Dear Lifehacker, I've been a huge fan of George R R Martin's A Song Of Ice And Fire series ever since the first book came out in the mid '90s. I've also enjoyed the HBO TV show -- which is about to pass the events in the books. Like many readers, I really want to experience this story in its written form first, but the temptation to binge-watch season six will be extremely hard to resist. What should I do? Thanks, Crabby Celtigar
For casual GoT fans, the above dilemma refers to the unusual situation of HBO's TV adaptation overtaking the source material -- which is still in the process of being written. When the Game Of Thrones series was first greenlit back in 2007, it was thought that the books would be finished well before the show had a chance to catch up. At the time, more than half of the series had already been published, which gave Martin a comfortable eight-year lead to finish his saga.
Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Martin's schedule became much, much busier after the success of the TV show: there were conventions to attend, talk shows to appear on and new work commitments such as writing scripts for the show. Plus, his insistence on only writing at home on WordStar, coupled with a difficult-to-unravel plot issue caused progress on the books to slow to a virtual standstill.
This year, the TV show is set to cover events from the yet-to-be published The Winds Of Winter and possibly beyond. This situation isn't entirely new: since 2014, the show has been dropping potential book spoilers -- some of them major -- as foreshadowing for future events.
In addition to learning more about the mysterious Others, we've also witnessed the deaths of major characters who are still alive in the books. While it could be argued that their literary fates aren't necessarily sealed, it's a safe bet that none of these characters have major roles to play. (Believe it or not, many readers really thought Stannis Baratheon was Azor Ahai Reborn, for example. His casual dispatching on the show nixes this theory.)
If the recently released trailer for Season 6 is anything to go by, the situation is about to get a lot worse. It was basically a 90-second orgy of spoilers; from Cersei's return to power to Bran Stark's run-in with the so-called Night King.
So what should we book readers do? This is something I've been struggling with myself. On the one hand, the show has made a number of significant plot deviations from the books. At this point, it almost resembles fan fiction, complete with the "shipping" of characters into romantic (or not so romantic) relationships.
On the other hand, Game Of Thrones' showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have confirmed that they know how the final book ends and where all the characters end up. While some aspects of the journey will be different, both versions will arrive at the exact same place. So you need to decide which "vehicle" you'd prefer to sit in first.
If you do elect to remain pure and unsullied (ahem) for Martin's books, we strongly recommend the liberal use of GoT anti-spoiler measures -- after years of having the show's plot spoiled by snarky book readers, viewers are going to be out for revenge.
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