Lots of people already have. Martin's series A Song of Ice and Fire, which started with A Game of Thrones, has sold about 15 million copies worldwide. Its fans are passionate. Some have joined a club called the Brotherhood Without Banners that started 10 years ago on a dark and stormy night (or maybe it wasn't) at Philcon, an annual gathering sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, when Throne lovers bonded over Pat's cheesesteaks.
In Sunday's extravagant series premiere at 9 p.m., denizens of the northern outpost of Winterfell chow down with the king's huge entourage, which has made the monthlong journey from King's Landing - not every name in Thrones is as rapturously exotic as it could be. It's a classic medieval feast scene that you've seen a million times before (like a lot of the scenes in Thrones), with wenching and boozing and weighty joints of meat. No cheesesteaks.
Ice and Fire fans argue that their beloved sword-and-animal-skin saga is different from those that have come before because the characters are more individualized and the themes more adult, which, on HBO, can be a code for naked. Remember Rome?
One sweet 13-year-old princess doffs her dress and gets felt up by her evil brother who marvels at her womanly parts, as do we, since the actress who plays her is in her 20s. Then she's married off to the biggest and meanest captain of the barely civilized Dothraki. Bro wants to enlist his savage army to regain the throne of his forefathers across the sea.
"If you have to all 40,000 men" to get the army on our side, he tells his virginal sister, in coarser terms of course, well, that's just what she'll have to do.
This kid's going to grow up fast, and your kids probably shouldn't be watching this series.
It's hard to tell the players in this epic without a scorecard, which HBO has generously provided to TV critics trying to make sense of it.
You have your exiles, the Targaryens, and their uncouth friends (and it's quite a trip down uncouth lane to get to them, past all the savagery of the supposedly more civilized denizens of Westeros).
You have the current king, Robert Baratheon (Still Standing's Mark Addy), fat and fun and fightin', who may be the most exalted of the show's characters, since he has, according to the card, the blood of the Storm Kings running through him. The Storm Kings are illustrious not because of their possible distant relationship to a certain TV critic, but because they date to the Age of Heroes, when, apparently, things were a lot better than they are now in primitive Westeros, which has progressed much more slowly over many more thousands of years than our own, real civilization.
Though they do seem to have figured out how to put an incredibly sharp edge on their huge swords.
Two heads are effortlessly removed from their bodies in the first 15 minutes. (What fun the crew must have had with those spewing neck veins and that "thweeestt" slicing sound.) And that's before the big wedding scene when an adviser wise in the ways of the foreigners informs the evil prince that "a Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair." This wedding's pretty dull anyway, even with the gore and public fornicating and other large-scale, and probably expensive, debauchery.
Returning to the scorecard, you have the king's wife (Lena Headey from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and her twin brother, the handsome Ser Jaime Lannister, and I don't feel at all compelled to research why he's called "Ser." And their non-twin brother (you can tell because he's a dwarf), Tyrion, who, though short of stature, is apparently long where it counts. These three seem to have the show's most interesting family relationship.
Then there are the Starks, led by Ned (Sean Bean, who got some practice in this sort of thing in Lord of the Rings), who will have to leave his beloved frozen north, and the bloodcurdling White Walkers who have reappeared after thousands of years on the other side of the big wall constructed by Ned's ancestor Bran (not Bob) the Builder to keep them out. Ned's off to King's Landing to become the king's right-hand man. There's a batch of interesting Stark children, including one whose mother is not Lady Catelyn Stark, Ned's wife, who may have some ties to the Targaryens.
Lots of other folks with funny names are waiting on the bench to get into the game.
Much has been made of author Martin's early toil in the fields of TV, where he worked on the '80s remake of The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast, which starred the original Sarah Connor, Linda Hamilton, long before Headey came along.
The tube, he told TV critics at their winter meeting, was so confining. "I wanted to kind of spread my wings, and I sat down and said, 'I'm going back to prose. I don't have to worry about a budget. I don't have to worry about it being producible. I'm going to have hundreds of characters in giant battles and magnificent castles, and they'll never make this in television or film, but I don't have to worry about it.' "
Now they are making it in television, and executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and HBO are worrying about it. The network hopes vast armies of new viewers buy subscriptions to justify the production's vast costs. Perhaps they will.
And there's little chance current HBO viewers will get so incensed over Game of Thrones that they'll cancel their subscriptions. They may watch it just to pass the time until True Blood, with its more psychologically satisfying sex and violence, comes back in a couple of months.
Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or email@example.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/jonathanstorm.
Game of Thrones
9 p.m. Sunday on HBO