I refuse to pay for HBO because of the piece of dung Bill Maher. But the Mrs and I were very conflicted when their series "Game of Thrones" began its first season last year. We both read and thoroughly enjoyed the book series "A Song of Fire and Ice" by George R.R. Martin, upon which GoT is based.
"Based" is not accurate. We just finished watching season one on Blue-Ray, and I believe GoT is the most accurate literary adaptation to screen I've ever seen. Very little creative license is taken - although the couple instances that it is taken seem pointless, gratuitous, and agenda-driven. All the major and minor characters are included, and well cast. Sean Bean (Boromir from LotR) plays Lord Eddard Stark, a main character in season one. All major and most minor events in the book are replayed on the screen in chronological order. The uniqueness of the landscapes and architecture described in the books is faithfully recreated. It was quite pleasing to see the story I read actually unfold on the screen. From what I understand, Martin himself had a strong hand in consultation for the series.
In short, the story takes place in a mythical land and time of swords, mysticism, cruelty, and ancient lore. The "civilized" kingdom is separated from a mysterious wild Northern land by an ice-wall, hundreds of feet tall, guarded by a rag-tag ancient order. The Wall is AWESOME. In the South, seven families with their own realms and bannermen jockey for the Iron Throne. It is a harsh world; a harsh tale. When Winter comes, its end is not definite, and can last for generations. There is little joy, and much sorrow, as the political machinations of the seven families take their toll on any who find themselves lacking at the "Game of Thrones". I'll tell you right now, Martin is an author who has no compunctions about killing characters he works hard to develop, and the series stays true to it.
One thing about the books is Martin's unapologetic use of sex and rape as primary aspects of the story. Kings and Lords and their bastard sons, whores, incest, etc, are part of the world he created, so if that kind of thing is too much to be of entertainment, don't watch, because the program doesn't shy away from that aspect of the books. There is gratuitous sex and full frontal nudity of a softcore pornographic nature. But it is most definitely in context. Without that aspect, the program would not be what the books portrayed, and without that aspect in the books, the story could not have been told.
The area of creative license I mentioned earlier involved taking one character who was effeminate in the books, and pairing him in a homosexual tryst with another character from the books who was definitely NOT a homosexual. That change adds nothing of value to the story or the episode in which it occurred, so it is clear that it is a case of an HBO program doing the obligatory legwork for homosexual radicals.
If you like the genre similar to LotR, and can handle a far grittier world than Tolkien's, I'd definitely give this one a shot. We swallowed-up ten episodes in three evenings, and can hardly stand it that we have to wait a year for season two.
I would also highly recommend the books.