I had two missions last summer. One was to watch The Wire because I was tired of admitting I hadn't seen it. The other was to read George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.
The experiences turned out to be surprisingly similar. Both kidnapped me to intimately drawn worlds with stories of a grim conflict and characters so achingly human that you end up rooting, tragically, for both sides. And neither one has dragons in it at least, not at first. Martin, 62, is as fine a researcher as he is a storyteller, and he packs in enough miserable fact about the meanness of medieval life that it occasionally echoes Baltimore in its harshness.
With HBO's adaptation and Martin's long-awaited fifth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series about to be published, my endorsement isn't necessary. But I'll still feel compelled, like all those fans of The Wire, to pull you aside and tell you that Tyrion Lannister is the best character in fiction since Stringer Bell and that if you have not read these books, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Hodgman, a humorist, is the author of The Areas of My Expertise and the forthcoming That Is All