No matter how much you hate them, there is no avoiding spoilers in this age of social media
Like much of the rest of the world, I was hooked by the TV series, Game of Thrones, from the word go. I swallowed the entire first season in one greedy gulp, rushing back home every evening to get my fill of Ned Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, Khal Drogo and the evil Lannister twins, Cersei and Ser Jaime. The wait for the second season seemed interminable and once that was done the only thing that kept me going was the thought of season three and so on...
Only now that I have started on the original books written by George RR Martin, I am beginning to wish that I hadn't seen the TV series at all. The books are a cracking read (I have finished the first in the series and am nearly through the second) but only half as much fun as they might have been now that I already know what is coming next.
It's a bit like that old chestnut. What came first: the chicken or the egg? Only in this case, the question is which one should you dip into first: the book or the TV series based on it? And there really is no good answer. Because no matter which route you choose into the story, there will be spoilers galore.
And like the President of United States – and I am guessing, most of the free world – there is nothing I hate more. (Barack Obama famously tweeted on the day that season two of House Of Cards was released on Netflix, “'No spoilers please" to his many million followers.) So, whenever a brand new show is released, I force myself to stay off social media, avert my eyes from TV reviews and magazine articles, so that some spoilsport can't spoil my fun by giving the plot away.
But no matter how vigilant I am, there is always that one annoying idiot who reveals the big surprise and ruins it all. I remember being incandescent with rage when a friend casually let drop that Brody was hanged at the end of Homeland while I was still on the first episode. (And I don't think I have been forgiven by another friend to whom I thoughtlessly revealed that Matthew Crawley dies in the Christmas special of Downton Abbey. In my defence, I thought she had seen the episode when she said she was done with the second season.)
Even as I write this, I am trying my damnedest to stay away from every article, tweet, review, or even passing mention of Breaking Bad because I haven't seen the final season and I really do want to be surprised by what everyone assures me is a super-twisty end. (So, all of you who've already seen the damn thing, do shut up until I catch up.)
But to come back to the chicken-and-egg conundrum, what should you do? Read the book and then watch the TV series? Or vice versa?
Well, speaking for myself, I would much rather begin with the book. Every time a see a new remake of Pride and Prejudice or Emma, I am ever so grateful that I read Jane Austen's original before I came to the TV version. So it is with the Inspector Lynley mysteries on TV; the Elizabeth George books are so much more nuanced than the spin-off television series. And then, there are the endless Poirot and Miss Marple remakes, which lose none of their suspense and wonder even if you have the read the original book a hundred times over.
Sometimes of course, it is the TV series that sparks off interest in the books. I read Darkly Dreaming Dexter only after watching the series. But this was so much darker than the television version (for instance, Dexter kills off Lieutenant LaGuerta in the first book itself, whereas she survives much later in the TV series) that reading it was an entirely different experience.
Actually, come to think of it, I would never have picked up a George RR Martin book if it hadn’t been for a TV series called Game of Thrones. And the loss would have been entirely mine.