With the June season finale of Game of Thrones looming like the threat of winter, the show's kingdom of Westeros finds itself beset with threats of undead armies, dragon-raising queens, and, of course, conniving nobility. But the biggest threat to the tumultuous kingdom's existence isn't a bratty prince or eunuch army, it's the show's creator George R. R. Martin.
Fans of the Song of Ice and Fire series since its inception back in 1996 are painfully aware of the prolific author's increasing problem to, quite bluntly, finish writing the books. The first, Game of Thrones, was released in 1996, followed by Clash of Kings in 1999 and Storm of Swords in 2000. Then came the ominous, Melisandre-like warnings: Feast for Crows, originally slated for release at the end of 2002, was instead finished in 2005. Dance of Dragons, the latest chapter in the overwhelming epic, was promised in the epilogue of Crows by Martin himself to be out one year later. Flash forward six years to 2011 and it was in frenzied readers' hands with no clear end to the book series in sight.
For fantasy junkies, this is a troubling sign and eerily reminiscent of another massive story that hooked millions of nerds around the globe: Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. Spanning 11 books by the time of Jordan's death in 2007, the author actually showed a remarkable consistency with his releases as the span of time between Winter's Heart and Crossroads of Twilight — books nine and 10 respectively — was the series' lengthiest at three years. Every other book was churned out between one to two years and, despite that regularity, Jordan never finished. The final three books of the series were finally completed four years later by a different author.
It's true that Jordan never had a wildly popular HBO series to obligate him to finish, but the anxiety over Martin's ability to keep pace with the show are undoubtedly justified. As the third season of the TV series nears its conclusion, there's reassurances that it only covers half of the Storm of Swords book, leaving the remaining story for season four and more time for Martin to finish his next literary installment, The Winds of Winter. But the fact still remains: Game of Thrones show-runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are gaining ground while series creator Martin is losing it.
The TV series has shown a capacity for improvising and cleverly altering the source material in its three seasons, whether by fleshing out a somewhat flat Robb Stark character in the show or the magnificent introduction of Tywin Lannister skinning a stag while talking to his son Jaime — a scene that never appeared in the book. Still, despite the show's best attempts to buy its creator time, the most worrying part of Martin's task of finishing his series before it catches up with him is, ironically, Game of Throne's chief criticism: there's too much going on. Both fans and critics alike complain that the series' epic feel and engrossing story are sometimes overshadowed by the work involved in keeping up with the various plots, subplots, and characters.
Detroit News' Tom Long declares the series "… massive, cruelly dense, absurdly complicated and absolutely thrilling …" while the New York Times criticizes the series's "…veritable kingdoms of explication during which medieval spreadsheets of plot, history, geography, and family lineage are explained in the mellow tones of stage-trained European actors."
And that's just watching the TV show!
If audiences are overwhelmed by the dense story and constantly-rotating cast of characters in the TV show, just visualize how daunting it must be for the guy juggling all of it in his head. That's why it's worrying the progress of the series in its original literary form is so slow: if we're feeling overworked by the TV series, imagine how the guy writing the show's source material must feel.