Visions of Paradise

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dreamsongs, Volume 2

While everybody else seems to be reading the #1 bestselling book in the country, George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, the latest historical epic in his Song of Fire and Ice series (I hesitate to call the series “fantasy,” since nothing I have read about it seems the least bit fantastic), I have decided to read Martin’s comprehensive volume of his later short fiction, Dreamsongs, Volume 2. I do not have Dreamsongs, Volume 1, and probably will not buy it, since except for a few amateur stories he wrote prior to his first publication, all the other stories in it are contained in one of his earlier collections which I already own (A Song For Lya, Songs of Stars and Shadows, Sandkings, Portraits of His Children). So if you have not read those collections, then you might wish to buy Volume 1 before tackling Volume 2.

Let’s not beat around the bush: George R.R. Martin is a great writer of sf, fantasy, even horror, freely moving between categories. As he states in one of his essays in Volume 2, We can draw our boundaries and make our labels, but in the end it’s still the same old story, the one about the human heart in conflict with itself. The rest, my friends, is furniture. So if you’re willing to cross genre boundaries, this is a great book subdivided into four sections:

A Taste of Tuf. Haviland Tuf is Martin’s everyman hero who travels from world to world dealing with problems which are ostensibly ecological in nature. This series reminds me of Murray Leinster’s fine Med Ship series, although Martin is a better writer than Leinster, so the Tuf stories, while basic problem-solving sf, are even a bit better than Leinster’s;

The Siren Song of Hollywood. Martin spent most of the 1980s in Hollywood writing and producing such shows as the revived Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast. Several of his screenplays were never actually produced, so here he includes two of them, one which appeared in truncated form as a Twilight Zone episode, and a pilot which never appeared. Both of them were good enough that I would have loved to see them performed;

Doing the Wild Card Shuffle. Martin created his own “shared world” series, a format I enjoy as the literary equivalent of a continuing tv show. The wild cards series was a realistic look at super-heroes, and the two entries here are so good that they convinced me I should go back and read more volumes in the series (having only read the initial Wild Cards when it was first released). One of the stories introduces perhaps Martin’s greatest character (yes, better than his carefully-designed Haviland Tuf), with the unlikely name of The Great and Powerful Turtle;

The Heart in Conflict. This section contains six novellas which show Martin at the top of his form, and which deserve individual discussion.

To be continued...


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