Dying of the Light by George R R Martin

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Dying of the Light by George R R Martin

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Erin Hull
Reviewed by Erin Hull
Summary: George R.R. Martin's wonderful writing style has been excellent even from this, his first book. Although it t was slow and did not meet the standards I had set from his A Song of Ice and Fire series in terms of epic world building and character.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 368 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473212527

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Dirk t'Larien leads a joyless and lonely life until one day his ex-girlfriend Gwen Delvano calls him on an expedition to the dying planet of Worlorn. Soon he becomes tangled up in Gwen's mess of a life and is persuaded to save her from the misogynist traditions of her new partner's culture. In trying to pull her from the old traditions of Jaan Vickary's Kavalar world, Dirk finds himself facing problems that are a lot bigger than simply reconnecting with an old flame.

As a fan of George R.R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series, I leapt at the chance to read another of his books. Unfortunately, this meant that I had high expectations and was often comparing it, perhaps unfairly seeing as this book was written so much earlier. From the synopsis and the cover design I was expecting sci-fi intergalactic adventure and at times it was. It definitely had the slightly cheesy feel of 70's sci-fi with V-neck space jumpsuits and long names that were abundant in syllables. The grand sense of atmosphere was well built due to Martin's poetic and expansive writing with his excellent descriptions of burning stars and run-down cities, yet I feel that his fantasy works are far superior in showing his great abilities as a storyteller.

A very bland aspect of the book was his characters. Dirk felt like a classic hero protagonist without a personality. His oppressive love for Gwen and need to save the damsel in distress was quite frustrating. Their relationship wasn't a particularly interesting one and it's odd to feel more invested in the relationship Martin has created in his other series between Jamie and Cersei… If you know Game of Thrones then you probably understand why that's weird. Gwen too was uninteresting, though I did like the unique arc of her character towards the end of the story as she is no longer seen as a weak woman to be saved but instead as a strong woman on a path of vengeance. Perhaps this story would have been more interesting if the main point of view came from Garse or Jaan as they seemed to be more charismatic. I do always appreciate that Martin does not create simple good or bad characters but instead, he gives them poor morals or weighs them down with the conventions of the societies they live in. Jaan was a good example of this as he is not completely likeable with his possessiveness over Gwen yet he is trying to change and shun the views of Kavalar.

Although I appreciate the craft of Martin's writing and his ability for giving an extensive history to his worlds, at times this book felt like a textbook. Whole pages were dedicated to this aspect of Kavalar history or that war story which slowed down the plot. For such a short book I was expecting it to be more action-packed but things didn't really get going until halfway through. This wouldn't have been too bad if I was interested in Dirk and his love for Gwen, but I really just wanted some kind of adventure to distract from their dull love (or perhaps loveless) affair. I will accredit this book for its ending though as I liked where it left off. I think many people would be annoyed by it but I like how it showed that Dirk had changed as a character and let the reader wonder.

I did enjoy some aspects of this book but it could have done with more of the excellent characterisation and subtle world-building that I have seen in Martin's other series. I have not read much sci-fi but the epic space atmosphere really appealed to me and I would be interested in further exploring the genre.

Further reading: Dark Run by Mike Brooks and The Martian War by Kevin J Anderson. You might like to try Windhaven by George R R Martin and Lisa Tuttle.

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