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Dreamsongs: Volume I Paperback – October 16, 2012
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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From Publishers Weekly
Martin may be best known for his Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy, but this mammoth collection of short stories (the first of two volumes) highlights his work in numerous genres, including SF, horror and fantasy. Focusing on Martin's early output, volume one features The Second Kind of Loneliness, originally published in 1972, which chronicles a man's insanity-inducing introspection millions of miles from Earth; the 1975 Hugo Award–winning A Song for Lya; The Pear-Shaped Man, a disturbing horror masterpiece about a creepy apartment neighbor; and more obscure works like a 1967 fanzine story starring the Astral Avenger and an unconventional college term paper about the Russo-Swedish War of 1808. An insightful introduction by Gardner Dozois, illustrations by Michael Kaluta and extensive—and candid—author commentary make this much more than just a compilation of stories. Fans, genre historians and aspiring writers alike will find this shelf-bending retrospective as impressive as it is intriguing. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for George R. R. Martin and His Body of Work
A Song of Ice and Fire Series
"Of those who work in the grand epic-fantasy tradition, Martin is by far the best. In fact...this is as good a time as any to proclaim him the American Tolkien." --"Time
""George R. R. Martin has created the unlikely genre of the realpolitik fantasy novel. Complete with warring kings, noble heroes and backroom dealings, it's addictive reading and reflects our current world a lot better than "The Lord of the Rings,"" --"Rolling Stone
""Mainstream readers...have a great treat ahead of them in Martin....Emotionally complex, masterfully written." --"Newsday
""I always expect the best from George R. R. Martin, and he always delivers." --Robert Jordan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Martin also provides autobiographical introductions for each section which tend to be too much of a good thing; they are rather long-winded and only occasionally illuminating.
The individual stories are reviewed below:
“Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark” – An atmospheric horror story about a demon from another realm who battles a modern-day superhero. Written while Martin was still in high school and published in an amateur fanzine. Very Lovecraftian—overwrought and melodramatic, perhaps—but his talent is evident.
“The Fortress” – While in college, Martin wrote this story about the surrender of the Sveaborg fortress in the Russo-Swedish war of 1808. I really enjoyed this true tale, especially since I have visited Sveaborg in person. This story, along with “Black and White and Red All Over”, showcase how successful Martin might have been as a writer of historical fiction rather than fantasy.
“And Death His Legacy” – Another college story; this one is too obviously tied to the civil rights movements of the 1960’s and telegraphs Martin’s political leanings. Despite its shortcomings, the depiction of an ultra-conservative Prophet who panders to fear and racism is uncomfortably similar to politicians of today.
“Hero” – An amateurish interstellar war story clearly modeled on the Vietnam Conflict.
“The Exit to San Bretis” – An engaging ghost story set on the deserted highways of the future.
"A Second Kind of Loneliness" -- A socially inept man descends into madness in the void of space while guarding the entrance to a wormhole.
"With Morning Comes the Mistfall" -- A journalist visits a haunted world shrouded in mists. This story begins as an effective science fiction horror story, but it becomes instead an elegiac meditation on man's need to seek the truth (science) versus the need for romance and mystery. This reminded me of Kij Johnson's "The Man Who Bridged the Mists".
"A Song for Lya" -- Two psychics travel to an world much older than earth to investigate why humans are being drawn towards an alien religion that always culminates in suicide. This is a strong story, with an outstanding premise built around two questions: "What is true love?" and "Does human individuality create an inherent sense of isolation?" My only complaint is that it drags on a bit too long with too much repetition. Won a 1974 Hugo Award.
"This Tower of Ashes"--A man struggling to get over his divorce leads his ex-wife and her new lover on a hunt through an alien forest where a sentient civilization may have once lived. This story has some narrative shortcomings--it is always a bad sign when I turn the page expecting another scene, only to find the story has already finished. However, I really liked the vivid descriptions of this world, its ecology and especially the dream-spiders.
"And Seven Times Never Kill Man"--An excellent portrait of two cultures at war with one another. One is a group of humanoid settlers who follow a militaristic form of Christianity warped by centuries of intergalactic conflict. The other is a primitive tribe that exalts art and pacifism. The author purposefully leaves many questions unanswered, but this story defies the easy answers and still has enough meat on the bone to satisfy.
"The Stone City"--Martin calls this an important story in his Thousand Worlds cycle. It introduces the basic geography of his universe as well as an inter-dimensional hub that facilitates faster-than-light travel. Unfortunately, the characters are vague and the plot meanders. It is a long, dull tale that I struggled to complete.
"Bitterblooms"--A woman caught in a snowstorm finds rescue in a spaceship. This is an attempt to blend science fiction and fantasy ,but neither the story nor the relationships between the central characters ever really gels.
"The Way of Cross and Dragon"--An imaginative, fun exploration of what the Catholic Church might become after man spreads out among the stars. Won a Hugo Award.
"The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr"--Sharra is a woman who travels between worlds looking for a lost love; Laren Dorr has been exiled on his world for over 200,000 years because he angered the Seven gods. Their lives briefly touch in this excellent tale that hints at a rich, larger mythology.
"The Ice Dragon"--The adventures of a young girl and her dragon made of ice. I read this story back in 1999 and it did not make an impression on me. I appreciated it more this time around . An illustrated edition of this story was also published as a children's book.
"In the Lost Lands"--A well-executed fantasy/horror hybrid story. The opening line grabbed me: 'You can buy anything you might desire from Gray Alys. But it is better not to.'
"Meathouse Man"--This story qualifies as horror because it features gruesome scenes of zombie rape, but the real darkness is its heart-wrenching message about all the many ways love can spoil and go wrong. This may be the truest, most effective story of failed relationships I have ever read.
"Remembering Melody"--A lawyer finds his comfortable life disrupted when Melody, a close college friend, shows up on his doorstep. A story that uses traditional horror elements to examine co-dependent relationships and unhealthy boundaries. Adapted for television by HBO.
"Sandkings"--A man raises a colony of sentient pets, but after he mistreats them, they run amok and nearly destroy his life. This is my favorite Martin story; it won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
"Nightflyers"--A group of scientists are tracking the oldest known alien vessel through deep space. When they begin to die one by one, they blame their enigmatic captain. This is an outstanding character-driven piece with strong science fiction and horror elements. It was made into a forgettable 1980's movie; also currently in development as a television show.
"The Monkey Treatment"--Losing weight is difficult. The monkey treatment guarantees results, but at a horrific price. This reminded me of Stephen King's "Quitters, Inc." only funnier.
"The Pear-Shaped Man"--The author channels his inner Stephen King in this supernatural urban horror story. The writing and characterization are great. It is at times funny, sad, disturbing, and gross. The phallic image of cheese doodles will unfortunately take a long time to fade away. Won a Bram Stoker Award.
A Song of Ice and Fire have spawned an industry of theorists, pundits, and reviewers on You Tube. These commentators attempt to predict the future of the plot. Some of the most thorough and more dedicated fans and reviewers have taken the time to read some of Martin's early works to see if they can glean the future through them. For that alone, it is worth your time to read "Dreamsongs Vol 1".
Martin was more open about his personal life. In this collection of short stories, Martin will, from time to time, write about his personal life. If you are interested in the author, you simply must have this book.
I would not say the short stories within will tell you how "A Song of Ice and Fire" will end. Martin will want to surprise his readers.
I also enjoyed spotting some of the little things that would pop up in Fire & Ice and the biographical sections. A lot of the other stuff didn't do much for me though the stories were good they just didn't really pop but then again this is his early stuff so I'm definitely going to give the second anthology a read.
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