And also I didn't like them that much and wanted them over with.
Fortunately the library I got the books from had rescinded its policy that books can't be out for more than 40 days, due to COVID.
"It's basically a bunch of factions slowly moving towards some kind of gigantic showdown somewhere down the line"--that's what it seems like as of the end of the third book.
You want to know how he "botched the straightforward trajectory"? I'll tell you how.
He got lost in weak, boring, overlong world building, leaving most of the characters at the end of book 5 by and large where they were at the end of book 3.
You ever read The Godfather? The original Mario Puzo novel?
It gets caught up in lame digressions about, among other things, the relationship of Johnny Fontane to his bandleader Nino, which is a lame fictionalization of the relationship between Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (I think. I'm not looking it up.)
You know the girl we see Sonny Corleone screwing up against the door at the wedding?
There's a subplot about how her vaginal walls are so far apart that she can't handle any penis besides Sonny's, which is lovingly described in drippingly verbal detail by Puzo as being basically the biggest schlong of all time, so she has to go some creepy 1940s Hollywood weirdo doctor to get a procedure done. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.
Now think of the movie--Francis Ford Coppola carefully removed EVERYTHING from the books that sucked or was stupid so the movie would be awesome. (Also, Puzo writes at about a tenth grade level, literally, but that's beside the point.)
The fourth and fifth books are not merely filled with crap that didn't make it into the fourth-through-sixth seasons of the show; the crap is the MAJORITY of those last two books. Fans were quick to point out, for example, that Brienne's chapters in the fourth books are just her wandering around endlessly looking for Arya and we know where Arya is. (With that Faceless Man trainer guy).
Jon's chapters are just nothing happening on the Wall, and I found much of the Wall stuff on the show a gruelling bore to begin with.
Martin also pads stuff out with endless descriptions of sigils and family histories and details of what people were wearing and endless descriptions of what people have for dinner (and it's not some Bret Easton Ellis joke thing either).
If you really don't want to read the fourth or fifth books, don't--they're not "fascinating failures," they're long-winded messes, and not in the amusing way some ridiculous filler-padded graphomaniacal Stephen King overlong debacle is either. They're just boring.
Through reading endless Amazon.com one and two star reviews of the books, I found endless comparisons to some awful writer named Robert Jordan who wrote the Wheel of Time series, a series of some 20 fantasy books or something like that which are universally agreed to have gone on too long and for no point.