Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sandkings by George R. R. Martin

A collection of GRRM’s stories which date from seventies. The quality is very variable; the first story is very good and the last one is among of the best short fiction ever written. The rest of them…not so good for the most part.

The Way of Cross and Dragon • (1979) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
An inquisitor is sent to find out who is behind a new heresy which is spreading on a faraway planet. The heresy’s secret text is about Judas Iscariot and how he tamed the dragons. The inquisitor considers the text entertaining and strangely enticing, so it is especially dangerous. He meets the originator of the faith and finds out that he has had very different motivations than the inquisitor could never have suspected. An excellent story, perhaps a little on the short side, but well written. ****
Bitterblooms • (1977) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
A woman who is near death from freezing and from attacks by “vampires” is rescued by a strange woman. She lives in a strange house which seems able to move from place to place. But everything isn’t what it appears to be…
A pretty good story. The world where it happens has winters of variable length, sometime lasting years. And there even is a character named “Jon”. Somehow that seems somewhat familiar. ***½
In the House of the Worm • (1976) • novella by George R. R. Martin
A story that feels like a D&D story. The characters are in a dungeon and are fighting monsters. The dungeon is even an ancient ruin beneath a castle of sorts. There are pages and pages of description of the levels and rooms of the dungeon and the monsters there, even if there seems to be only two types of monsters. Badly overlong, even as a Dungeons and Dragons campaign this would have about the most boring one I have ever seen. This is easily the worst story I have read by GRRM. *½
Fast-Friend • (1976) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
Some humans have fused with some sort of alien species which lives on empty space. They have lost a lot of their humanity, but are able to travel with FTL speeds and carry humans ships and messages with them. A man whose loved one has transformed to a “fast-friend” lives with an "angel" which is some sort of artificial life form usually used for companionship and for a little more intimate “companionship”. A fairly average story with some good writing. ***½
The Stone City • (1977) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
A man lives on alien planet is trying to get a job on an outbound ship to get back to human space. He is never offered a job. He goes to examine n a fabled stone city with a group of people, and has some very strange and mythical experiences there. I didn’t get into the story at all. Once again D&D style cave exploration, this time crossed with some sort new age extra-dimensional travel nonsense. **
Starlady • (1976) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
A woman is forced to work as a prostitute after she is robbed on a remote planet. She takes care of a “Golden Boy” apparently some sort of alien. The story is told as a fable with nice poetic language, it isn’t entirely a happy tale, but an enjoyable one in spite of that. ***½
Sandkings • (1979) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
One of the most memorable stories I have read. I still remember when I read this from Omni over thirty years ago. I hadn't read this since and I wondered if it would still make an impact. It did. It is wonderfully scary, exiting and even disgusting (in a good way) story. A more or less decadent rich man enjoys cruel animals and cruel games with them. He gets four colonies of a new very strange animal, Sandkings. They are insect like creatures with hive mind that build elaborate castles and fight wars with each other’s. He acts as a "god" for them, but things get slightly out of hand. *****

254 pp.

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