Raw Book Reviews by the Restlessly Deceased: J.R.R. Tolkein on George R.R. Martin

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Wherein George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows is given the once over by this week’s guest, Mr. J.R.R Tolkien.



Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens, and the road is certainly dark where I am presently standing. However, I will not counsel myself against weeping, for all tears are not evil and, in fact, many of them are warranted. In truth, it may just be that I have no Kleenex. My kingdom for want of the ability to gracefully clear my sinuses. And perhaps turn down the heat. It’s like an oven in here.

But never mind that. To the task at hand.

As distasteful as it may be.

A Game of Thrones? A game indeed. A foul and sniveling one, bereft of winners, the sole purview of losers, to be played by pudgy children, the spawn of editors and lawyers alike. Darkness and daylight, vagueness and vividness of perception, ease and action, horror and euphoria. These are the elementary contradictions of superior prose. To wit: nowhere are these basic tensions to be found within the shoddy sentence-making and cheap simile that marks the Martin oeuvre.

Little wonder (after wading through the Mordor-ian depths of this endless and execrable tome) that some have suggested (as well they might) that there is indeed a distinction to be made (if not a gaping lava-bottomed chasm to be forded) between what learned men call “high fantasy” and what dimwitted sausage-sniffers refer to as “merely genre.” And this, my friends, I can tell you with no compunction and even less regret, is indeed the lowest, most gormless “genre” I have ever had the displeasure to read. Or should I say cursorily skim and, at long last, fail to finish?

On the other hand, perhaps this is just the brand of inspissated tripe that passes for currency in whatever technological future I was fortunate enough to expire before being dragged through the (middle) earth of.

Oh, the dark, cruel evenings, the long bleak winters, the cluttering and ravening red of claw with which I felt every last sprung adverb, split infinitive, and misused noun. With every clotted sentence and stolen image and mithril-thin characterization. With every ludicrous disbelief of which my suspension was unwillingly required. This Martin gentleman’s prose is, at long last, pure liquid anhedonia. Or like a weekend at Viggo Mortenson’s Sag Harbor beach house.

But more to the point, as I am dead and can no longer defend myself, let alone hire the appropriate team of insanely ruthless and expensive get-medieval-on-his-ass barristers, let us talk in a more general sense of the concept of plagiarism, lawsuits, unpaid royalties, honor, bald purloining, and derivation. Let us speak quietly and in long-forgotten tongues of White Walkers and Ring Wraiths, Mount Doom and The Wall, Targarians and Baggins’, Ned Stark and Aragorn Ellessar, dragons and dragons, kings and courtiers, Nazgul and wizards, Baratheons and Borimirs, Dothraki and pretty much throw a dart at any of my books at random. Good god, man, does no one remember my Undying Lands? Do they only remember the ludicrous “house of the undying?” manned by ridiculous magi in the preposterous walled city of Qarth? Not to mention every other possible shape and form of blatant and legally actionable thefting?

Ah, if only I could once again feel the cool hand of Galadrial on my neck. And perhaps her delicate but supple touch beneath the writing desk.

No matter.

As I once said, in the blackest of Black Speech:

Ash nazg durbatul√Ľk,
Ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatul√Ľk
Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Let the usurper steal that! Hell, let his false and hollow quill scratch across store bought warg-parchment as he even attempts to translate.

Not to mention, and I feel a fair scoundrel even bringing this up since it is so plainly unjust, but where in Sauron’s name does George Martin get off, on top of everything else, embezzling my “R.R.”? It’s like someone stealing your kidneys. Or your sodden balls. Only the grossest charlatan would attempt such a thing. Let alone smugly collect worldwide royalties because of it.

But to the book itself: Crows? I am sorry, they do not feast. They pick and scavenge and cry out in their murderously human voices. Just as one, I would imagine, does on the subway whilst reading this drivel on a Kindle. Whatever in blazes a Kindle might be.

Alas, I can say but this; from the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be the blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.

And further, the headless can wear no crown.

So I tell you as firmly as I now stand here, or speak through you, or sprinkle my pixie dust or whatever the bloody hell it is that I’m presently doing; if I only held a fine gilded broadsword in my sinewy grip, I would raise it without a thought or shred of remorse, and in a single mighty stroke relieve George R. R. Martin of both his egregious initials and his empty head.

Let alone his agent. And his development deal. And a chance to cuddle in the director’s trailer with Amanda Peet while her husband is off stuffing the offal that is Martin’s prose through the magical deli grinder that turns it into a usable screenplay.

Furthermore….ah, why bother with this charade any longer? Okay, fine, fuck it. I didn’t even read the book. But I did watch the entire first season of the show. You see, one thing they have in spades in the purgatorial nethers is television. In fact, it’s compulsory. So, yes, I watched every goddamned episode. Sure, it started slow, but it got better, don’t you agree? And I do like that Daenerys Targaryen, I must say. She’s quite the little strumpet, isn’t she? And Peter Dinklage? Why, he practically carries the show on his deceptively stout little legs! What an inspired piece of casting. Now, mind you, I don’t trust that Theon Greyjoy as far as I could kick a lemon pie. He needs a good hanging, but quick. And Geoffrey? If ever a case could be made against lusty, sweaty, wine-fueled incest, he is certainly the progeny of such. Off with his head! In fact, in my opinion, only Stanis is the true king. And I’m not ashamed to admit I jumped, jumped I say, when they actually cut off Ned Stark’s greasy melon. I mean, there I was…

Wait, fuck, I’m getting carried away. What was I saying? That many are the strange chances of the world and that help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the wise falter? No, that’s not it.

Oh, yeah. On a one-out-of-ten scale, I give A Feast for Crows a watery gruel-spatter of a dump into the great bedpan of literature, right before I slide the unsightly thing back under my canopy bed and turn over for another half century of wormwood-sodden oblivion. I can only surmise if you read this sort of escapist fantasy rubbish, you too are beyond a fool. At this point, the only thing that piques my interest is Von Clauswitz, and maybe a few chapters of whatever zombie thing is at hand.

The evangelium has not abrogated legends, it has hallowed them!

Tolk out!


A special thanks to this week’s author-channel and celebrity medium, Aleister Crowley.

Aleister Crowley says: "Cocaine has magical properties. Head down to the docks, grab an eight ball, some cheap wine, and maybe a few Dirty Harry movies and then 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law!'"



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About Sean Beaudoin

Sean Beaudoin (@seanbeaudoin) is the author of five novels, including The Infects and Wise Young Fool. His new short story collection, Welcome Thieves, is just out with Algonquin Books.
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