Book review: Dying of the Light (1977)

513ezvdvc2bl-_sx320_bo1204203200_After finishing A Song of Ice and Fire,  I read a few of George Martin’s other books. Tuf Voyaging is fun, and both Fevre Dream and The Armageddon Rag were more enjoyable than expected. Anyway, Dying of the Light is, I think, George Martin’s, only sci-fi novel. (Tuf Voyaging, whilst sci-fi, is considered a collection of short stories. And the Light was temptingly placed on the table in Waterstones last Wednesday.)

Like Fevre Dream and The Armageddon Rag, Dying of the Light is gothic in outlook. The planet Worlorn is rather wonderfully named: a rock which drifts temporarily into the multiple star system called the Hellcrown, beyond the Tempter’s Veil. Nearby stellar nations spend years terraforming and building temporary cities for a decade long Worlorn Festival. But now a near empty Worlorn is drifting back into the interstellar night.

The, ahem,  hero Dirk t’Larien gets a message from the darkening Worlorn from his ex-lover, Gwen Delvano. They once traded promises to come, either to the other, if so summoned. It turns out that Gwen is studying the ecology of the dying planet, and is married… sort of. This effectively is a novel about relationships. All the relationships are, to some degree, broken. And most are rather triangular in nature. The characters spend much of the book trying to feel out new relationships, with varying degrees of success. 

So, is it any good? Well… parts are enjoyable. But somewhat sadly I found little to like about the main characters. Except Janacek – who is more attractive than the rest put together. Gwen and Dirk both seem boring,  as (mostly) does Jaan.

Others have also commented on the fact that the exploration of misogyny and culture is heavy handed (and dated) in places:

— seriously, rape-fodder in basements, and people hunting humans for sport. We’re supposed to believe that most of High Kavalaan has modernized, and is building starships and so on instead of fighting world-wars, but we don’t get any sense of social change on this human level — only Jaan’s personal rebellion, and the varying attitudes of the other Kavalars. I think the story would have been stronger for a little more display of Kavalar society and its layers.

Nonetheless, and after all that, Dirk *does* (and we do) get a sense of what High Kavalaan has that is valuable. It may not be much… But it’s better than clinging to a relationship that died years ago.” [http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/67956.Dying_of_the_Light]

So, recommend? Read again? Well, for a gothic sci-fi backdrop is it perhaps unbeatable. But, TBH, meh. You could do better. Read Dune for a start. At least it feels unashamed of its shortcomings. And, in my view,  Tuf Voyaging is also more fun.

#bookreview

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