In “A Song for Lya” George R. R. Martin gets into the alienness of a culture which has not advanced or evolved in tens of thousands of years. Two telepaths have been requested on the planet of ----- to help to figure out why humans are being drawn into the religion of the aliens which over years culminates in a form of suicide. Martin describes well the troubled feelings the telepaths have about the S----- and how seductive this religion could be. Martin is able to create this alien culture, make it comprehensible to readers and also have it be completely alien in nature. “A Song for Lya” is a troubling story, a beautiful and sad story, and one which moves with the heart in an alien landscape. Wonderfully written and a story which three decades later holds up very well.
“This Tower of Ashes” is another story which takes place on a strange and distant and mostly unexplored world. A lone man narrates the story from the ruins of a tower which is slowly crumbling to ash and his former flame and her new flame arrive on his doorstep where he has been hiding out, mostly from them and from his life. What follows is a bit of an adventure and a desire on the part of our narrator to have the girl back in his life, to show her that he is willing to sacrifice for her. If nothing else, “This Tower of Ashes” is a story about loneliness and the feeling of isolation, self imposed or otherwise. It ends, like most of Martin’s early stor ies in this Dreamsongs collection, in a very downbeat fashion.
One thing that seems to define Martin’s early work is an overriding sense of loneliness and alienation. Martin addresses this specifically in the introductions to both “The Filthy Pro” and “The Light of Distant Stars” sections. Martin mentions that several of the stories have come out of the endings of relationships and times that he spent alone during summers. Through the first two and a half sections of Dreamsongs, loneliness is a recurring theme and the stories tend to end in a emotionally harsh and empty place. The stories are overall quite good (“A Song for Lya” especially), but they can be quite wrenching.