I am probably one of the few fantasy fans on the planet that has neither watched Game of Thrones nor read any of A Song of Ice and Fire. I won’t go into the long-winded reasons why, but basically, by the time you are my age, you have a pretty good idea of the kind of stories you will like and which ones you won’t.
This doesn’t mean I am against everything Martin has written however, and when I saw Nightflyers on the shelf at the library, I was sufficiently curious to check it out.
Nightflyers is a collection of six science-fiction stories, written by Martin in the seventies and very-early eighties. While these stories all take place in the same universe, they don’t overlap at all. Each one was clearly written to stand alone.
The first thing that is noticeable on reading this book, is that even forty years ago, George R. R. Martin was a master word-smith. His prose even then was a smooth as anyone’s. Of the six stories, I would rate 5 of them as good or great.
Nightflyers – is a classic 'horror in space' novella. Similar in tone and setting to the movie Alien, but a bit more complex. Really good if you are into such stories.
Override – is more of a western, set on another planet, and following a guy who controls a small group of undead miners.
Weekened in a War Zone – The only story in the collection that didn’t work for me. Just a bit too linear, obvious and repetitive for my liking.
And Seven Times Never Kill A Man – What happens when religious fanatics go to war against a group of nearly pacifist aliens? This, apparently. I must admit, I had no idea where this story was headed, but it’s good, and the ending really bent my mind a bit.
Nor the Man-Colored Fires of the Star Ring – A good story with a really neat setting. I saw the ending coming, and it was a tad disappointing, but I enjoyed the ride anyway.
A Song For Lya – Another novella, this time concerned with telepaths, religion, and human interaction with an alien society. This one slowly builds and builds until the reader is presented with a big question about religion. It’s enough to make one uncomfortable, and thus really succeeds.
All-and-all, it’s a very good collection of science-fiction with a couple of really strong stories in it.