Matt Continetti reviews A Game of Thrones, and other books in the George R.R. Martin series, in the Claremont Review of Books:
During the summer of 1991, George R.R. Martin found himself with nothing to do. He had left a job producing the CBS dramatic series Beauty and the Beast and, looking for a new project, decided to return to the genre in which he had forged his reputation: science fiction. He began writing a giant novel, Avalon, that he hoped would turn out to be "War and Peace in space." He worked diligently on the story, but it didn't seem to be going anywhere. Martin has said that there are two types of writers, architects and gardeners: architects plan out their stories far in advance; gardeners meander, cultivate, prune, and till. Martin considers himself a gardener, and Avalon was a seed that failed to sprout.
Then, 30 pages into his sci-fi-meets-Tolstoy project, Martin had a vision "as vivid as a waking dream." He imagined a young boy discovering the carcass of a wolf in the snow. The wolf's neck was pierced with an antler. Mewling near the corpse were six wolf cubs. The boy convinces his father to take the wolflings home, and there the scene comes to an end. Martin didn't know what to do with this piece of writing. But he did know that it was different from science fiction. He put it aside. Before long he was distracted by other television, film, and editing projects. A couple of years later, he returned to the story of the boy and the cubs, which he completed and called Game of Thrones.
The novel, the first of a projected trilogy, was published in 1996. But like a strong oak, the tale kept expanding, its roots spreading, and its branches multiplying. By the time the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords, was published in 2000, Martin was saying that it would take six books to complete his narrative. Then six turned into seven. Judging by the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, published last summer, one wouldn't be surprised if the planned heptalogy ends up growing into eight volumes or more.
Martin's title for this saga is A Song of Ice and Fire. The story spans over 4,200 pages in hardcover, so far. If any books deserve to be called page-turners, these do, and the series has become a cultural phenomenon, immensely popular around the world. The Ice and Fire books, available in numerous translations, have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. There are spin-off novellas, comics, card and video games, and an Emmy Award-winning adaptation on HBO. Nor has the series' popularity alienated critics: In 2005, Time magazine columnist Lev Grossman declared Martin "the American Tolkien," and in 2011, the New York Times's Dana Jennings proclaimed "Tolkien is dead. And long live George Martin."
Whole thing here.