on November 27, 2007
Two things before I start the review: I am a big fan of Mr. Martin's 'Song of Ice & Fire' saga (like many fans, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of 'A Dance With Dragons'). The second point is that I have never been a fan of short stories. Well, up until now.
When I first heard about the release of Dreamsongs, I wasn't too thrilled. I knew Martin as a brilliant epic storyteller, but I was not sure whether his talents in creating complex, deep characters, exciting storylines, and magnificent settings could fit into the small world of short stories.
Suffice to say that my worries about Dreamsongs almost kept me from being exposed to some of the best stories that I have read. Dreamsongs is a collection of short stories written by Martin throughout his career as a writer. These tales cover a spectrum of genres including fantasy, science fiction, and even horror. I would like to emphasize one point: Every signature element that brought Martin to the pinnacle of fame that he has today is present in this collection of his earlier works.
Stories: Original, deep, and engaging are the words that come to mind when describing the tales in Dreamsongs. What I found surprising was how personal some of these stories were. From the fight for honor and country in 'The Fortress' to the very depths of human needs and emotions in the touching 'A Song for Lya'; From socio-political issues in 'And Death His Legacy' to war and propaganda in 'The Hero', I was hooked and pulled into the story every time. The tone of these tales can be commonly described as dark. I found myself thinking about these stories afterwards the way I thought about some of the Twilight Zone episodes: The stories are fiction, but there is always an underlying message in every story that rattles the reader a bit.
Settings: as Mr. Martin takes you away on a journey through planets, deep space, ancient temples, alien cities, lost highways, and mysterious jungles, he masterfully places you right in the middle of events. Fans of 'Song of Ice & Fire' will immediately recognize Martin's skill (which he apparently possessed from even his earliest of stories as a teenager) in making the settings come to life in the reader's mind.
Characters: Vulnerable, introspective, possessive, cowardly, mad, illogical, heroic, tired, fearful, lonely, and brave. You will come to know the characters in these stories as if they were real people. One thing that I found absolutely amazing was how the author could masterfully develop these characters in a few pages in a way that he did with the amazing cast of 'Song of Ice & Fire' within volumes of books.
I would easily recommend Dreamsongs to any fan of Geroge R.R. Martin or any fantasy/sci-fi reader who has been so unfortunate in life as to have never read any of his books. Ladies and gents, you are in for a treat.
on December 11, 2007
This collection, whether in its 2003 limited-edition single-book format or in this new two-book one, showcases the career of a true master. Most fantasy novelists can't write prose well enough to succeed at the short form, and most fantasy short fiction stars can't write plots entertaining enough to attract fans to their novels. Perhaps it's Martin's cross-genre skill, equally adept at fantasy, science fantasy, and horror, that enables him to master both the short and novel formats, or perhaps it's the writerly training of that bygone era when short fiction was more common and more populist. Regardless, his classic award-winners like "Sandkings" still shine opposite early works like "The Fortress" and recent ones like "The Hedge Knight."
The other bounty in this collection is Martin's introductions to each chronological section, describing where he was at that point in his life and career, then detailing the genesis of all the stories. These commentaries offer insight into the man and the evolution of his craft.
Perhaps after he finishes his current saga, he'll dip back into short fiction, or write shorter pieces in between his longer projects like Stephen King does. That would surely offer great reads, and it might bring some fan attention back to the forgotten short fiction format.
on January 3, 2016
This review is of the Audible version of volume 1 of George R.R. Martin's Dreamsongs. I want to make that clear, because in this case the version severely impacts my review. I bought this as a Whispesync-for-Voice upgrade option. I did see that it was listed as "Unabridged Selections," nevertheless, I was still extremely disappointed when, only 3/5 through the book, the audio ends. What?? This can't be right! Oh yes, yes it is. Rather than recording selections throughout the entire book, they decided to record only the first 3 sections. Why? I have no idea.
This choice was especially upsetting, since I paid what to me is a premium for this book - twice as expensive than the longer, unabridged recorded versions of The Outlander series, for instance. And of course this price is on top of the cost of the ebook version. The choice to stop 3/5 of the way through means, for instance, that the trumpeted "Sandkings" story is NOT amongst those that are recorded. For those of us who do have eyes that work, and who purchased the book version as well, then yes, it's possible to read the story that way. But if you purchased the audiobook because you absolutely cannot read with your eyes, then you are going to be VERY disappointed.
What's actually presented in the recording, however, is excellent. The readers are all good, including Martin himself. The production values are good. And of course the stories are by and large excellent. My favorite of the ones that are recorded is Song for Lya, though there are many good ones. For me, as a person preferring fantasy over SF, the choice to truncate the book where they did meant that the stores I am MOST likely to enjoy are left out. But even so, the largely SF selections at the beginning were fascinating and satisfying. Surprisingly so, in some cases, since like other reviewers, I am usually less fond of short fiction than the sprawling multi-volume sagas for which he's become more well known in recent years. But it was fascinating to hear these tales written when he was very young, and to hear the personal backstory in his own voice.
If your choice is this Audible recording, or not getting to read his work at all, then yes, I guess you should go ahead and purchase it. Martin is certainly a master at prose, and his skill and humor shows up throughout. But if there is another way for you to read this book, so you get the entire thing, then I highly recommend you do that instead, and save yourself the frustration.
If I had the option here, I'd give this 5 stars for the material, and only 2 for the truncated recording. Since I don't, the whole thing gets averaged to a 3 star rating. Buyer beware!
on December 2, 2007
I've been a big George R.R. Martin fan since reading "Fevre Dream" when I was a bit younger; although many of his fans seem to only be familiar w/ Song of Fire & Ice, I can assure you that most of his other works are just as good. I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that many of his early and lesser known works were being collected and published in one volume, and I was quite upset when the original release date was changed(the release date for the US Dreamsongs was originally announced over a year ago at the same time the UK version; it was then scrapped and split into the 2 volumes for release here).
The fact that so many of the selections were award winners/award nominees speaks highly of the book to begin with, and although many of the stories in the first half of the book were written by a very young Martin (and it shows), the entire collection is filled with stories that grab hold of you and characters that you can really care about (a Martin specialty, imho). And though I've never been a big fan of anything that falls into the horror genre, I read and thoroughly enjoyed each and every story in the collection. The intros to each section are particularly enjoyable to read, as Martin discusses his sucesses and failures and the variety of influences on his early works, as well as some interesting anecdotes from his childhood.
My favorites from this volume include "The Exit to San Breta", "The Second Kind of Loneliness", "With Morning Comes Mistfall", "A Song for Lya", "The Way of Cross and Dragon", and of course, "Sandkings". I highly recommend picking up a copy of Dreamsongs, even for those who are not fans of short stories (I'm generally not); it is also a great introduction to Martin for those who are unfamiliar with his works - just don't judge the whole book by the first few stories!
on December 27, 2010
(My thoughts on all three volumes)
A Game of Thrones (and its followups) made Martin a household name among fantasy nerds, but not many of us knew he had been writing for so long.
Those who enjoyed that series but haven't checked out his back catalog are missing something special. Going back to his early 20s, it's clear that he had obvious gifts and a love for the craft, even in the face of the thankless job of writing for fanzines and short-lived monthly periodicals. Check out a story he wrote in college, set during the Swedish-Russian war of 1808, which offers crisp characters and a delicious sense of the divisions war can create among allies.
As a fantasy writer, Martin gives readers what most readers are looking for: exotic worlds populated by characters both colorful and familiar. Yet, Martin's stories tend to be darker and more ambiguous than the norm. The Hedge Knight novella is a fine example of this, taking the reader into a Knight's tournament in the Ice and Fire universe through the eyes of the likable but clueless young bumpkin, Dunk. Soon, he's in over his head with dangerous games of skill and equally dangerous intrigues between powerful lords. Sadly, many fantasy pieces offer too brief of a visit to the worlds Martin created for them -- as he acknowledges in his commentary, he'd often start a series, then never return to it.
And those who only know Martin for fantasy may be surprised to find that he's an accomplished science fiction writer. These pieces offer atmosphere, exotic worlds, and human drama, but with more reflectiveness than the fantasy pieces and a dark, speculative edge. Many of them feel surprisingly fresh and undated. The horror stories fare a bit less well. Martin deploys some tongue-in-cheek humor, but the pieces, with their cultural references, can't help but feel like products of the 1980s.
Then there are the commentary pieces, revealing a man who's just as much of a geek as much of his readership. He even sounds a bit like the Simpson comic store guy!
Twenty-two terrific, highly readable stories, accompanied by five very entertaining autobiographical essays by the author (each essay introducing a group of stories and discussing what the author was doing in his life at the time he wrote the stories in question). There's also a nice little initial introduction to the whole package by Gardner Dozois.
What I liked a lot about these stories is the skillful, artful balance between clarity and ambiguity. Plot points and story developments are always very clear, so the reader knows exactly what is going on; yet Mr. Martin often chooses to pull back and let the reader decide the implications of characters' decisions rather than hit us over the head with an obvious "lesson".
It's funny, though. Mr. Martin's developed his writing craft much quicker than he accumulated life experience. The result: several stories ("The Second Kind of Loneliness" and "Meathouse Man" chief among them) that are highly polished in their craft but about little more than a young man's fear of talking to a pretty girl or depression when a relationship with said girl doesn't work out. Make no mistake, with their imaginative science-fiction, horror, or fantasy trappings, they're very interesting stories; I just thought it was amusing how, in certain particular stories, the writing was very sophisticated but the human/emotional themes were so basic. But even some of these stories feature the sophisticated ambiguity mentioned previously.
Highlights of the book? I particularly enjoyed the long "Nightflyers" (it's pretty much a novella); it reminded me of a really good Arthur C. Clarke story. "Sandkings" was a great SF/horror hybrid. And the out-and-out fantasy entry, "The Ice Dragon" was wonderful, too. In fact, there's not a clunker in the bunch, even among the early "fan fiction" stories ("Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark", "And Death His Legacy", etc.) also included by Mr. Martin.
When posting a positive review of an entry in a multi-part series, I try to avoid a trite closing sentence along the line of "this installment was great, and I'm certainly on board for the next volume." But, uh, there's really nothing left to say but... this installment was great and I'm certainly on board for the next volume.
Well, I do have ONE more thing to say. Maybe my new Amazon Kindle will arrive in time for me to purchase the also-hefty "Dreamsongs, Volume 2" via that handy electronic device. Like Mr. Martin's also excellent "A Song of Ice and Fire" fantasy novels, these suckers are BIG books and a bit of a pain to lug around. Get working, Amazon!
on April 11, 2012
George R.R.Martin writes a commentary before each section of the book telling how he came to write the stories in that section. I found his personal comments fascinating. He writes science fiction, fantasy, horror and sometimes combines them. He is so prolific, versatile and fun to read.
on June 18, 2015
It's not a novel folks. Dreamsongs is the journey of George R.R. Martin, from passion to prolific pro. The book is a treasure map of short stories that begins with fanzines and comics, where some of his first work was published. The filthy pro section highlights some of his professional work which is amazing in its own right. Sandkings and Night Flier, longer novella stories, are some of the best pieces in this book. Some say that short form fiction is a dying market, but Martin brings it to life with masterful stories. Whether you're just a casual fan, a budding writer, or a fanatic, you'll love this book. Don't skip the introduction for each section as it lends context to the stories that follow. Can't wait to pick up volume 2. Thanks George.
on May 22, 2016
It's not a bad collection of stories by this fantastic author. It's pretty much a lot of one off short stories, A few TV scripts thrown in too. Not a bad read but certainly not among his best works either. There are a few good stories in there (A Song For Lya, Ice Dragon) but most are sort of so-so.
on May 13, 2016
This is life. The author is a genius. The writing very intelligent, poetic, heartfelt, raw. One of the best. I forsee it being a required classical reading in the future. Lol, no not really but it is very well written so far as all time classics are concerned.