‘Game of Thrones': 5 Things You Need to Know

HBO's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy series debuts on Sunday night — here are the basics

Winter is coming … and so, too, is "Game of Thrones," HBO's immersive and faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin's book of the same — well, similar — name. (Martin's version is "A Game of Thrones.")

The many millions of us who have already painstakingly devoured "Thrones" and the three other massive tomes that currently make up Martin's best-selling "A Song of Fire and Ice" fantasy series know all too well how freaking awesome the TV version can be. It wouldn't be too far off the mark to say that the series-premiere time of Sunday, April 17, at 9 p.m. ET, has been etched into our calendars since August 6, 1996, the date Martin's first installment in the franchise was originally published.

Also read: 'Game of Thrones': HBO Tries to Keep Its Crown

But given his plot's intricate political machinations and the appealing cast that HBO has assembled, plenty of newbies will no doubt be jumping on board. And we should all get along famously, especially if we all know the basic facts about the TV adaptation.

Here are five things to know about Sunday's premiere:

1. David Benioff wrote it
Well, he co-wrote it, with relative newcomer D.B. Weiss. But Benioff, who is best-known as the screenwriter behind "Troy" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," is also a novelist, having produced the highly recommended 2008 novel "City of Thieves," about a life-and-death quest for a dozen eggs during the siege of Leningrad. He also wrote the book and film "The 25th Hour." The fact that Benioff has described his take on Martin's books as "The Sopranos" set in Middle Earth shows that he and Weiss have the right idea. [Weiss, incidentally, has no official credits to his name other than "Thrones," but previously re-wrote Alex Garland's script for the (sadly defunct) Peter Jackson adaptation of the Xbox video game "Halo," and published a novel of his own in 2003 called "Lucky Wander Boy."]

2. The first season = Martin's first book
Each season of HBO's "Game of Thrones" will cover one Martin novel. Currently, four books make up his series, but it has finally and benevolently been announced that book five, "A Dance with Dragons," will be published on July 12. So, invest early, and you'll have five season's worth of swords-filled/direwolves-y/incentuous fun to feast upon.

3. And the first episode = 85 pages
At 807 pages, "A Game of Thrones" is a daunting novel to dig into. But let's break it down into bite-size nuggets for those who'd like to read along with the HBO series but have yet to open the cover. The first episode runs right up through page 85 of "A Game of Thrones," so all you have to do to prepare for Sunday's premiere is read up to that point. Any fool — and there are a lot of them in Martin's books — can read 85 pages in two days. So, get cracking! And with nine episodes to go after Sunday and 722 pages left in Martin's tome, you'll only have to read 80.22 pages a week to know what's up — a mere 11.46 pages per day. EASY.

4. It is rated R (or whatever the TV equivalent of that is)
Martin doesn't have two capital Rs in his name for nothing. The book series features a metric ton of beheadings, disembowelments, incestuous relations, sweaty fornication and completely gratuitous nudity, and HBO doesn't shy away from any of it. In fact, the TV adaptation plays up the R-rated action. So, unless your children are over the age of 17, or you really want to explain why that one woman's brother is banging into her repeatedly with his pelvis, you probably should put them to bed.

5. The series may never have a true conclusion
George R.R. Martin has said that the "A Song of Fire and Ice" series will take seven books to tell. Considering that the intervals between his the third and fourth books, and the fourth and fifth books, have been five and six years, respectively, it's possible that we will never know how he intended it to end, espeically given the amazing quotation Martin posted on his blog, which we learned about in a recent New Yorker article. "As some of you like to point out in your e-mails," he wrote, "I am sixty years old and fat, and you don’t want me to ‘pull a Robert Jordan’ on you and deny you your book. Okay, I’ve got the message. You don’t want me doing anything except ‘A Song of Ice and Fire.’ Ever. (Well, maybe it’s okay if I take a leak once in a while?)" What many people who are worried about the final two books in the series don't get is that the 62-year-old will live for a dragon's age, because that's how he rolls. Or at least, here's hoping.