-plots that its ok to do this for now. Besides, if your a real fan you have to use different volumes of the series to figure things out anyways as it is, so I don’t see what the huge problem is. As long as he doesn’t do this for the last book, when all the subplots come together, it should be fine.

  • Scott

    While events may or may not be happening simultaneously, they are happening across the ocean from each other and involve pretty much separate casts of characters. So, to be perfectly honest, it bothers me not at all to have the books split. In fact, I’m pleased by it. I’ve been concerned these past few years over the growing number of POVs that Martin was adding to his tale. It’s frustrating to have fifteen different characters telling the story because it means that you only get to visit with each of them once every few hundred pages.

    Instead, this way, there is a tighter and more focused narrative that will in the end provide for a more satisfying read. The next book, A Dance with Dragons (which is book 5, by the way, not book 4), is already at least halfway done. I would look for it in early 2007.

  • Jeremy

    In an ideal world, our favorite authors would crank out great stories that just the right length to maximize profit margins for retailers, and the books would come out just as fast as we could read them.

    In a less than ideal world, I’m happy to sacrifice any of the above except for the “great story” part. In the long run, the publishing format and the speed of publication just don’t matter.

    I’m sure it frustrated Tolkien to have his single story broken up into multiple books. But he stuck to his guns, and stuck to his story – rather than edit it down, he compromised on the publishing format. And I’m sure the wait between volumes frustrated the few thousand fans reading the books when they were first published.

    Does any of that matter today? Only that he stuck to his guns and didn’t change the publisher. A few years from now, anyone looking back at Matt’s complaints will find them largely irrelevent.

    I, for one, am willing to wait as long as it takes for this fantastic story to run to completion. My only concern there is that George only has one lifetime to spend finishing this. For the short term, I think Martin came up with a publication strategy that’s acceptable for fans and the publisher. Judging by the books so far, there aren’t any wasted pages or useless plot threads, so I’m glad he didn’t just chop it down. The pacing will be better this way – if he’d just published the enormous book as two separate ones, the pacing would have suffered and the ending of the first half would probably have been deeply unsatisfying. In fact, the pacing may even be better this way, because there will be less separation between coverage of the individual character threads.