I've got a fun tale to tell. A family member of mine right now is reading a well-known series: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. He loves sci-fiction and fantasy. When he finds a book he enjoys, he reads it voraciously. I bought him the first book and kept my fingers crossed that he'd like it. I've watched the series on HBO and enjoyed the plot and the characters. I hoped he'd have the same excited feeling. Things were going great as he plowed through the first book. He actually asked me to buy him the second one when I made another trip to the book store.
Naturally, for a reader who's deep into a story/series, that's not enough. As we invest our time in a story, we want conflict to keep us reading, but we also don't want our characters to fall on really, really hard times. There's nothing wrong with the harsh realities of life--it's what gives me those, "Holy moly, they really went there and did that" moments. It's those gotcha moments that make a book memorable and shakes you awake from the mundane ones. But I'll be the first to say it would be really hard for me to see my favorite character maimed, killed, or harmed in a way that affects my reading experience. I want to stay on the journey with them and not wonder if I'll need chocolate ice cream to pick me back up after each chapter. (Although that doesn't sound half bad per chapter for even a good book...)
A Game of Thrones is a little over 800 pages. That is a lot of time to invest in a universe and I wouldn't be surprised if I got a little miffed if something bad happened. But the series is selling well and there's one thing I do know: finding out what happened to the characters we like in the next book is a temptation that cannot be denied. :D
And even though I was told that he didn't want to read the second book--A Clash of Kings--I noticed the book I bought had been taken out of the bag and has somehow disappeared... I guess a reader can forgive in the end when they love a book. ;)