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Book Review: Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Author: George R. R. Martin
Genre: Science Fiction
Pub. Date: September 2004
Format: Paperback, 254pp
Publisher: Bantam Books

If an old flame (who, you believe, no longer has any interest in you) were to send a request for help, and you would have to travel three months through the deepest and remotest regions of space to a desolate world very near its death, would you go? Dirk t’Larien would. It is this premise that drives George R. R. Martin’s novel, Dying of the Light.

Famous for his Song of Ice and Fire Cycle, Martin is known for his ability to write detailed characters and setting, and the intricate weaves of his plots. Although considerably slimmer in its 224 pages than the Song of Ice and Fire with its (currently) four volumes, none of what makes George R. R. Martin notable is lost.

Dying of the Light tells the story of a man caught in a love triangle. Dirk returns to an old girlfriend (Gwen Delvano) to learn that she is married to another man. Her request for help seems odd to Dirk, but nonetheless his old loyalty and love drive him to assist her. But there is a peculiar twist (this kind of thing is what shows Martin’s genius), Gwen has married outside her own culture into one whose marriage habits and cultural beliefs are greatly out of sync with those of other planets. Her relationship to her husband is more of master and slave than lovers. Her husband also has a male partner, called a teyn, who is part and parcel of this family. In fact, the men’s bond is even stronger than Gwen’s with her husband. It is from this anti-female culture that Dirk must save Gwen.

Martin weaves amazing cultures in his writing. With pen to paper, he generates complete cultures that are both comprehensive and consistent. This fact is often blamed for his slow writing and lack of a great number of works, but then it is also what makes them worth reading.

Dying of the Light seeks to tell an interesting and active story, while also doing comprehensive world-building. Worlorn is a fragile place where cultures clash and things are not always as they seem.

There is nothing quite like this story out there. I fell into the story and became Dirk t’Larien. His story was my story and his fears hopes and dreams my own, for the brief space of time I spent on Worlorn.

The book is an enjoyable science fiction read. The characters are interesting, the plot twisted enough to keep a reader from desiring to put it down, and the setting is magnificently wrought. I highly recommend this book as an excellent read that is challenging, romantic, and fun.

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