I was a fan of George R.R. Martin years before Game of Thrones made him a household name. Heck, Joshua from his 1983 novel Fevre Dream was my literary boyfriend.
I straight-up tell everyone I meet to read his epic series A Song of Ice and Fire, the source material of HBO's Game of Thrones. But I can’t imagine anyone has taken me up on it unless they’re unemployed, retired and/or incarcerated.
There’s a reason: A Song of Ice and Fire is 1,736,054 words (and counting) across 4,273 pages (and counting) within five novels (and counting—but not fast enough). It’s my all-time favorite series, but even I acknowledge that it’s an eye-bleeding amount of verbiage.
This is where the horror novelette "Sandkings" comes in.
"Sandkings" is a 1979 novelette of a mere 15,000 words, and it won both the Hugo and the Nebula Award. "Sandkings" is about Simon Kress, a cruel man who owns exotic pets. His newest acquisition, the intelligent Sandkings, worship their owners and battle each other. Impatient to see them fight, he stops feeding them regularly. What happens next is unsurprising … and still shocking. I read it years ago, and thinking about it still makes me shudder. It's. Just. That. Good.
It also has one important element with A Song of Ice and Fire. People who have seen Game of Thrones will immediately recognize Ramsay Bolton in Simon Kress. Both are entitled, as Ramsay is the bastard son of a rich lord and Simon is wealthy. They both own dangerous pets, although Ramsay’s dogs don’t have the Sandkings’ intellect. And fans know what ultimately happened to Ramsay.
For those who want the feel of Martin’s writing, this is your gateway drug. And yes, it’ll be enough to convince you that A Song of Ice and Fire is worth all of your time ...
… which includes all the time waiting for the next book. Sob.
You can find "Sandkings" here.