With the success of A Song of Ice and Fire and its adaptations, some often forget George R. R. Martin’s other accomplishments. Having written varied series of tales across a broad spectrum of genres, his works show his true versatility as a writer. Despite this however, Dying of the Light is sadly not a good book to start moving beyond Westros. While it certainly has its strengths, they don’t fully overshadow its failings.
Summoned to the dying world of Worlorn in search of a woman he lost, Dirk t’Larien finds himself dragged into a primitive, brutal conflict. With his old flame now bound to another man, and he must now protect her against the web of lies which threatens to doom them all.
This is classic science fiction to the core, both in terms of setting and style. From the very beginning you’re given the feeling that this is a novel of the seventies or eighties transported to the modern day, with all those same trappings attached. However, this style is backed by considerable substance and a sense of true age to the setting. The history on hand is truly staggering, and despite being focused upon what’s almost a pulp dime-a-dozen premise, we get to see everything from the effects of cultural shifts to the impact of colonisation. It’s enough to suggest that there’s plenty here to spark up an entire saga if need be, and what see remains truly fascinating.
The unfortunate problem, and the key flaw which truly mars this book, is that such a vibrant setting is viewed through a terrible choice of protagonist. While the book’s main themes focus upon a culture clash, Dirk is too obtuse for this to be fully effective. He never seems to learn from his mistakes or truly succeed, and until a brief final moment never acts a hero worth rooting for. His companions are no better, so you’re stuck seeing this world through the eyes of unlikable figures and (not to beat around the bush) focusing upon the primitive, misogynistic, society of Worlorn. Many prominent characters do end up being slain throughout the events which take place, but you’re never given enough of a reason to truly care about them. As a result, at best, you’re normally left stomaching the story to track the bigger world building elements.
Dying of the Light proves to both be difficult to recommend to anyone, but simultaneously hard to damn. Perhaps give it a look if you’re more interested in the setting than the story, but otherwise stick to some of the better outings from this genre.
DYING OF THE LIGHT / AUTHOR: GEORGE R. R. MARTIN / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW