It's a dream come true for some readers – but a complete nightmare for George R. R. Martin.
According to his blog, Amazon Germany shipped out 180 copies of Martin's latest book, "A Dance with Dragons" (the fifth book in his epic fantasy "A Song of Fire and Ice" series) weeks before the official release date of July 12. The series was already wildly popular with fantasy enthusiasts – many of whom have been waiting impatiently for six years now for the release of this latest series installment – but the books have also benefited from a fresh surge of popularity due to the recent adaptation of "A Game of Thrones" (Book No. 1 in the series) into an HBO TV series starring Sean Bean.
It would be putting it mildly to say that Martin is less than thrilled about the early release of his book. Since he is notorious for his intricate plots twists – including unexpectedly killing off some major characters and then bringing other supposedly dead characters back to life – spoilers for "A Dance with Dragons" could damage the mystique and possibly sales of the book. Both real and fake spoilers are flooding the Internet on fan sites already.
Other vendors are now complaining about the accidental release and threatening to sell early copies as well. It's all too reminiscent of 2007 and the spoilers and leaks that marred the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the last book in the Harry Potter series. Despite precautions, it seems hard to keep the wraps on such highly anticipated series books, particularly those with devoted cult followings.
Often the controversy surrounding leaked copies of books serves to drum up publicity, which can increase sales. However, it now seems that a dangerous precedent may be being set. Amazon Germany sold almost 200 copies of a book early, with no retribution currently except for George R. R. Martin's threat to put the responsible heads on spikes. (It seems Martin and his characters have similar tastes in terms of punishment). What's to stop other vendors from doing the same thing and cashing in on readers' enthusiasm to get early copies of the book – even as they threaten to spoil the fun for those readers who patiently await the official release date?
If you're a "A Song of Fire and Ice" purist, you might want to stay away from fan sites and forums for the next week or so. If you can't wait till July 12 and need to dig up some spoilers, they're out there. But beware, there are probably just as many fake spoilers as there are real ones. And if you're one of those lucky 180 Germans with an early copy of "A Dance with Dragons," don't try to sell it on eBay.
Unless you're comfortable with the thought of decapitation at the hands of George R. R. Martin.
Megan Wasson is a Monitor contributor.