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Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin

Dying of the Light (1977)

by George R. R. Martin

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Singsong poetry in motion. A dark vision of the future where death becomes beautiful. ( )
  Trentazoid | Nov 3, 2015 |
An interesting, complex debut novel from George RR Martin, Dying Of The Light is an old-school planetary romance that reminded me quite strongly of both Cordwainer Smith and CJ Cherryh, oddly enough, though the setting is pure Jack Vance. Worlorn is a wandering world that enjoyed a brief heydey when, passing near a specatcular star system, it was transformed into a festival world where all the primary centres of human civilisation built cities to house thousands and even millions of inhabitants in an extravagant display of wealth and technology. Now the planet is drifting back into the dark and the cold is closing in and only a few last remnants of the festival throngs remain.

One of those remnants, a former lover, summons Dirk t'Larien to Worlorn. Gwen is caught in an odd marriage to a Kavalar, a marriage that in the eyes of Kavalar society, reduces her to the status of property. Furthermore, a particular faction of a die-hard conservative Kavalar holdfast are on Worlorn hoping to revive a forbidden tradition: the hunting of humans for sport. Caught between his love for Gwen, his growing respect for her husband, who is on Worlorn to thwart the hunters and his troubled search for his own sense of self, Dirk becomes enmeshed in the struggle and the divided loyalties and the battle between the old and the new, haunted by the spectre of death on a dying planet.

Martin's strengths as a world-builder and a story-teller are on full display here. The universe he creates is far bigger, richer and deeper than the planet of Worlorn, though nearly all the action takes place there. Did he ever revisit it, I wonder? Did he intend to? His facility for conjuring history and romance and mystery out of a few brief asides and suggestive comments and names is part of what makes him such a pleasure to read. His frank examination of a martial culture, bound by codes of honour and formal bonds and the attraction it holds for both the romantically inclined and the aimless and the lost prefigures the proud medieval chivalric culture of the Seven Kingdoms, as does his unflinching study of its dark side: the horrifying misogyny and the violence inflicted on those deemed unworthy or outside that culture.

The books ends oddly: after a frantic, edge-of-the-seat hunt, there is a period of waiting and then an anti-climax, followed by a coda that ends without a resolution, though not without resolve. It fits the setting and the theme perfectly, though, and speaks to Martin's integrity as a writer and fidelity to his vision. I hope that once the Song is finished he might consider a return to science fiction. It's clearly his first love. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
This book was a little hard to get into but once you do you are hooked. The characters are pure George RR Martin in that there is no, for the most part, good or bad guy. Once you get to know them they all have faults and good points making the novel really fun to read. ( )
  Fearshop | Aug 20, 2015 |
3.5 stars http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/dying-of-the-light/

In the outer fringe of the inhabited universe, the rogue planet Worlorn falls darkly through space. But years ago it circled the Wheel of Fire, the brilliant wheel-shaped star system that is worshipped by many in the outworlds. Worlorn, the Wheel of Fire??s only planet, was lit for fifty years before it wandered off again. During that half-century, the outworlds held a cultural diversity festival on Worlorn, with each world trying to outdo the others when building their extravagant temporary cities on a planet they knew theyƒ??d only inhabit for a few decades.

Now that Worlorn is fading into darkness again, the cities are almost completely abandoned, but there are a few people left on the planet. When Dirk tƒ??Larien is summoned there by Gwen, the ex-girlfriend he still loves, he discovers that Worlorn is no longer a festival planet. Now itƒ??s dark and dangerous. Worse, though, is that Gwen is now mated to Jaantony Riv Wolf high-Ironjade Vikary, a leader of the Kavalar race which, in order to protect its few women and children, has developed some barbaric customs and codes. Most notably, men form high-bonds with a male partner and may have a wife as a shared piece of property. Jaantony, both a warrior and an academic, is eager for his peoplesƒ?? culture to become more liberal towards women, but his is a minority opinion. The man he is bonded to, Garse Janacek, does not agree. And the larger faction of the Kavalar race, including some who are hunting non-Kavalar humans on Worlorn, is happy to find any reason to pick a fight with Jaantony Ironjade. When Dirk gets to Worlorn, he unwittingly walks right into the middle of a tense situation and only makes it worse.

Dying of the Light, first published in 1977, is George R.R. Martinƒ??s debut novel and itƒ??s impressive. The setting is wonderful: a dying planet getting farther and farther away from its sun; abandoned cities; jungles with strange and deadly life forms; fascinating cultures. My favorite feature was the city of Challenge which is a 500-story building housing thousands of apartments and lots of cool amenities. Because itƒ??s run by machines, much of Challenge is still operative though only a handful of people still live there. The most exciting action in Dying of the Light occurs in Challenge ƒ?? I loved this part of the story.

The clashing cultures that Martin creates are also imaginative and fascinating and he hints at plenty of history and backstory that he never gives us but that make this world feel real. I wish heƒ??d write more about it. Iƒ??d love to read about the fifty sunny years on Worlorn, for example.

Unfortunately, none of George R.R. Martinƒ??s characters are likable. Dirk is passive and Gwen is flighty and indecisive. It was hard to root for them as a couple, especially when Jaantony Ironjade was more interesting than Dirk. Iƒ??d classify Dying of the Light as a science fiction romantic tragedy (in fact, Dirk, who calls Gwen ƒ??Jenny,ƒ? likens their situation to the disastrous love triangle in the Arthurian legend) but the romance and the tragedy would have been more effective if Dirk and Gwen had been admirable characters. As it was, I didnƒ??t really care what happened to them in the end.

Overall, Dying of the Light is impressive and surprisingly sophisticated for the first novel of a young author. If youƒ??re a fan of GRRM, itƒ??s a must-read. Dying of the Light was initially serialized in Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction with the name After the Festival in 1977. The novel was nominated for the Hugo and the British Fantasy Award. I read Subterranean Pressƒ??s recent publication which has wonderful artwork by Tom Kidd (both glossy color sheets and black and white drawings). I also tried Dying of the Light in audio (recently produced by Random House Audio) and was pleased with Iain Glenƒ??s narration. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Loved it
  coralice | Dec 3, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George R. R. Martinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morrill, RowenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pugi, Jean-PierreTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A Rachel, que una vez me amó
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A rogue, an aimless wanderer, creation's castaway; this world was all those things.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553383086, Paperback)

In this unforgettable space opera, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin presents a chilling vision of eternal night—a volatile world where cultures clash, codes of honor do not exist, and the hunter and the hunted are often interchangeable.
A whisperjewel has summoned Dirk t’Larien to Worlorn, and a love he thinks he lost. But Worlorn isn’t the world Dirk imagined, and Gwen Delvano is no longer the woman he once knew. She is bound to another man, and to a dying planet that is trapped in twilight. Gwen needs Dirk’s protection, and he will do anything to keep her safe, even if it means challenging the barbaric man who has claimed her. But an impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounds them all, and it’s becoming impossible for Dirk to distinguish between his allies and his enemies. In this dangerous triangle, one is hurtling toward escape, another toward revenge, and the last toward a brutal, untimely demise.
Dying of the Light blew the doors off of my idea of what fiction could be and could do, what a work of unbridled imagination could make a reader feel and believe.”—Michael Chabon

“Slick science fiction . . . the Wild West in outer space.”—Los Angeles Times

“Something special which will keep Worlorn and its people in the reader’s mind long after the final page is read.”—Galileo magazine
“The galactic background is excellent. . . . Martin knows how to hold the reader.”—Asimov’s
“George R. R. Martin has the voice of a poet and a mind like a steel trap.”—Algis Budrys

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:08 -0400)

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When Dirk t'Larien returns to Worlorn, he finds that Gwen Delvano is no longer the woman he once knew. She is bound to another man and to a planet trapped in twilight. Amid this bleak landscape is the clash of cultures in which there is no code of honor.… (more)

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