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George R.R. Martin threatens to “decapitate” an Amazon employee.

July 7, 2011

Gimli on holiday in Winterfell.

But unfortunately, he’s not talking about Jeff Bezos. No, the author of the “Song of Fire and Ice” series, biggest thing in fantasy fiction since “The Lord of the Rings,” is peeved at an Amazon clerk who sent out 180 copies of his latest book ahead of the pub date.

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Titled A Dance with Dragons, the new book is the fifth installment of the series, a medieval fantasy reminiscent of Tolkein, but with less magic and (way) more sex and intrigue. Actually, it’s kind of like The Return of the King mashed up with I, Claudius, Robert Graves’ sexy fictional literary account of the sleazy doings of the Roman imperial family.

Martin’s work got a huge boost from HBO, which just finished the initial run of its spanking adaptation of Game of Thrones, the first book in the series. Starring Sean Bean, Lena Headey, Peter Dinklage and a host of chain mail and silk gowns, the series was a hit, memorably described in Entertainment Weekly  as “Lord of the Rings as made by the Playboy Channel.”

I have not seen the series yet, having downsized my cable-TV subscription recently, but I did read the book,and I have to say, expecting little, I was well impressed. Don’t let the titles put you off — in fact, the rather cumbersome titles are by far the weakest thing about the series.

Martin’s fantasy, while encompassing some myth and magic (dragons and zombies lurk just over the narrative horizon of the first book), are mostly concerned with the evil that men (and women) do in the pursuit and retention of power. The characters, down to the smallest, are believable and the writing, if not on the high, faux-Shakesperean plane of Tolkien, is clean and efficient, never burdened with excess adjectives or other tiresome descriptors.

Apparently what’s gotten Martin in such a lather is the prospect of some of the 180 lucky early readers posting spoilers on the Internet. You can read his rant, titled “Amazon Screwed the Pooch,” at his website.

Personally, I think Martin is selling himself short if he thinks plot is all his readers are concerned about. Sure, I’m glad I didn’t know the fate of, say, Daenyris Targaryen, the fugitive princess and one of my favorite characters, before I started reading. But it would have blunted my pleasure in Martin’s rich narrative only a little.

Plus, I don’t see the big deal. The pub date is July 12, only a few days away. I never understood the value of press embargoes on book and movie reviews anyway. It’s not like one of Martin’s rabid fans is going to decide not to buy the book now.

“I’m not happy about this,” seethes Martin. “My publishers are furious. If we find out who’s responsible we will mount his head on a spike.”

And he’ll do it, too. After all, this is an author who — to his everlasting credit — has his most sympathetic character executed near the end of the first book.

Oops. Does that constitute a spoiler? Hmmm. Should I be worried? Nah, judging from Martin’s photo, he’s old and fat, kind of like a retired dwarf. Only in this world would the author of Game of Thrones look so much like a character from “Lord of the Rings.”

I’m fairly certain I could elude his grasp — unless of course he brings along a band of hardened henchmen and henchwomen from the marketing department at Bantam.

Then my pooch’ll be screwed too, unless I can talk them into going after the real villain of this sorry world: Jeff Bezos.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2011 3:44 pm

    I don’t know enough about this author to say if this applies, but his publisher might be angry because he has a contractual “one day national laydown date” for release of his book. This means all stores nationally must release it to the public it on the same day. Publishers get really pissed when stores violate this and make them pay next time they have a bestselling author to push. The one-day laydown increases the book’s chances of being a bestseller and is part of a set promotional plan for the book.

  2. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    July 7, 2011 10:25 pm

    No doubt. But why do publishers only do this with really big writers who are going to be bestsellers anyway?

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