Ebooks: Super-duper ‘Game of Thrones’ gives fans the run of Westeros

‘A Game of Thrones: Enhanced Ebook’, ‘The Hobbit (Enhanced Edition)’, ‘Eoin Doherty and the Fixers’

You know plenty, Jon Snow: Kit Harington in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”.

You know plenty, Jon Snow: Kit Harington in HBO’s “Game of Thrones”.

 

Anyone who watches Game of Thrones, the television series based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, will have noticed that the most recent series (the sixth) lacked the dramatic power and dialogic wit of earlier instalments.

Fans will inevitably trace the HBO show’s slow demise to the petering out of Martin’s involvement. That’s because his vision for the fate of the vying dynasties of Westeros and Essos is incomplete: the fifth novel, A Dance with Dragons, was published in 2011, but the two concluding books have yet to be finished. The TV show, however, has ploughed on regardless, using Martin’s notes to move the epic plot forward. But the quality of writing and depth of imagination just isn’t the same.

The timing for the release of the first interactive digital edition of Martin’s work, then, couldn’t be better. A Game of Thrones: Enhanced Ebook (iOs only, £5.99) presents a visually stylish rendering of the book, with white text on a near-black page making for an unusual, ergonomic design that is, literally, easy on the eyes. With 72 chapters over 760 pages, the digital edition makes keeping pace with the unwieldy structure and voluminous pagination easier as well.

Each chapter is prefaced with a map, reminding us which of the kingdoms the characters belong to or where they are journeying to and from. With the narrative shared between nine different points of view, most of them at war with one another, the nature of individual treacheries and shifting alliances can get muddy. A glossary, accessed by clicking on bold, highlighted text, is also useful in providing a clear guide to the interlocking worlds and dynasties.

The edition is also packed with extras. Small silver crowns dotted throughout the text indicate extra-textual expansion, offering small glimpses into Martin’s writing process and inspiration, and pointing the readers in the direction of further research. Evocative photo-realistic drawings in saturated colour schemes bring to life the characters as vividly as any of the actors in the TV series.

There are clips, from the official audio-recording by Roy Dotrice (who won a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the amount of characters he has impersonated as part of his readings), but the excerpts are neither frequent nor consistent enough to really be considered a feature. Whether you are a fan of the books already, or a first-time reader inspired by the TV show, this enhanced digital edition is definitely the best version around.

Tolkien speaks

JRR Tolkien is one of the inspirations cited in A Game of Thrones: Enhanced Edition. (Where do you think Martin got those Rs?) The Hobbit, however, is the only one of Tolkien’s fantasies to receive the interactive digital treatment.

The Hobbit (Enhanced Edition) (iOs only, €10.99) is a sumptuous digital publication full of Tolkien trivia and rare glimpses of just how fully he imagined the world of Middle-earth. It includes Tolkien’s own illustrations from the book’s first edition, as well as alternative versions coloured by HE. Riddett, the official artist involved in Tolkien’s posthumous publications.

Tolkien himself reads key chapters in exclusive audio clips; the stand-out is his lively intonation of the unruly dwarves’ song Chip the Glasses and Crack the Plates when they arrive, unwelcome, at Bilbo Baggins Hobbit-hole.

A foreword by Tolkien’s son illuminates the progress of the book as it emerged from the author’s imagination, and the inclusion of reproductions of the illegible manuscript pages demonstrates the way in which Tolkien was inspired by image as much as words.

Footnotes are for die-hard fans only: there are entire wiki-worlds dedicated to Tolkien’s fantasy world, and the general reader will surely not be that interested in the development of Elvish script or runic interpretations. Still, those extras are hidden away unless you choose to seek them out. All in all, this is an easily digested digital version of a classic.

Reality TV, Irish style

There are no dragons or wizards in Eoin Doherty and the Fixers (Kindle, £3.08), but Pauline Hall’s novel about reality TV has a touch of fantasy to it. It charts the fortunes of Eoin, an Irish television producer, as he embarks upon a make-it-or-break-it reality TV project, in which four expert “fixers” help four women to reinvent themselves.

There is ex-nun Breege, who needs help transitioning between the world of a closed convent and contemporary life; ex-convict and single mum Tracey, who wants to set her life right for her son; repressed lesbian Jacqueline, who has decided to come out to her parents on TV; and cup-cake queen Susan, who is recovering from the breakdown of her marriage and wants to transform her hobby into a business.

More interesting to Eoin and the hundreds of thousands of Irish viewers, however, is Maggie, an Australian motivational psychologist who has undergone a remarkable transformation of her own. When the details of her past come to life, the TV show hits the headlines for different reasons, and Eoin and Maggie’s relationship is thrown into turmoil.

Hall brings us behind the TV screen with an easy, fluid style. The subject matter is fresh and contemporary, although her use of excerpts from the derisive newspaper columnist Damian O Carroll allows her to strike an intellectual note too, in which reality TV is subject to deeper critical cultural analysis and revealed as “a fake, hothouse flower that will never look, let alone smell, like the real thing”.

Eoin Doherty and the Fixers is a self-published, digital-only release, so will probably only reach a small audience. However, with the right kind of publicity, as Eoin might say, it has the potential to rival any the Irish popular fiction titles on the current bestseller lists.

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