Dying of the Light by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had absolutely no issues in giving this a full 5 star rating, because even though the novel was nominated in '78 for the Hugo, that it comes out of the mind of one of the more well-beloved SF/F authors of our times, the novel is absolutely gorgeous all on its own.
Why? Because we're getting such depth of world-building, from the science of the solar/planetary, to the culture it spawned, to an absolutely amazing depth of social explorations, to a very cool discourse on the sexes as seen from multiple cultures and their conflicts.
Sound impressive? It only gets better, because the story is oh so solid and very complex. This is the novel highlights all the things we truly love about his SoIaF series, establishing characters as one thing only to break the mold completely, crossing all the boundaries of evil to good and back again. No one is a secondary character, either. This is the precursor to the series we know, only it's Science Fiction.
It's easy to get carried away with the misogynic society of men and the desire of a single woman to free herself after having got caught, and it is a major theme, at first, but then we begin to see how truly disturbing the society is not because it does such male-centered things, but because of it's tragic history and how it had almost died out because it had lost most of its females, and as such, had changed them into true treasures and communal properties over a few generations despite the original star-faring society being perfectly egalitarian. It sounds bad, but then you start to see a particularly complex bond/love relationships between men, almost like honor, almost like romance, and it's made even more complex by the deep rules of duels, warfare, and conquest, all while having such strange mixes of old and rediscovered tech.
And of course we get to see and explore it all through both their eyes and an outsider's eyes in the greater galactic civilization, full of misunderstandings, surprises, hate, love, little heroisms and subversions.
Sound like a deeply complex storyline full of surprises and adventure? Well it is, and we get to see a deeply imagined physical world, too, not just of the people and the social structures. The planet is within a strange and chaotic start system and they cannot even see more than twelve stars. With so many multiple suns, we also discover that the planet had a near brush with a sun and is now on it's way out of the system entirely. The planet will go from great heat into an eventual iceball. See a theme? Only this time, it's explained in science, even if the inhabitants truly have little recourse or satisfaction in the knowledge.
When I first read SoIaF, I loved to speculate about the planetary system that would cause centuries of winter and a few small generations of summer. It's a very SF thing to do for an epic fantasy. Imagine how delighted I am to learn that he'd been long thinking of these specific plans within his fantasy? It's obvious from this book. :)
This should be a must read for all his fans, and even of fans of LeGuin. The deeper social aspects are quite fascinating, indeed. :)
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