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Dying of the Light: A Novel Paperback – September 28, 2004
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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A whisperjewel summoned him to Worlorn, and a love he thought heâd lost. But Worlorn isnât the world Dirk tâLarien 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, forever falling toward night. Amid this bleak landscape is a violent clash of cultures in which there is no code of honorâand the hunter and the hunted are often interchangeable.
Caught up in a dangerous triangle, Gwen is in need of Dirkâs protection, and he will do anything to keep her safe, even if it means challenging the barbaric man who has claimed herâand his cunning cohort. But an impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounds them all, and itâs becoming impossible for Dirk to distinguish between his allies and his enemies. While each will fight to stay alive, one is waiting for escape, one for revenge, and another for a brutal, untimely demise.
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Given the original publication date this novel, its story, and the characters make more sense in the context of the times. I found the concepts interesting, but the execution lacking. The apposition of violence and pacifism in the story fits well with the conflicts that GGRM would have lived through in the years leading up to its publication. It was a common theme in numerous scifi novels of the time (my adventures in reading began just before that period).
The protagonist is nearly one-dimensional and has almost no backstory or development (outside of stage-setting for why he is where he is). Dirk is a doormat (you could call it patiently pining away...doormat). His former love interest gets a bit more development, but still comes off as shallow. While her backstory is a bit more fleshed out, it still remains in the barest of generalities. While you don't get much direct interaction with Garse and Ruark, by the ending of the novel you at least have a firm grasp of their motivations. For Jaan, he seems almost like a motivational prop, driving the story arc forward, but I just never felt for him until much later in the book (readers will known the moment). Too much time is spent in angst and backdrop building, rather than character development (or, rather, making you care about any of them).
What was interesting:
ai-emereli (the city), finding out the backstory of the Kavalar's and how it got turned about. The 'twist' of why Dirk was actually called to Worlorn (which at least made Gwen's seeming indifference make sense at the last...). That Kavalar poet you get all of two minutes with (sorry, I forget his name, red-something).
What was painful:
Angst, angst, Dirk the doormat, more angst.
Given the reviews I was looking forward to reading this. I have numerous moldy old 70s novels that were and are still great reads. For me this promised and didn't deliver. And then there was that ending...
I recommend if anyone is looking for GOOD, yet early, works of George R.R. Martins, read THE SAND KINGS! Its a short story that will blow your mind on several levels. I don't want to spoil any of it, but its sci fi with some evil social engineering involved! My favorite...it should have been on a Twilight Zone episode, if not, someone (HINT HBO??) should recommend this story for some awesome CGI effects!
The setting is the most memorable aspect of DYING OF THE LIGHT. The story takes place on Worlorn, a rogue planet without a star, which chanced to pass close enough to a solar system to be comfortably habitable, but which is now returning to the void, and has been mostly abandoned by its temporary colonists. The few people left on the planet have their own reasons for not leaving. Most have stayed to take advantage of the lawlessness to partake in their favorite pastime: hunting humans. Dirk T'Larien is our main protagonist, a disenfranchised space adventurer who finds himself called to Worlorn by a summons from his ex-lover Gwen Stefano. His confusion at finding her associated with another man underlies part of the plot, and the love triangle between Dirk, Gwen, and her husband Jaan, serves as a major focus for much of the book.
The novel’s tone tends to be melancholy, with a heavy emphasis on loss and the inevitable progression of time towards eventual oblivion. Dirk, Gwen, Jaan, and Garse are great characters that give this novel emotional depth. Their trials and interactions generate a compelling story that keeps the reader engaged and stimulate profound thoughts about life and the tides of change. Highly recommended for those with a taste for thoughtful and emotional dramas.
This book has features of later Martin's writing. For example, all major characters go through some kind of change, not always for the better and not always obvious. Characters with stories worth pursuing suddenly die. The ending wasn't satisfying, as it leaves a lot of central plot structures unfinished; it's almost as if he hit a deadline and had to send the publisher whatever he had finished. If you're someone who likes concrete endings, this isn't the book for you.
To be fair, the writing style is good, and it wasn't boring enough for me to drop and start something else. The story isn't terrible, just uninteresting. Fans of later GRR Martin may be disappointed.