Monday, December 17, 2007

Dreamsongs: "The Fortress", "And Death His Legacy"

"The Fortress" and "And Death His Legacy" conclude the opening section of George R. R. Martin's Dreamsongs: Volume 1 collection of his short fiction (originally published as GRRM: a rretrospective). The first section, titled "A Four Color Fanboy" collected three of Martin's amateur stories. I mentioned the first here.

"The Fortress" was an odd tale which, while told smoothly, did not work for me as much as I think it could have and should have. My biggest problem was just differentiated between the characters and getting a sense of what was going on and what any real motivations were. It tells the story of Sveaborg and the surrender of the fortress in 1808 by the Finns to the Russians during the Finnish War. Martin uses historical figures and tells a tale of betrayal. Now that I think back, the concept of the story is a very interesting one, and as Martin tells in the intro to this section, he wrote this story as a college project for a grade. There is even a bit from the poem "The Tales of Ensign Stal" at the conclusion (and perhaps beginning, I'm fuzzy).

The story I most liked out of the opening three was "And Death His Legacy", the story of a future or past America (or present day, depending on when you are looking at it) where a Prophet comes out of the South, preaching about Americanism and about taking America back from the commies and fascists and protestors and those who don't work for a living. It is also the story of a rich man dying of cancer. He knows he has a year left to live and wants his life to have meaning and he knows the rhetoric of the Prophet, what it can mean, and what it can lead to. He attempts to answer the question of whether it would have been better and been moral to murder Hitler before he came to power in Germany, only this time in some later day America. Like "The Fortress", it's a great concept for the story and while it is a bit clunky and heavy handed at times (hey, this is Martin's amateur work after all), "And Death His Legacy" is a fascinating story with a tough ending. Martin doesn't let anybody off the hook here.

This closes out the "A Four Color Fanboy" section of Dreamsongs: Volume 1 and this amateur work is better than I expected, even coming from Martin and suggests that I am in for real treats once I get into his professional short fiction and award winners. I'm looking forward to beginning Section Two: "The Filthy Pro".

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