Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dying of the Light (1977), by George R. R. Martin

Dying of the Light was the first novel published by acclaimed fantasy author George R. R. Martin. Martin is better known as the author of the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Dying of the Light is a science fiction novel set on a dying world called Worlorn. Dirk t'Larien is summoned to the world by a whisperjewel, a promise made by his younger self to his former love Gwen Delvano. But Gwen is bound to another man, a man bound to a different code of conduct and different cultural mores. Getting his love, who may not love him any more, to leave Jaan Vikary for Dirk is only half the problem. The other half of the problem is dealing with another human culture, from another world, on a world which those laws do not apply. Dying of the Light is a clash of cultures, science fiction, and could be considered something of a Western.

George Martin opens up a sprawling, lawless landscape on an alien world which feels like it could quite possibly exist. Martin gives out enough information that one could believe that all of these human cultures spread to the stars could possibly be real. Martin gives us authentic feeling cultures that are distinct and raw and those cultures clash in Dying of the Light.

That's really what Dying of the Light is, an examination of culture clash in a lawless outback. There is a very large amount of exposition and explanation of what these cultures are and how they interact. Dying of the Light is small on action, though near the end we get to the action and the chase sequences.

This is perhaps the greatest flaw of George Martin's debut novel. He spends too much time explaining and not nearly enough time showing. For what he was so great with A Song of Ice and Fire Martin is sadly lacking here. The characterizations are strong in the sense that the characters are distinctly drawn, but they are weak because it is difficult to care for a single character because these characters just stand around and explain their cultures to each other and that does not work so well for a novel.

Reluctantly I cannot recommend Dying of the Light. It is a novel that has a lot of promise and showed that Martin had the potential to put together what he later did with his fantasy series. It also showed that he had a ways to go yet.


Nick said...

Dirk t'Larien? Seriously? Wow.

Joe said...