In a word, No.
I wouldn't recommend reading the book Game of Thrones or the entire series before watching the HBO drama, for the following reasons:
- By reading the book first, there may be a natural blunting of the immersiveness of the TV series, as you start to notice small or even significant changes in plot, characters, etc.
- If you don't enjoy the book, you may have a harder time appreciating the vastly different format and medium required for a TV series.
- If you do enjoy the book, you may find fault with the execution of the series in whole or in part (similar, but distinct from my first point).
- If you continue reading past the first book, you will be engaging with content that may not show up on TV for several more years – the "availability differential" of both formats of the second book A Clash of Kings will be much greater than GoT, so the further you go, the less "fresh" things will be in your head when the TV series catches up.
In addition, I'd like to offer up the following counter-suggestion: watch the TV series first, then read the book.
- By reading the book later, you can revive memories of the TV show as you read, and since reading itself is generally slower pace and more thought-provoking, there should be less of a feeling of being "taken out" of the story. Indeed, by having clear visuals of specific characters and places, you'll expend less mental energy pausing to reflect on architectural details or overly-elaborate descriptions, and be able to "flow" better with the narrative.
- If you don't enjoy the TV series, you can save yourself a SERIOUS pagecount with even just the first book (835 pages for the paperback edition).
- Alternately, you can ditch the show for the book series, and never look back… So long as you can do so without being smug to friends, no one will think the less of you for it.
- If you do enjoy watching Game of Thrones, then you can continue to read the book, and subsequent volumes of the series as a way to bridge the gap in TV series production. If you're the type of person who agonizes between seasons, this will be an especially good prescription.
Regardless of what you choose to do, keep this in mind: George R.R. Martin is nowhere near completing this epic saga. He has encountered an incredible bout of writer's block while creating this series, with an enormous gap in production between A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons that currently clocks in at almost 7 years:
Long story short (heh), there's a real question over whether the series will ever be completed, and if so how long we'll have to wait. Feelings of artistic imperative aside, it's an important consideration for someone who hasn't started the series – if you can enjoy each page without hope for another, then go for it!
If reading 4164 pages (and counting!) of fantasy fiction that doesn't come to any meaningful conclusion would in any way upset you, there are a lot of alternative epic book series of similar quality to enjoy… And plenty of opportunity to start the Song of Ice and Fire (via video or book) when it's a little further along.
Should I read the Song of Ice And Fire book series before watching the HBO series Game of Thrones?