A Song of Ice and Fire is an ongoing series of epic fantasy novels by American novelist and screenwriter George R. R. Martin. Martin began writing the series in 1991 in response to the limitation of television production and published the first volume entitled A Game of Thrones in 1996. Martin gradually extended the originally planned trilogy into four, six and eventually seven volumes. The fifth installment, A Dance with Dragons, was published in 2011; the sixth book entitled The Winds of Winter is in the making.
The story of A Song of Ice and Fire takes place on the fictional continents Westeros and Essos, with a history going back for thousands of years. The series is told in the third person through the eyes of point of view characters, 31 by the end of the fifth book. The three main storylines become increasingly interwoven: the chronicling of a dynastic civil war for control of Westeros among several competing families; the rising threat of the assumed-to-be-extinct cold supernatural Others dwelling beyond an immense wall of ice on Westeros' northern border; and the ambition of Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of a king murdered 15 years earlier in another civil war, to return to Westeros and claim her rightful throne.
so jeels and some other d00ds made a pretty big deal about the show, and because i like simpler solutions i just decided to buy the first book and read it. i finished it just yesterday.
i wouldn't sing praises about martin's prose (it's perfectly acceptable, just not particularly distinctive), but the story and characters themselves are interesting and the political struggle between them all is pretty entertaining to read about. it's different from what you'd expect from a fantasy novel in that the political intrigue and relationships between all the characters are the main focus. Magic is present but has a less overt presence, and is not well understood by the cast. if you've played final fantasy tactics or read the golden age arc of berserk it's a very similar type of story.
feel free to talk about the show here as well, now that i've read the first book i'm very interested in seeing the adaptation so i'll be watching it soon.