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Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.   Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.   Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.   “Fans, genre historians and aspiring writers alike will find this shelf-bending retrospective as impressive as it is intriguing.”—Publishers Weekly   “Dreamsongs is the ideal way to discover . . . a master of science fiction, fantasy and horror. . . . Martin is a writer like no other.”—The Guardian (U.K.)   PRAISE FOR GEORGE R. R. MARTIN   “Of those who work in the grand epic-fantasy tradition, Martin is by far the best. In fact . . . this is as good a time as any to proclaim him the American Tolkien.”—Time   “Long live George Martin . . . a literary dervish, enthralled by complicated characters and vivid language, and bursting with the wild vision of the very best tale tellers.”—The New York Times   “I always expect the best from George R. R. Martin, and he always delivers.”—Robert Jordan


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Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.   Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.   Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.   “Fans, genre historians and aspiring writers alike will find this shelf-bending retrospective as impressive as it is intriguing.”—Publishers Weekly   “Dreamsongs is the ideal way to discover . . . a master of science fiction, fantasy and horror. . . . Martin is a writer like no other.”—The Guardian (U.K.)   PRAISE FOR GEORGE R. R. MARTIN   “Of those who work in the grand epic-fantasy tradition, Martin is by far the best. In fact . . . this is as good a time as any to proclaim him the American Tolkien.”—Time   “Long live George Martin . . . a literary dervish, enthralled by complicated characters and vivid language, and bursting with the wild vision of the very best tale tellers.”—The New York Times   “I always expect the best from George R. R. Martin, and he always delivers.”—Robert Jordan

30 review for Dreamsongs. Volume I

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    Here’s what George R.R. Martin said in 2003: "I was a lot better at starting stories than I was at finishing them" Isn’t that just terribly hilarious? But let's move on. George R.R Martin is such a versatile writer. His ease at switching numerous point of views is testimony to this in A Song of Ice and Fire. But, he has also written many other novels and short stories. He’s just as adept at writing science fiction as he is fantasy. For Martin fans who don’t read beyond his masterpiece are Here’s what George R.R. Martin said in 2003: "I was a lot better at starting stories than I was at finishing them" Isn’t that just terribly hilarious? But let's move on. George R.R Martin is such a versatile writer. His ease at switching numerous point of views is testimony to this in A Song of Ice and Fire. But, he has also written many other novels and short stories. He’s just as adept at writing science fiction as he is fantasy. For Martin fans who don’t read beyond his masterpiece are really missing out. There’s some good stuff in here. A wide range of stories What surprised me the most when reading this was that I actually enjoyed each and every short story. With collections like this there are almost always a few that stand and, inevitably, a few that are easily forgotten. With this every short story stood out. They are all unique in their own way, and demonstrate an author who is completely confident in his craft. I have nothing bad to say about this at all. It was thoroughly enjoyable. I highly recommend it to his fans. The variety is quite astonishing. I expected many of the stories to be fairly similar or at the very least of a similar style. The Pear Shaped Man is a creepy story that had almost elements of Lovecraft to it. The Exit to San Breta was thrilling and almost sounded like it was written by Stephen King. Sankings was very unique, and very strange. Certainly, one I want to read again and provide a separate review for in the future. The Ice Dragon is the sort of thing you would expect him to write; it’s a sad little tale that will really needs to be read by all lovers of A Song of Ice and Fire. Simply because it shows how his initial idea developed into his epic. An author’s journey This isn’t just an impersonal collection of stories shoved together; it is a journey of the man himself. It is divided into sections of his life, sections in which he wrote different stories. He provides a mini narrative in the form of an introduction to each part, which is frank and revealing. He explains why he took up writing and describes his early experiences in the field. He is a man who has always been dedicated to what he does and one who had to work really hard to be successful. Before A Game of Thrones he’d written a couple of books that were considered failures or at the very least not very popular. Such as the terrible Armageddon Rag. That was just dull. So these little additions made reading this all the more interesting. It’s rare that an author gives such a glimpse of himself. This was a good collection.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dana

    My 400th Review! As expected I loved this anthology of works from George R.R Martin. It was so cute how he included a couple stories from when he was young, while they were a tiny bit painful to get through it was amazing to see how far he has come with his writing. As someone who discovered him from his Song of Ice and Fire series it was interesting to find out that he is actually famous in a wide range of genres. Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, he masters them all. I don't think that there is a single My 400th Review! As expected I loved this anthology of works from George R.R Martin. It was so cute how he included a couple stories from when he was young, while they were a tiny bit painful to get through it was amazing to see how far he has come with his writing. As someone who discovered him from his Song of Ice and Fire series it was interesting to find out that he is actually famous in a wide range of genres. Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, he masters them all. I don't think that there is a single story throughout this anthology that I didn't like. I also really appreciated his thoughts on the stories, it was a nice lead in. I can't wait to read volume two.5/5 Buy, Borrow or Bin Verdict: Buy

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I have never read anything by George R. R. Martin before. I am highly skeptical of science fiction writers, unless they come highly recommended by someone whose opinion I trust, because of the vast mountains of crap which exist in the genre. I came upon Dreamsongs in my local library, and decided to check it out, to put my toe in the water, as it were. I am now interested enough that I have dug out my boyfriend's copies of the Song of Fire and Ice series. I plan to dive in to those next, and Dre I have never read anything by George R. R. Martin before. I am highly skeptical of science fiction writers, unless they come highly recommended by someone whose opinion I trust, because of the vast mountains of crap which exist in the genre. I came upon Dreamsongs in my local library, and decided to check it out, to put my toe in the water, as it were. I am now interested enough that I have dug out my boyfriend's copies of the Song of Fire and Ice series. I plan to dive in to those next, and Dreamsongs, Volume Two, as well. GRRM is a brilliant writer, and I have only just begun to know him. I appreciate the autobiographical interludes in Dreamsongs, as I love to know what inspires a writer -- what times and places in his history, events in his life, what other authors, etc., have shaped his stories. I find that Martin is influenced by Heinlein and Tolkien, two of my favorite writers of all time, as well as Lovecraft and others whom I do not know but now wish to meet. The stories in Dreamsongs span decades, genres, and worlds. They contain humans, aliens, and beasts; gods, demons, and ghosts. They are future history and mythology. There are all the grand themes and archetypes of great literature: heroes vanquish villians, faith grapples with doubt, good triumphs over evil. There is irony and futility, love and redemption, loneliness and regret. There are those who will say that Martin has been a critically acclaimed author for thirty-odd years, that I am 'way behind the curve. That is true enough, but I am glad to have finally discovered him for myself.

  4. 5 out of 5

    YouKneeK

    Dreamsongs is a collection of 22 short stories by George R. R. Martin, written between the 60’s through the 80’s. Mixed in with the short stories are brief segments where the author talks about his writing career, how it started, what influenced him, the publishing process, and the inspiration for some of the stories. The stories are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, with some being a blending of genres. I’d say science fiction had the heaviest emphasis. His early stories were a bit Dreamsongs is a collection of 22 short stories by George R. R. Martin, written between the 60’s through the 80’s. Mixed in with the short stories are brief segments where the author talks about his writing career, how it started, what influenced him, the publishing process, and the inspiration for some of the stories. The stories are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, with some being a blending of genres. I’d say science fiction had the heaviest emphasis. His early stories were a bit painful to read. He was heavily influenced by comics in his childhood, keeping in mind that he was born in 1948. That was particularly apparent in the first story in the collection, “Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark”. It was very melodramatic and cheesy. After the rough start, the stories progressively improved and I particularly liked some of the ones at the end. The biographical bits by the author were interesting, but sometimes had more detail than I was interested in, especially when he was talking about the things he enjoyed reading in his youth. Somebody who grew up around the same time, especially if they enjoyed comics and fanzines, would probably appreciate it more than I did. I’d heard good things about “Sandkings”, so I had pretty high expectations for that one. My expectations were met. It was a great story, my favorite in the book, disturbing, a bit creepy, and memorable. I also liked the last two stories in the book. It’s difficult to say if I found them more memorable just because they’re the last two stories I read, but I suspect “The Monkey Treatment” at least will stick with me. It’s about a very unique and unpleasant dieting method. It was intended as horror I think, but I mostly just thought it was funny. I kept mentally offering suggestions to the main character as I read and he even followed some of them. The last story, “The Pear-Shaped Man”, was almost as creepy to me as “Sandkings”, maybe more so. In general, I think it would bother more women than men; it’s about a woman who has recently moved into an apartment with a very disturbing neighbor. More of the short stories were based on romance than I had expected. Well, romance might not be the right word because they weren’t all particularly romantic and the relationships didn’t all end well. Looking down the list of stories, it may not have been in as many stories as it felt like, but there was a point when I started to feel like I was reading a collection of weird romance stories and I wanted it to stop. There was less of it toward the end, though. I’m not sure many of these stories will stick with me beyond the ones I mentioned. Already there are a few where I can’t remember what they were about just by looking at the title. This is pretty normal for me with short story collections. They’re just so short and naturally they’re often written with a similar style, so they all start to blur together. I did enjoy quite a bit of it while I was reading it though, and some of the stories were particularly good. I’m going to rate it at 3.5 stars and round down to 3 on Goodreads.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    4.0 stars. Even his early work showed flashes of brilliance. This is a "mostly" excellent collection of stories ranging from science fiction to fantasy to horror. Definitely worth reading. 4.0 stars. Even his early work showed flashes of brilliance. This is a "mostly" excellent collection of stories ranging from science fiction to fantasy to horror. Definitely worth reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    One day I might write a more comprehensive review of this. For now I'll just put down my thoughts on some of the stories. The Fortress - A lot of fun to read, it was interesting to see Martin's take on a piece of Finnish history. The Exit to San Breta - A scifi ghost story. Not earth-shattering or mind blowing, but definitely original and clever. The Second Kind of Loneliness - One of my favourites. Hit very close to home, got me crying. The ending is chilling. With Morning Comes Mistfall - A very v One day I might write a more comprehensive review of this. For now I'll just put down my thoughts on some of the stories. The Fortress - A lot of fun to read, it was interesting to see Martin's take on a piece of Finnish history. The Exit to San Breta - A scifi ghost story. Not earth-shattering or mind blowing, but definitely original and clever. The Second Kind of Loneliness - One of my favourites. Hit very close to home, got me crying. The ending is chilling. With Morning Comes Mistfall - A very visual, beautiful story. Martin has a talent for creating fascinating alien worlds. A Song for Lya - I read this story after Tainaron, and somehow the setting had a similar atmosphere to it. Alien, exotic, beautiful. Liked the ending and the developing relationship between the two main characters. This Tower of Ashes - The main character's journey is wonderful, as is the world building. This story is set in another of those beautiful, strange worlds Martin creates, and the way he paints it to the reader is great. And Seven Times Never Kill a Man - Alien religion was part of what made A Song for Lya so intriguing, and the same stands true here. The Stone City - An odd story, one that I can't really even remember anymore. Have completely forgotten the ending. Should read again. Bitterblooms - The ending has a good twist. A winter story. (I stopped reading here for a long time) The Way of Cross and Dragon - Can't say that I liked this one. The main reason is probably that I'm quite sick of the "moustache-twirling evil Catholic Church" cliché, it's gotten very old. Even if I ignore that, however, the story feels weak. The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr - Another wonderful twist ending. The MC had a slight Mary Sue-ish vibe, but it wasn't too distracting. This time wasn't that fascinated by the world, only Laren Dorr. Thought while reading that he might've been the MC's lost lover. The Ice Dragon - A Song of Ice and Fire seems to have drawn just a bit from this story (which is normal and even unavoidable - I pull from old stories or story ideas all the time when I write). I liked the atmosphere, the idea of a winter child, and the ice dragon. The ending was nice, but nothing earth-shattering when compared to Martin's other endings. In The Lost Lands - Interesting. Once again, great ending. The world doesn't get much weight here, but the characters make up for it. Especially the main character was intriguing. Meathouse Man - Another story I didn't really like. Didn't feel like horror to me, and I wasn't sure why it was in the horror/hybrid section (I guess you could think of it as scifi/romance, but that's really stretching it when you consider the ending). The meathouse was disgusting, sure, but nothing really horrifying happened, and the twist ending was predictable. Remembering Melody - One of those classic ghost stories: fun to read, the ending twist catches you more-or-less off guard, and you leave the story behind without thinking too much about it. Liked it, but then I read Sandkings. Sandkings - Deservedly won both the Hugo and the Nebula award. Blew me away. Couldn't put it down, no matter how scared I was. Amazing. Nightflyers - Read this, Sandkings and Remembering Melody all in one sitting. Though Nightflyers didn't really feel like horror to me either, it was definitely very tense and thrilling. The mystery and danger kept me tied to the story until the very end. The Monkey Treatment and The Pear Shaped Man - These raised a lot of the same thoughts and emotions. *This* is horror, if you ask me. Wonderfully creepy, disgusting and relevant. Made my skin crawl but impossible to put down.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I'm awfully glad Game of Thrones was the first George R.R. Martin I tried. Had I stumbled across some of his early sci-fi, showcased here in Dreamsongs, I'd have never pursued more. But if I hadn't fallen in love with A Song of Ice and Fire, I would've never turned enough Dreamsong pages to get to some of the best short fiction I've ever read. Martin's commentary is honest -- he knows the early stuff isn't good. And honestly, a lot of my problems with it are genre specific. I don't wholeheartedly I'm awfully glad Game of Thrones was the first George R.R. Martin I tried. Had I stumbled across some of his early sci-fi, showcased here in Dreamsongs, I'd have never pursued more. But if I hadn't fallen in love with A Song of Ice and Fire, I would've never turned enough Dreamsong pages to get to some of the best short fiction I've ever read. Martin's commentary is honest -- he knows the early stuff isn't good. And honestly, a lot of my problems with it are genre specific. I don't wholeheartedly embrace sci-fi, but in novel length, I can get past the jargon if I love the characters. In short stories, there's little chance to do that. But who cares about the so-so stuff, right? It's the amazing I want you to know about. The book has sci-fi, fantasy and horror, but the best stories combine all of the above. Even if you've never tried Martin, it's worth picking up this volume to read select stories. (And once you're attached, ask may about ASOIAF.) -- Sandkings is incredible, hands down one I'll reread again and again. (Apparently it's what he was famous for before the whole Song thing.) It's creepy and weird and horrifying and fascinating. -- The Way of the Cross and The Dragon is religion and sci-fi, twisted. If you don't like having your beliefs challenged, this one isn't for you. A Song for Lya also has a strong dose of religion, but it's not one you'll recognize. (Plus there are parasites.) -- The Second Kind of Loneliness is poetic and beautiful. And then it'll stun you. -- The Hero has a classic short-story format with GRRM's grim view of authority. -- I read the first four graphs of the The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr aloud to Adam. If you want to know why Martin is a celebrated wordsmith, start there. -- Ice Dragon makes me long for Dance of Dragons. But even if you don't know what that means, it's a Gaiman-esque children's tale. -- Meathouse Man has a turn-away kind of opening sequence. The story never gets far enough away from the grotesque for it be enjoyable, but it's certainly memorable. -- Nightflyers is like Norman Bates' mom and Firefly's Captain Mal had a love child. (Yup, as weird as that is.) -- The final two horror stories (The Monkey Treatment and The Pear-Shaped Man) are decent on their own but don't stand with the best of the best in here. And the rest? Eh. Like I said, more sci-fi than I'd like and the words just don't live up to the Martin magic. But it was worth reading all of those to find the gems and to get a sense of the man himself through his introductory chapters. I can't say enough.

  8. 4 out of 5

    M. Duda

    A good collection of shorts: sci-fi, fantasy, and some horror. Some stories are much better than others, but I enjoyed reading all of them. And it was nice to read the work in chronological order, observing how Martin's work progressed and grew over time. A good collection of shorts: sci-fi, fantasy, and some horror. Some stories are much better than others, but I enjoyed reading all of them. And it was nice to read the work in chronological order, observing how Martin's work progressed and grew over time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mellow

    This is the first time I read something by GRRM that isn't related to ASoIaF. The man in a proven genius, and those stories are all little masterpieces. Can't wait to read volume II. This is the first time I read something by GRRM that isn't related to ASoIaF. The man in a proven genius, and those stories are all little masterpieces. Can't wait to read volume II.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alex Telander

    DREAMSONGS VOLUME I BY GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: The two great mysteries of this world are when scientists will come up with a unification theory for quantum mechanics and relativity, and when George R. R. Martin will release the very long-awaited fifth book in his “Song of Ice and Fire” series, A Dance With Dragons. With a hopeful but doubtful release some time next year, for the time being there is thankfully Dreamsongs, a two-volume collection featuring George R. R. Martin’s short stories and nove DREAMSONGS VOLUME I BY GEORGE R. R. MARTIN: The two great mysteries of this world are when scientists will come up with a unification theory for quantum mechanics and relativity, and when George R. R. Martin will release the very long-awaited fifth book in his “Song of Ice and Fire” series, A Dance With Dragons. With a hopeful but doubtful release some time next year, for the time being there is thankfully Dreamsongs, a two-volume collection featuring George R. R. Martin’s short stories and novellas spanning his career. This first volume is split into five parts, separating periods of Martin’s life from the sixties and on through the seventies. At the beginning of each part, Martin gives an introduction, telling his life story at this particular moment, and what were the circumstances that led up to each particularly story and how they were published. He begins from the beginning, writing and publishing at a young age, when one would expect the work to be simple and undeveloped, and yet it is clear that George R. R. Martin was a talented writer from the start. In each story are unique and memorable characters that stick with the reader long after the story is over. In “The Exit to San Breta,” the main character is driving his classic, ancient Jaguar along the old and disused freeways of North America. It is on a particular road in Arizona that he runs into an even more ancient Edsel in incredible condition riding a perfectly flat and unblemished road. Soon he becomes part of a horrific haunting accident set to continuously play itself out for all eternity. In Martin’s science fiction, he establishes himself in a unique way, using the same world each time, but different planets, an distinct plot, and unforgettable characters that just add much more meaning to the story. In the last two parts, Martin reveals his love for first fantasy and his development as a fantasy writer, and finally as a horror writer. His most well-known story that won him the most prestigious science fiction awards involves a combination of these genres, in “Sandkings.” Kress is a collector of the unusual, whatever the cost, until the day he buys a terrarium of sandkings: small insect-like creatures that form alliances and coalitions, fight wars over land and food, live in peace when able; even worshiping their owner, if he feeds them and takes good care of them. Kress seeks to control and make them his playthings, until they become too intelligent and powerful, breaking free of the terrarium, increasing in size, until Kress has no form of escape. In this first collection, one sees where the writer George R. R. Martin came from, and what events and stories led him to becoming an important writer in the growing science fiction genre, the barely-begun fantasy genre, and the growing popularity of the horror genre. It is in these stories that one sees the beginning characters and story complexities that would later lead to the epic “Song of Ice and Fire” series. In Dreamsongs Volume I, Martin confesses that he would never be able to write as well as one of his childhood idols, J. R. R. Tolkien, and yet has now been labeled as the “American Tolkien” of our time. Clearly, Martin is destined to become one of the most important fantasy (as well as science fiction and horror) writers of our time. For more book reviews, and author interviews, go to BookBanter.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books were some of the first fantasy I read, back when I was in grade seven. One of my friends introduced me to fantasy by way of David Eddings' The Belgariad, and after polishing that off, I read the first three A Song of Ice and Fire books (yes, all three were out then, and the fourth one just came out recently!). Martin is one of my favourite authors, truly a brilliant combination of writer and storyteller: a master of the technique as well as the c George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books were some of the first fantasy I read, back when I was in grade seven. One of my friends introduced me to fantasy by way of David Eddings' The Belgariad, and after polishing that off, I read the first three A Song of Ice and Fire books (yes, all three were out then, and the fourth one just came out recently!). Martin is one of my favourite authors, truly a brilliant combination of writer and storyteller: a master of the technique as well as the craft. Martin is brave to publish Dreamsongs, which gives us--especially those of us who are younger readers and haven't been as exposed to the short fiction magazines of Martin's youth--a glimpse of Martin's formative years and the works with which he became a professional author. You can clearly see his writing improve over the course of the five-part book. Yet at the same time, even his early stories carry the kernel of creativity that's evident throughout this volume. My favourites were "The Second Kidn of Loneliness", "And Seven Times Never Kill Man", "The Ice Dragon", "Meathouse Man", "Remembering Melody", and "Nightflyers". Having never read any of Martin's horror/SF stories, those latter "Hybrids and Horrors" made a significant impression on me--in particular, I'd compare them to Orson Scott Card in terms of ingenuity. Although "The Pear-Shaped Man" wasn't one of my favourites of this anthology, it's an excellent example of that Card-like creativity that makes Martin a prodigious writer: he knows how to get under your skin. For those who have read other works by Martin, this will expand your knowledge of his oeuvre and his talents: he is indeed a science fiction/fantasy/horror writer, and everything in between. Plus, it will sate your thirst for more Martin stories in between books in A Song for Ice and Fire! For those who are reading the works of Martin for the first time, this book is an excellent introduction.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Franzi

    Every fan of George R. R. Martin should read it. All of the stories are really really good. I've personally never read Science Fiction, but I loved the book and I'm looking forward to read more from Martin, no matter what genre. Every fan of George R. R. Martin should read it. All of the stories are really really good. I've personally never read Science Fiction, but I loved the book and I'm looking forward to read more from Martin, no matter what genre.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Abe

    Just a wonderful collection of short stories from a modern speculative fiction master. I ordered the stories from my favorite to least favorite and included a short review for each. "A Song for Lya" - Martin explores our need for human connection and the ways we try, and inevitably fail, to understand someone on every level of their being. Alternately heartbreaking and fascinating, with an ending that will haunt you long into the night. 5/5" "Sandkings" - Creeping, crawling, heart-pounding sci-fi Just a wonderful collection of short stories from a modern speculative fiction master. I ordered the stories from my favorite to least favorite and included a short review for each. "A Song for Lya" - Martin explores our need for human connection and the ways we try, and inevitably fail, to understand someone on every level of their being. Alternately heartbreaking and fascinating, with an ending that will haunt you long into the night. 5/5" "Sandkings" - Creeping, crawling, heart-pounding sci-fi horror. I was nailed to my seat. 5/5" "The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr" - Gorgeous. Laren's eternity weighs heavily on the reader as Sharra makes her brief visit to his world. 5/5" "The Ice Dragon" - I picked this one to cheer me up after "Meathouse Man", since I'd heard it was for children. I sincerely hope no child every picks this up by accident. Bleak, frigid, and absolutely stunning. 5/5" "The Monkey Treatment" - This one is absolutely ridiculous. Totally tongue-in-cheek, suitably gross, and more than a little creepy. I would highly recommend it if you're into that sort of thing. 5/5" "Nightflyers" - I heard this was originally 40 pages shorter, and I think that's a more appropriate length for this story. I had a good time reading this cleverly plotted space horror story, though I had hoped it would deliver a bit more on the existential side story." "In the Lost Lands" - This would have made a great Twilight Zone episode. Nice little ironic twist at the end." "And Seven Times Never Kill Man" - Great read. Has a lot of Martin's characteristic commentary on religion and violence. As always, his characters become intimately familiar after only a few pages. I'm not sure I completely understood the ending, but I can see what he was going for." "This Tower of Ashes" - Not sure I completely understood the ending, but this one was very well done and a lot of fun to read." "The Fortress" - Great setting. It introduced me to a fascinating little bit of history. Unfortunately, George's interpretation didn't quite measure up." "With Morning Comes Mistfall" - A nice little meditation on human exploration and the dual nature of our fascination and fear for the unknown." "Meathouse Man" - I needed a hug after this one. Very interesting commentary on our expectations of love, but I felt the characters were a bit flat." "The Hero" - I believe this was Martin's first published short story. Nothing too special, but it was entertaining and his natural talent for storytelling shines through in places." "The Exit to San Breta" - I don't think ghost stories are Martin's thing. This wasn't especially scary, mysterious, or even interesting. Quick read, though." "The Second Kind of Loneliness" - Rock-solid premise, but it just didn't happen for me. The prose got too scattered and frantic. The message was too heavy-handed. It really was a nice idea, though." "Bitterblooms" - Not bad, but it felt overly familiar, if only because I've been reading a ton of Martin's stories in a row." "The Way of Cross and Dragon" - Didn't quite agree with his conclusion, but I appreciate George's honesty and conviction in matters of religion and truth. He's clearly thought deeply about these things. The story was very well thought out." "The Stone City" - Not bad, but a little slow. Nothing particularly new or interesting, as many similar story elements had made appearances in the other stories in this book. Definitely worth reading in its own right." "Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark" - This is one of his earlier stories...and it shows. It was an interesting read if only to see how much his prose has improved. The world and characters are fun enough; he just didn't take them anywhere interesting." "And Death His Legacy" - Not bad, not really boring, but the "American dictator" thing has definitely been done before and there was nothing particularly interesting about George's version." "The Pear-Shaped Man" - In many ways, it's the same story as The Monkey Treatment, just less fun to read and a lot more gross." "Remembering Melody" - Pretty standard ghost story. Kinda boring."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    Review is also available on my blog The Shameful Narcissist Speaks. Every great writer starts somewhere, but there are few who display their first fruits in a compendium for all to read. George R R Martin, author of the soon to be legendary A Song of Ice and Fire series, is one of those few. Dreamsongs, broken into two volumes and those volumes themselves split into several sections, shows the rough and the rougher in the initial part and later the luster when time and experience serves to smooth Review is also available on my blog The Shameful Narcissist Speaks. Every great writer starts somewhere, but there are few who display their first fruits in a compendium for all to read. George R R Martin, author of the soon to be legendary A Song of Ice and Fire series, is one of those few. Dreamsongs, broken into two volumes and those volumes themselves split into several sections, shows the rough and the rougher in the initial part and later the luster when time and experience serves to smooth. This is not going to be a full review of the collection, but rather a highlight and brief examination of the select few that struck in me a cord. I was only able to complete one story in the first section known as A Four-Color Fanboy, and any attempt at others were met with resignation that it couldn't be done. That part holds Martin's dullest stones, but even there, the spark of brilliance dwells. By The Filthy Pro I was immersed, and the author also gives a foreword on each section. His own admission on the first part's status prompted me to speak of it without impunity for Martin himself recognizes it as his more amateur work paving the epic way. The stories I shall touch on are as follows: The Second Kind of Loneliness The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr The Ice Dragon Nightflyers The Second Kind of Loneliness There comes that moment in a story you are bound to love that you sit up and pay attention. That unexpected catalyst where you know it's much more than a story you're reading, because it puts into words something you've always known, but never expressed to anyone. "Lonely? Yes. But a solemn, brooding, tragic loneliness that a man hates with a passion--yet loves so much he craves for more. And then there is the second kind of loneliness. You don't need the Cerberus Star Ring for that kind. You can find it anywhere on Earth. I know. I did. I found it everywhere I went, in everything I did. It's the loneliness of people trapped within themselves. The loneliness of people who have said the wrong thing so often that they don't have the courage to say anything anymore. The loneliness, not of distance, but of fear. The loneliness of people who sit alone in furnished rooms in crowded cities, because they've got nowhere to go and no one to talk to. The loneliness of guys who go to bars to meet someone, only to discover they don't know how to strike up a conversation, and wouldn't have the courage to do so if they did. There's no grandeur to that kind of loneliness. No purpose and no poetry. It's a loneliness without meaning. It's sad and squalid and pathetic, and it stinks of self-pity. Oh yes, it hurts at times to be alone among the stars. But it hurts a lot more to be alone at a party. A lot more." There is a meta and an irony to those words. They speak to everyone. We are therefore all together in our soul crushing solitude, and yet, even knowing this it does not entirely ease. Though this was written years before I was born and takes place years after I will be dead, in that range of multitude eons its message still reaches my soul. I understand being in a crowded room and still feeling hollow as if no feast will fill me up for no conversation can ease the despair. Social interactions consistently consist of emptiness filled with meaningless words. You want poetry and you get pop music. You wish to speak of the inner workings of narratives, but you get shallow assessments. There's so much lurking on your tongue, but you're afraid to say it because you've tried to engage before, tried to access and express higher meaning, but everyone has moved on to the next shinier thing. I think people underestimate the impact of good conversation, of being valued and understood, of having someone catch the shadow below your words without having to explain in minute detail why is seems so dark. The second kind of loneliness is what we except, because the wall around it is too thick for all but the sharpest arrow to pierce. The end of this story is haunting in a way I've never experienced before. It left a hole in the pit of my gut, and yet it was beautiful in its horror. There is a decent review of it done by Vassals of Kingsgrave whom I've been listening to for their Dreamsongs' story reviews as I read them. The first reviewed of Dreamsongs was my favorite, but the second speaks of loneliness, too... The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr Every author has a pattern, but Martin continues to surprise me with his. I think I have what's happening figured out, but with him I either don't catch it until so close to the end it no longer matters or I'm utterly wrong in my assessment (I'm happy to report that I seem to be getting to hang of it in his Tuf Voyaging stories per the ones in Dreamsongs: Volume II, but that'll be discussed when we get there). The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr had that surprise ending that seemed more sorrowful and less shocking at examination. It was another story about loneliness, but split between two individuals, and I can't lie and say equally. The one character's loneliness is far more hopeless as they were chosen for a specific purpose where the other character had a hope and prayer (no matter how faint) of achieving her loneliness' end. Being picked by the gods, especially the cruel ones of Martin's worlds, is rarely if ever desirable. Next is the portrayal of one half of the great dichotomy... The Ice Dragon Though it is not stated in the title, the "fire" that goes with "ice" is more than represented here. I don't know if I could call this story a precursor to Song, but if Martin does not use some of the motifs therein, I will be more than disappointed. He's stated that he was the first person to come up with the idea of the ice dragon, and if someone has a novel idea and different twist on an old trope, I would fully expect it to be somewhere in their magnum opus. The main character is a little girl called Adara who bears the winter in her skin. Her mother died in birthing her, the cold too much for her flesh, and though Adara's father loves her, he also resents her for the death of his wife (sound familiar?), but she and her ice dragon do spectacular things despite her tender age and terrible odds. I truly wonder if a very similar battle will play out in Song and what side the ice dragon will fight on. The Vassals do a review of this one as well. Now we come to more novella than short in the section marked for horror, and it does not disappoint... Nightflyers This is the final story and as with the first it has a line that stopped me utterly cold. I wish I could speak of it candidly here, but as it is the crux of the tale, it can only be a: (view spoiler)[ "'I am being kept outside until--until--' 'Yes?' prompted Melantha. '--until Mother is done with them.'" (hide spoiler)] Cold as the dark between the stars...which is what the characters are arguably chasing. It may be more accurate to say they are chasing a creature that dwells within that star space and has for nearly the entirety of history. Nightflyers is about the search for an ancient unknown, a wonder that has pursued mankind's imagination for as long as it's been pursued. Initially, the ragtag group of scientists, technicians, and psychics did little to hold my attention. It was the elusive volcryn I craved to see, but the Nightflyer's strange captain Royd Eris became an intrigue and the personalities of some of the passenger's began to engage. Karoly d'Branin, the front runner of the mission and Melantha Jhirl, self-described as a "new and improved model," took center stage with the latter emerging as the definitive main character. The horror of the story should've been plain to me from a key moment, and I'm ashamed of myself for not picking it up. At one point Eris (who only appears as a hologram, but perpetually spies on his passengers even when he's not seen) tells a story about himself that could or could not have been a lie at the time. Martin has the uncanny ability to drop significance so casually into his stories. I didn't dismiss it, but this particular tale should've set off my radar, and when the bombshell hit, I put down the book and poured myself a glass of wine. It upped the eerie wrongness that had been laid throughout more than tenfold, prompted the creation of an absolutely horrible pun: (view spoiler)[ the literal "mother" ship, (hide spoiler)] and reaffirmed that Martin knows that the most unsettled kind of horror is that which is found in ordinary, often endearing concepts. I leave you with the first lines of Nightflyers, because another thing our author is good at is immediately pulling you into a tale, piquing your interest, and despite potential dull points, leaving enough breadcrumbs to stir the appetite, but never satisfy. "When Jesus of Nazareth hung dying on his cross, the volcryn passed within a year of his agony, headed outward. "When the Fire Wars raged on Earth, the volcryn sailed near Old Poseidon, where the seas were still unnamed and unfinished. By the time the stardrive had transformed the Federated Nations of Earth into the Federal Empire, the volcryn had moved into the fringes of Hrangan space. The Hrangans never knew it. Like us they were children of the small bright worlds that circled their scattered suns, with little interest and less knowledge of the things that moved in the gulfs between." All in all, it was an excellent volume revealing the earlier offerings and showing the upward progression of Martin's work.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ishaan Nayek

    I never had the courage to read A Song of Ice and Fire, primarily because it is still unfinished with no end in sight in the near future. Nevertheless, I was always interested to explore George R R Martin’s work. Recently, I started reading a lot of short stories and came to know about Martin’s fantastic and extremely underrated early works. Martin has written several acclaimed short stories and novellas in the 70s and 80s, which would have probably received a lot more love and recognition from I never had the courage to read A Song of Ice and Fire, primarily because it is still unfinished with no end in sight in the near future. Nevertheless, I was always interested to explore George R R Martin’s work. Recently, I started reading a lot of short stories and came to know about Martin’s fantastic and extremely underrated early works. Martin has written several acclaimed short stories and novellas in the 70s and 80s, which would have probably received a lot more love and recognition from fans, had it not been eclipsed by his recent stellar achievements with A Song of Ice and Fire. This book is the first volume of a collection of several short stories and novellas, written back in the day when he was just starting out as a writer. Although it was written almost 40-50 years ago, the vision and language with which he wrote don’t feel dated at all. Most of the stories are sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or some hybrid genre of these. One of the things I liked most is the extreme attention to detail with which he describes the elements in the stories, always engaging all the senses and never feeling overly drawn out. The beauty and precision with which he crafts each sentence has left me in awe, it never bored me and made the simplest of things feel interesting. Apart from the mind-blowing prose, the plot and characters in most of the stories are quite good and the themes explored are eternally relevant. Even the less than impressive stories left an indelible mark on me with its lucid vocabulary and sublime descriptions. I will finish by recommending some of my favorites (among the ones I have already read) to those who are looking for suggestions. Most of the longer works deserve a mention. Sandkings is probably the best of the lot, I have never read anything quite like it. Nightflyers is also pretty good with themes that were far ahead of its time, the vibes reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Among the short stories, The Second Kind of Loneliness hit home for me with its deep personal touch, similar to Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse in atmosphere and tone. The Ice Dragon is a great fantasy short, and one can easily spot the influence it had on his later works on A Song of Ice and Fire. I also liked The Way of Cross and Dragon, for its remarkable handling of mature and sensitive themes. I am yet to finish the book, and will probably discover a few more favorites along the way. Happy reading!

  16. 4 out of 5

    R.K. Nickel

    How do I begin to describe the most life-changing book I've ever read? This is, put simply, brilliant. A Song of Ice and Fire has been my favorite book series ever since I was old enough to tackle it, but these short stories cement George R.R. Martin as my favorite author of all time. He is poetic, and he is painful, and he is a master of language. No short stories have ever affected me this much. And hearing the introductions by the man himself. My god! He's so human. This is no J.K. Rowling. He How do I begin to describe the most life-changing book I've ever read? This is, put simply, brilliant. A Song of Ice and Fire has been my favorite book series ever since I was old enough to tackle it, but these short stories cement George R.R. Martin as my favorite author of all time. He is poetic, and he is painful, and he is a master of language. No short stories have ever affected me this much. And hearing the introductions by the man himself. My god! He's so human. This is no J.K. Rowling. He didn't pop out of nowhere and make it big with one novel. No, this is someone who toiled and toiled and toiled at his craft, honing, improving. It makes it all feel so real, so attainable. If you've ever wanted to write, read this book. Or better yet, listen to it on audiobook, where you get to hear Mr. Martin's voice and it feels like he's talking just to you. It will make it all feel possible. You get to watch ol' R.R. grow. You get to see his craft improve. You get to feel his heartbreak, learn about his life, see what inspired him. And all of his stories are more meaningful because you understand the context. I've always wanted to be a writer, but this book makes me feel like it's possible. Read this book. Read it now. Read it all. This is writing, real writing, and your heart will beat in tune to the rhythm of its melancholy. My favorites from this Volume: The Fortress: --Amazing how he brings history alive. With Morning Comes Mistfall: --One of the most powerful, heart-wrenching stories I've read. In the Lost Lands: --Martin is a master of heartbreak and woe. Meathouse Man: --I find myself afraid of how much I can relate to this story. Dark, sexual, traumatizing. The Monkey Treatment: --Again, I relate far too well to this. A horrifying take on our relationship with food. The Pear-Shaped Man: --I did not expect this at all. We all act as judges of character, and sometimes we miss the mark. Full Table of Contents: A Four-Color Fanboy Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark The Fortress And Death His Legacy The Filthy Pro The Hero The Exit to San Breta The Second Kind of Loneliness With Morning Comes Mistfall The Light of Distant Stars A Song for Lya This Tower of Ashes And Seven Times Never Kill Man The Stone City Bitterblooms The Way of Cross and Dragon The Heirs of Turtle Castle The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr The Ice Dragon In the Lost Lands Hybrids and Horrors Meathouse Man Remembering Melody Sandkings Nightflyers The Monkey Treatment The Pear-Shaped Man

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Scott

    https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... George R R Martin is a writer I’ve always wanted to read more of but have never gotten around to. Years ago, at least ten I read his novella The Skin Trade in an anthology and it blew my mind. I’ve read none of his work since. There were always other books and writers that caught my attention. I bought both volumes of Dreamsongs because volume 2 contains The Skin Trade. I also have his A Song of Ice and Fire series to work through at some point. Dreamsongs https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... George R R Martin is a writer I’ve always wanted to read more of but have never gotten around to. Years ago, at least ten I read his novella The Skin Trade in an anthology and it blew my mind. I’ve read none of his work since. There were always other books and writers that caught my attention. I bought both volumes of Dreamsongs because volume 2 contains The Skin Trade. I also have his A Song of Ice and Fire series to work through at some point. Dreamsongs Volume 1 may be the strongest collection of short stories I’ve ever read. There were no weak stories in this collection. I don’t think I’ve read a collection of stories where there isn’t at least one dud. Not the case with Dreamsongs Volume 1. Every story was great. The stories in Dreamsongs Volume 1 cover the genres science fiction, fantasy and horror. I’d say science fiction stories are not really my thing but some of Martin’s best in Dreamsongs Volume 1 are science-fiction. Martin just writes like no one else. There might be no duds in Dreamsongs Volume 1 but there are a few stories that shine a little brighter than the others. The Exit to San Breta is horror / science fiction cross over. A science fiction ghost story if you like. I thought this was a great little story. A Song for Lya is a brilliant fantasy tale. It’s also sad and very creepy and unsettling. I loved it. I thought The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr was a great tale. Well written and engaging. A fantasy / science fiction hybrid. Sandkings is the stand out tale in Dreamsongs Volume 1. It may be the best short story I’ve ever read. Sandkings is a science fiction / horror hybrid. The story is well-written, engaging and creepy as hell. The Monkey Treatment is different than the other stories in Dreamsongs Volume 1. I thought it was hilarious as opposed to creepy and unsettling. I loved it. The stories in Dreamsongs Volume 1 are split into sections (i.e. A Four Colour Fanboy). Each section groups together stories from a particular phase in Marin’s career. Martin introduces each section with some insight into that particular phase in his career and the stories included in the section. I really enjoyed reading these. I find it fascinating when writers talk shop.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michiel

    Below a short review for each story, but first some general comments. George R.R. Martin is a big fan of short fiction and has written a lot of short stories throughout his career. This book provides a collection of some of his favorite stories, roughly in a chronological order in which they were written. The book has five sections which each include an introduction, wherein Martin provides his commentary on his personal situation and career at the time he wrote the stories. I liked Martin's comm Below a short review for each story, but first some general comments. George R.R. Martin is a big fan of short fiction and has written a lot of short stories throughout his career. This book provides a collection of some of his favorite stories, roughly in a chronological order in which they were written. The book has five sections which each include an introduction, wherein Martin provides his commentary on his personal situation and career at the time he wrote the stories. I liked Martin's commentary a lot. They were well written, gave a glimpse on what type of person Martin is, and provided some extra background to the stories. The majority of the stories have a science-fiction setting. There were only three stories in the fantasy genre (Martin explained in his commentary that there was not much demand for these in the 70s and 80s) and a similar few set in our own world. Actually, I generally prefer Martin's non-sci-fi work, which have the characters more on the forefront. Martin is really good at creating new settings in an alien world, but for a short story I don't think it's always worth it to invest the time. Although there are a few nice stories in the first half of the book (e.g. Song for Lya), I only really got into this at Bitterblooms. I don't know exactly why. Maybe it's the writing style that gets more accessible. Or maybe a decrease in lengthy descriptions of the environment. Or maybe Martin had simply become a better writer at this time (as said, the stories are roughly in choronological order of writing). Regardless, I enjoyed the second half much more than the first half. A short review for each story: The first three stories - Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark (a bit silly, not the type of superhero I like), The Fortress (not as ambiguous as it would like to be) and And Death His Legacy (a bit too serious) - were just okay reads. However, what made them worth reading is that they show how Martin started out and the diversity of the first stories he wrote. The Hero (2*): A bleak story about a super soldier wanting to retire. The story was very short - too short for me to really care about the world and its characters. The Exit to San Breta (4*): Great atmosphere and setting of an abanoned highway. Feels like a classic ghost story. The last part of the story was a bit too busy with explaining stuff though. The Second Kind of Loneliness (3*): A diary of a man all alone in outer space. A striking description of a person trapped with his own feelings, fears and doubts. In parts a bit over the top for my taste though. With Morning Comes Mistfall (5*): This story is like a painting, with Martin creating a scenery with so much atmosphere, mystery and melancholy, that it does not even need much of a storyline or character development to be awesome. A Song for Lya (5*): About two telepaths called in by early settlers on a strange planet to help them deal with the problematic local religion. It manages to avoid many of the stereotypical issues associated with the topic of religion. The story has a very natural flow. While reading, you almost know intuitively what is about to happen next, which actually is one of its strengths. The foreboding feeling makes the story work perfectly. This Tower of Ashes (1*): This story suffers from a trio of unlikeable characters. The beginning of the story started out okay, but the trip through the jungle by night did nothing for me (nor for the characters in my opinion). And Seven Times Never Kill Man (3*): Again a story about religion and faith. A good story with an original object of worship. The peaceful tribes were interesting as a whole, but none of the characters particularly stood out. I did not care much for the villain perspective. The Stone City (2*): A story about space travelers, who are stuck on a faraway planet. Overall, I found this a bit too slow and in parts just not that interesting. I liked the concept of traveling (too) far outside human territory. However, the story lost its intrigue and mystery at about three quarters (when the main character went underground) and never managed to pull me back in. Bitterblooms (5*): In this story you can (for the first time?) see Martin's gift of depicting a flawed character without the narrator of the story providing any moral judgement. The reader has to make up his own mind about the merits of the character's actions (which I love - I have seen reviews wherein the two female characters of this story are described as being 'lovers' - definitely not my reading of events). Together with the long winter setting, this story strongly reminded me of a Song of Ice and Fire. And I loved it for similar reasons. The Way of Cross and Dragon (4*): A story about an inquisitor trying to stop the heresy of a new religious branch of his faith. The alternative holy text and its history are brilliant. I found the actual conflict to be less inspired, even though it started out wonderfully. The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr (3*): About a heroine who travels between worlds and arrives at the world of the lonely Larren Dor. A well thought-out and well-structured story with a lot of atmosphere. The story feels like a peaceful intermezzo in a larger epic story (which is intentional). This works well for setting the scenes and background, but it also makes the story lose some urgency and tension. The heroine could also have used a stronger personality. The Ice Dragon (5*): Gripping story about a peculiar young girl, her family and an ice dragon. It's equal parts classic fantasy and fairy tale. I loved the winter theme ingrained in the story, which despite the small number of pages managed to evoke a warm magical atmosphere. In the Lost Lands (3*): About a witch-like woman who grants wishes and has to work on fulfilling two seemingly incompatible wishes. I liked the focus on the wish fulfiller rather than the people making the wish. The resolution of the problem came a bit out of the blue for me though. Meathouse Man (2*): Weird story. The first scene is horror. Then, after a few pages, you realize the story is set in the future (sci-fi). But eventually, the story is simply about a man in search for 'real' love. What felt like a missed opportunity is that neither the horror nor the sci-fi elements had any impact on the story. If you would replace the 'corpses' with robots, you would immediately loose all horror from the story. And any character development was unrelated to the sci-fi setting. What remains then is the love story, which is the weakest part of the story. The main character is so depressed and has so much self-pity that I cannot take the story's message (if there is any) seriously. Martin explains in the introduction that his personal life was not going well and he put everything in this story. It shows, but not for the good. Remembering Melody (5*): A more traditional story. The main character is visited by Melody, an old friend who is always in trouble and once again needs help. The conversations between the two are vivid and gripping - playfully manipulative from both sides. And since the story is in the 'hybrids and horrors' section of the book, you know the main character is screwed. The question is how. Reading this put a constant grin on my face. Sandkings (5*): About a cruel man who likes to collect dangerous alien pets. Because of the main character showing no empathy to anything or anyone, I found myself rooting for his pets almost immediately. And that mindset made reading this a true joy. If you would classify this tale as a monster story, the main character is without a doubt the real monster. Furthermore, the story has a remarkably small scale (especially considering George Martin is the author), basically taking place for the most part in and around someone's house. This made it easy to imagine and absorb myself in the story. Also a very addictive read - I was reading this in public transportation, arrived at my stop with some 10 pages left, and then kept reading on the street until it was finished. Nightflyers (2*): The story starts out well. Interesting mission, nice crew, mysterious captain. Good sci-fi overall. But despite the horror elements, it never really got tense or scary. And the whodunnit part was too predictable (maybe less at the time it was written, but still). The Monkey Treatment (5*): Probably the funniest story in this book. About an obese guy who wants to lose weight and starts the so-called monkey treatment. The treatment is absurd and terrible, yet funy in a wicked and dark kind of way. Again hard to put down. The Pear-Shaped Man (4*): The only genuinely creepy story in the book. It is easy to relate to the main character, as we are basically in the same boat: we are pretty sure something is wrong, but have no idea what and no tangible evidence to prove it. The above ratings probably have an average of about 3.5*. However, Martin's personal commentary in the book definitely brings the rating to a solid 4 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eyehavenofilter

    I wish I could really give is 3 and 3/4 stars....If you are a GRRM fan you will gobble this up? it includes an introductory prologue to each of the 5 sections and the reader gets an inside view to the workings of GRRMs writings and the influences that he had from a very early age. From the "4 color fan boy", who loved comics, "the filthy pro", who started writing for money, "light of the distant stars", that ignited his love for SCI-FI," heirs of the turtle castle", that give us a prequel to the I wish I could really give is 3 and 3/4 stars....If you are a GRRM fan you will gobble this up? it includes an introductory prologue to each of the 5 sections and the reader gets an inside view to the workings of GRRMs writings and the influences that he had from a very early age. From the "4 color fan boy", who loved comics, "the filthy pro", who started writing for money, "light of the distant stars", that ignited his love for SCI-FI," heirs of the turtle castle", that give us a prequel to the great LOIAF that we all love so much , to the final "hybrids and horrors", that contain stories that make your skin crawl, literally. The prologues are also like a personal conversation with the author at a stage in his life heretofore unknown that pulls back the curtain for just an instant, to let us see just enough, to know what was going on in one or two brain cells, that he would write in this particular genre at this time. It includes a story that I think was eventually made into a movie "Sandkings".( creepy) It wasn't what I expected, I'm not a rabid Sci-fi fan, and it is rather dated, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. And will continue to look for more of his work to read. I'm hoping to find the Hedgeknight series to read quickly as possible.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    (Review of both Book One and Book Two) Got both of these anthologies from the library. Together, they're a great retrospective of Martin's career. They're worth reading, for any Martin fan, even completists who've already read nearly everything in them, as Martin introduces and arranges the contents. His commentary on the stories is worth the price of admission alone. It starts off with a hilarious (and, admittedly, hilariously bad) fantasy story first published in an independent fanzine when Marti (Review of both Book One and Book Two) Got both of these anthologies from the library. Together, they're a great retrospective of Martin's career. They're worth reading, for any Martin fan, even completists who've already read nearly everything in them, as Martin introduces and arranges the contents. His commentary on the stories is worth the price of admission alone. It starts off with a hilarious (and, admittedly, hilariously bad) fantasy story first published in an independent fanzine when Martin was a teen... and quickly moves into his excellent sci-fi and horror stories, includes some TV scripts, and more recent short fiction. Nearly all of it is 5-star material, with, (in my opinion) the exception of the 'Wild Cards' material... but that's just me; I'm just not a fan of the superhero genre, even when it's well-done, socially relevant and gritty as hell. I just can't force myself to love it. That's OK, though, because I love everything else here - and that's a lot to love - this collection is two big, thick books. Go read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Sand Kings 5/5 The Ice Dragon 5/5 The Second Kind of Loneliness 4/5 The Way of Cross and Dragon 4/5 Meathouse Man 4/5 Song for Lya 3.5/ 5 With Morning Comes Mistfall 3.5/5 The Hero 3.5/5 The Tower of Ashes 3/5 Remembering Melody 3/5

  22. 4 out of 5

    Div

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm not done yet. By the end of this review I should be though. I've decided that this is a long book with different stories and at the end of the book the last one is likely to be burned into the back of my mind. In order to be fair to each individual story I'll write down my thought as I go along. I want them to end up here eventually so it'd less work than typing it up and saving it as a word document and then copying and pasting. I can still edit here. A Four-Colour Fanboy GRRM's thoughts wer I'm not done yet. By the end of this review I should be though. I've decided that this is a long book with different stories and at the end of the book the last one is likely to be burned into the back of my mind. In order to be fair to each individual story I'll write down my thought as I go along. I want them to end up here eventually so it'd less work than typing it up and saving it as a word document and then copying and pasting. I can still edit here. A Four-Colour Fanboy GRRM's thoughts were nice to read. I related to some of the things he said and I was glad that he wrote them down. Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark I liked the poem but I just didn't care much about the story. The Fortress I was really interested in seeing what would happen and it ended in vintage GRRM style. And Death His Legacy This was the best of this chapter. At first I wondered how it was going to be connected and then I saw it come together nicely. You'd expect it to be all over with the assassination but it was like fighting Hydra. Cut of one head and another emerges to carry on. Stopping a regime with a solid following and infectious ideologies are not that simple and I'm glad that he showed that. Normally, well based on what I've read, people make it that simple. It's sadly, not. The Filthy Pro I liked his last introduction better. The Hero I saw it coming but I didn't see how it would actually happen. I still wonder if Grady was actually trying to kill him or he really was just testing him. I think he was really trying to kill him but that it probably just me. That end was really reminiscent of Ned Stark. His honour killed him. The difference is that many actually thought Ned would make it somehow. We believed in him as a hero. The Exit to San Breta This was really haunting. You could tell that something's wrong. For a moment I thought he was the ghost and then I realized that the family in the car was the ghost. I liked the explanation at the end. It wasn't a jump-out-at-you-and-scare-you kind of story but more of a subtle one and they are often the more unnerving ones, I think. The Second Kind of Loneliness This started slow but I found that I really got into it later on and started to really feel the character. He's unnamed, unless I totally missed it. It's a series of journal entries that really bares the heart and soul of the human being. It's hard to not connect and then you see that something is wrong and you feel for this stranger whose name you don't even know more. With Morning Comes Mistfall This was a bittersweet tale. Firstly, I thought that there was some kind of mystery there. A wraith would show up. Sanders might be a killer. I was hoping that something would happen. However, I wasn't disappointed - entirely. This is a philosophical story. I personally felt torn. I like knowing. It's nice to know. However, the familiar becomes boring eventually. I enjoy wondering and pondering and imagining. There's a thrill and excitement to it. The mystery. The magic. To know that anything is possible. It's unpredictable. Exciting. It's not the same thing over and over. Knowing becomes normal and normal becomes familiar and comfortable but boring. I think that a mix is important. We need to know but we need some mystery too. The Light of Distant Stars I preferred reading Martin's insights here than in The Filthy Pro. His thoughts in this piece were really moving. I like how he talks about the stars and I loved that he refused to censor! A Song for Lya This was such an amazing read that I feel like I will fail to put it into words. I feel like GRRM combined A Second Kind of Loneliness and With Morning Comes Mistfall. I found myself really liking the religion of the Skea and the Joining and finally the Union. It seems to be everything that we've wanted and everything that we've been searching for. I feel like once Lyanna felt it she just could not go back. Ignorance is bliss because once you know you can never not know and go back to the completeness of believing that there is nothing else to know. Telepaths like Robb and Lyanna surpassed the average human love and connection. They thought that they were lucky but once Lyanna found that there was something more; that she could love and be loved entirely; be herself and be one with others; be accepted entirely for who she was and understood and loved for it; she just could not go back. Being with Robb felt superficial. I understand that. Somehow despite it being all that we craved, love, God, immortality, eternal bliss, peace, it disturbed me. I cannot fully explain why. Maybe on some level I am like Dino with his wall. But I identify most with Robb. He knows it but doesn't want to surrender to it, even if it means so much. The Greeshka touched him through Lyanna but he ran away. I think it's a bit of wanting to love but not surrendering entirely. Even though you maintain something of yourself you become so open to everybody else and despite the acceptance it is jarring. This was just beautiful yet disturbing, everything and yet like Robb you wonder what you really want. Maybe it means that you need to know yourself more. Who knows? GRRM is amazing to write such as story. He articulated everything so well. I will have to re-read this one. Maybe over and over again. My mind may change over time. Maybe that's it. Once the Joining anf Union happens there is no more change. It is just the you in one state of eternal bliss forever. This Tower of Ashes I feel for Johnny though self-imposed exile in such a place for such a prolonged period of time probably wasn't the best idea. Maybe it's the point of view bias but I disliked Gerry. I feel it's mainly because he didn't see the beauty of the forest. He just wasn't my cup of tea. Unlike Johnny though, I found Crystal annoying. In the first place, why are you harassing the man? He's trying to move on. Let him. Leave him be. He should have done a better job but the least that the couple could do is leave him be. They shouldn't have stayed and they shouldn't have gone into that forest. Then again, I shouldn't complain because then there wouldn't be a story. Johnny needs to move on with his life. He got caught up in a web of dreams and his ego coupled with it to produce the stupid idea of going into the forest. Gerry's ego made him agree and Crystal, well, maybe she just couldn't read the situation, liked the adventure that much, or was grateful to avoid talking about the love triangle. Overall, I enjoyed it. It was a fun read. I still can't believe Johnny stayed there. The eight legged cat made me wonder as well about the reality of everything. I feel like I will need to re-read this one. And Seven Times Never Kill Man I did not like this one much. That doesn't mean that there were not things that I picked up on. It's a good story. I just didn't enjoy it as much as I feel I should have. The Steel Angels are colonizing and expanding. The Jaenshi are relatively peaceful but in the end I think that they managed to trick the Steel Angels into destroying themselves with their own military religion and zealotry. I wonder about those prophecies. Where did they come from? Did the Jaenshi have something to do with it? The Stone City I think I got lost in this story. There were many flashbacks and sometimes I kept on wondering what was really going on and what was the point. I finally felt like I was getting somewhere when Holt killed the foxman and flee into the stone city. Finally! Then it was like getting lost in the House of the Undying, even though I thought he visited something like that earlier in the story. I was so confused in the stone city. There were so many visions and then we Holt said that he'd go back but had to visit planets through the various doors I knew. I knew that he was lost in there but somewhat happy? He could see so many worlds and he did, while the rest of the universe grew old and the races on that planet wasted away. Holt still went on from star to star in the stone city. It's escaping but not truly escaping. Blissful yet not real? In a way he got off the planet but didn't. Instead he's trapped there forever. Bitterblooms Well I'm glad that A Song of Ice and Fire has not desensitized me to incest. I did a double take when Shawn described her relationship with Lane and others in Carinhall which rhymes with Harrenhal. Tesenya reminds me of Visenya. Old Jon is like Old Nan which is hilarious! There are so many references! There is winter which lasts a long time. The vampires are like the White Walkers. And then we get Morgan Le Fay and Avalon which is a King Arthur reference. Most importantly, those Bitterblooms which snap Shawn out of it all make me think of the blue winter roses. Shawn and Morgan even wear them in their hair. The old of Carinhall even leave when they've become too old. They go off to die in the snow like the Northerners. What a weird story. The Way of Cross and Dragon GRRM showcases his view on religion. Liars. LOL. I laughed a lot throughout this story. I truly enjoyed the Judas story. It was fun. Damien liked it too. Lukyan is also right. Dragons are awesome! Also, I am guessing that GRRM recycled some of the dragon riding bits in A Song of Ice and Fire. The Heirs of Turtle Castle This was probably my favourite sneak peek into the life and times of GRRM. I love fantasy so naturally I loved this. The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr I think this is the most beautiful story that I've read thus far from GRRM. There is so much beauty and sweetness to it all. And still that slice of bitterness. Overall I am satisfied with the ending. It was earned and I can understand and appreciate the why. GRRM tackles love and loneliness in this one. Powerful and complex themes. They resonate with you. The aspect that I loved was how fleeting love is. It's that fleeting nature that gave it passion. If there is no change there is boredom which may even give way to hate. And this is a recurring theme that I keep on coming back to with many of the stories: change. Immortality and permanence gives way to loneliness and madness. Change is very important which is why Laren is so melancholic and Sharra must move on. The Ice Dragon This is the second time that I am reading this story. However, this is also another version. I had read the young adult version of this story: the one without the rape. I think that I liked that one more or just didn't think much about the story. This time, I found the father very annoying. There's a war raging and your brother is fighting in it and telling you how grim things are and that you should leave. He should take his children and leave but no. He stays. Even after people hurry past him. Adara is just as stubborn but she is only 7. He is a grown man and should have a better understanding of the horror that could come for him. And of course the horror came in the form of three dragonriders from the enemy's side. Hal and Brimstone die trying to fight them and then they have their way with the rest of the family. It's the one time Adara's stubbornness came in handy. In the Lost Lands This was an enjoyable and brief story. Many aspects can also be noted in A Song of Ice and Fire. The story is not a happy one. I do not feel like anyone is truly content with life at the end: Boyce was horrifically killed, Alys mourned the loss and cruel work she does, Jerais is married to a madwoman and horrific beast and well Lady Melange is a beast. I had to come back to this review after a friend puzzled out why Lady Melange wanted to be a wolf. Lady Melange loved Boyce and wanted to be with him and Jerais wanted Lady Melange and the power that would come from being her husband. Their wishes killed Boyce. Lady Melange was horrified and became mad and grief-stricken as her desire to become a wolf led to Boyce's death despite her ability to now change at will. Jerais became her husband but his wife is now mad and he fears her when she transforms into a wolf at night. And so, you really should not go to Gray Alys as she grants your wish but ultimately is is not what you thought it would be. Hybrids and Horrors I loved reading this bit from GRRM. I actually laughed a few times. The ending where he described the horror genre was beautiful. I've never really enjoyed any horror. I've always found them to be weak. They're fun but generally weak. This reading made me think that I should re-read and re-think some of the horror I've seen and read. Or maybe they were just bad. Who knows? Meathouse Man This was a disturbing and depressing story. The ways in which corpses are exploited were disturbing. The life and times of Greg Tregar was depressing. The way relationship between Greg and the corpse is both disturbing and depressing. GRRM covers several issues in this story and he does it well. Prostitution, Loneliness, Love and Friendship feature prominently. Remembering Melody This was a really good story on toxic friendships. I think that there is only so much some people are able to do for their friends. Melody needed professional help and it is too bad that she did not get it. I don't think I will be swearing undying friendships with anyone in a hurry after this read! Sandkings Simon Kress is a arrogant twat. I did pity him in the end though. I knew the orange ones would get him. They kind of deserved to get him as opposed to the other colours. Those sandkings were his monsters. He did that to them. Nightflyers I enjoyed Nightflyers. Trying to figure out what was going on alongside the various characters was great. Royd was an effective red-herring. If I were onboard the Nightflyer I would be weary of him after the first death like the others. Once I realized that he was spying on everyone I immediately became weary of him. Overall, Royd is a tragic character who spies on others to live vicariously through them. That doesn't make the spying alright. The story was good and GRRM did a great job fusing science fiction and horror. You don't always come across a ghost story on a spaceship. The Monkey Treatment I never thought that you could write a horror story about weight loss but here it is. GRRM's horrifying weight loss program. It can literally consume you and torment you, all the while grinning like a monkey. I really felt bad for Kenny but I am glad he made it in the end and got that monkey man off his back. It's terrible that he was driven to a mad suicide attempt for it to happen. The Pear Shaped Man I feel really bad for Jessie. She doesn't want to be paranoid about the Pear Shaped Man. That's the thing about paranoia. You don't want it. Somehow you just lose control of your own mind. It's sick and terrifying. Somehow he seeped into her mind and told hold of it. She became trapped within her own mind and by the end she became trapped within his body and his mind seemed to actually begin seeping into her own. He also seemed to have become her. He stole her life. Great collection!!!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kyle A Massa

    A little uneven, but an overall excellent collection of short stories. "With Morning Comes Mistfall," "A Song for Lya." "The Ice Dragon," Meathouse Man," and "Sandkings" are a few of my favorites. A little uneven, but an overall excellent collection of short stories. "With Morning Comes Mistfall," "A Song for Lya." "The Ice Dragon," Meathouse Man," and "Sandkings" are a few of my favorites.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Williams

    I loved most of the stories in here. Great volume of stories.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bar Reads

    Hard to rate because some stories are top notch, and some are no good..

  26. 5 out of 5

    Azn

    It's without question that GRRM is a giant in the world of modern fantasy. It's hard to believe that before his momentous series, he had been an accomplished writer of science fiction and horror. Known for his short stories and novelettes, his works had won numerous awards prior to his contribution to fantasy with The Song of Ice and Fire. He has a distinct style of writing: strong description with a sharp attention to things like food and attire, and an ear for fanciful, witty dialogue. What ab It's without question that GRRM is a giant in the world of modern fantasy. It's hard to believe that before his momentous series, he had been an accomplished writer of science fiction and horror. Known for his short stories and novelettes, his works had won numerous awards prior to his contribution to fantasy with The Song of Ice and Fire. He has a distinct style of writing: strong description with a sharp attention to things like food and attire, and an ear for fanciful, witty dialogue. What about the rest of what made ASOIAF so great? The world building? The characters? The intrigue? GRRM, like every other writer on the planet, has gone through his decade-long development. His style in the 70s, although not entirely different, was distinct to how he writes currently. His narrative hadn't always been involving, his characters hadn't always been interesting or unique, but through this volume of Dreamsongs, you can clearly see the ongoing growth of his style. The book is divided into five parts, each detailed a stage of his career as a writer. The Four-Color Fanboy told of his childhood and how he came into writing, his obsession with "funny books", which are comics, and his budding interest in books with words and the continuation of his development past high school and into college. The stories told here range from interesting to just plain boring. - Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark: the worst story in this volume. The dialogue is terrible and cheesy. There isn't anything special about the story. There's nothing resembling the GRRM we know of today. - The Fortress: a decent historical fiction. Great imagery but a predictable story. - And Death his Legacy: interesting but still nothing special. The Filthy Pro: GRRM's start in life as a paid author. The stories here were sold to various magazines but none has a strong foothold in a particular genre. - The Hero: a veteran in space asking his superior to be retired from war and come back to earth. Good story with a decent twist. - The Exit to San Breta: a ghost story in a sci fi setting. Some nice visuals but ultimately is predictable and nothing more than a cliche story. - The Second Kind of Loneliness: an operator in space waiting for his relief ship which never came, and he started to doubt his sanity. Another decent scifi story. Bizarre concept. - With Morning Comes Mistfall: a journalist and a scientists stay on a planet wreathed with mist, supposedly full of mystery. Good story with a good theme. The Light of Distant Stars: GRRM's acquaintance with space and science fiction. This is where GRRM gets imaginative. - A Song for Lya: a very well received novelette about a couple of mind readers staying on a planet full of the peaceful and loving alien. The woman falls in love with the race and wants to be with them, while the man disagreed. Excellent concept. No wonder this story won awards upon its publication. Good concept alone is one thing, the story is slow moving, but managed to be very thought provoking. - This Tower of Ashes: a man living in a tower on a distant planet welcomes his former lover and her boyfriend to share a short hunting trip with him. While on the hunt they're attacked by giant dream-spiders which altered the man's perception of memory and reality. Interesting story with great imagery. I didn't like the ending too much, thought it was wacky. - And Seven Times Never Kill Man: didn't remember what this one was about. - The Stone City: didn't remember this one either. - Bitterblooms: a woman stumble an alien ship and found her new home there. Vivid scenery of winter and scenery by GRRM. The story isn't bad either. - The Way of Cross and Dragons: the exploration of a new religious sect based on Judas Iscarot with dragons on it. It plays with the Bible narrative. The story is interest but I thought it relied too much on dialogue for exposition. The Heirs of Turtle Castle: this is the part that most resembled ASOIAF in its tone and concept. Undoubtedly this is where his inspiration for the fantasy series come from. - The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr: a woman who could travel between different worlds to find a lover. She went to a planet where a man/god resides and rather than moving on immediately, she stayed with him for a while. Good story ruined by an absolutely horrid, and I mean HORRID narrator. Kim Mai Guest is known for the voice of some JRPGs but her hyper-feminine, flat and monotonous portrayals of the characters and the narration didn't work. Terrible. - The Ice Dragon: a girl living her farmer father finds out she could ride the Ice Dragon, the legendary and powerful dragon that breathed cold instead of fire. There's a war going on where dragons battle each other, and her uncle, one of the dragon riders, urged the family to evacuate. It reads like a pretty painting, but a story felt formulaic. The characters are great, though. - In the Lost Lands: a queen hiring Gray Alys to give her the gift of shapeshifting, and Gray Alys tries to get it from a werewolf. Cold and brutal, reminiscent of the future ASOIAF. Gotta give a nods to the story and characters, though. Hybrids and Horrors: easily the best section in this volume. Who knows GRRM can write horror so well. - Meathouse Man: a man who frequented brothels serviced by corpses struggled to find the love of his life. Not exactly horror but very imaginative concept layered on the simple idea of finding a soulmate. Good story. - Remembering Melody: one of the best stories in this book. A lawyer is visited by an old college friend who was severely down on her luck. He tries to get rid of her but to his misfortune, she holds a dark secret. The characters have depth and interesting. Their dialogues are great to listen to, especially Melody, who comes out so vivid and demented. It's also creepy as hell. - Sandkings - GRRM's best short works by a mile. A rich man went to an exotic shop and purchased a hive of "sandkings" a hyper-intelligent, organized race of insectoids that basically worshiped him as a good. But the man's mistreatment of the sandkings and his abuse of power caused the sandkings to involve into something nasty and murderous, and the man worked desperately to rid himself of the monsters he'd created. Well paced plot and insanely creative. The best story in this book for sure. If you must read one story, it's Sandkings. - Nightflyers: the longest story in the volume. It's similar to Event Horizon. Lost my interest though. Didn't finish. - The Monkey Treatment: a creative body-horror fiction. A fat man seeking the "monkey treatment" to help him lose weight but the treatment involved planting an invisible monkey on his shoulder preventing him eating. His life soon spiraled out of control as he realized there are worse things than being fat. This story made me laugh aloud multiple times, despite being creepy and disgusting at the same time. I recommend it. - The Pear-Shaped Man: Not a very good horror story. The characters are bland and pretty unlikable. Despite being boring and run of the mill, the audiobook version's narrator unintentionally turned it into comedy. His voicing of the pear-shaped man is downright hilarious when he said "see my things." Worth listening for a good laugh, but there's nothing special here. In GRRM's scifis, his intention was clear - he wanted to explore new places. He formed his own cosmic universe called a Thousand Worlds, and his science fiction lived in this universe. However, exploration alone cannot make a good science fiction story. His best scifi used other themes as well, as demonstrated by the success of Sandkings and A Song for Lya. The world has to be interactive, which was why Westeros felt so real. In his short stories, we don't stay in these worlds long enough to be immersed in them, resulting in a glimpse of something that could be so much more if focused. However, the world of Westeros was created by a lifetime of skills chiseled out of rough stones, and Dreamsongs is a book full of these rough stones. There are fine gems here and there (as in Sandkings, Bitterbloom, a Song for Lya, etc...), but most of them forgettable, and I can only recommend them if you're curious of GRRM's growth in the profession.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Like most, my introduction to George RR Martin was A Song if Ice and Fire series. I read it because I started the show and wanted to become a smug book reader. I fell in love with his writing. That made me want to see what else he’d done. Apparently he was a long established editor and short story writer. This volume contains the first half of his collected short stories separated up into early writings, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The audible version has recorded introductions from Mart Like most, my introduction to George RR Martin was A Song if Ice and Fire series. I read it because I started the show and wanted to become a smug book reader. I fell in love with his writing. That made me want to see what else he’d done. Apparently he was a long established editor and short story writer. This volume contains the first half of his collected short stories separated up into early writings, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The audible version has recorded introductions from Martin to each section (that I’m not sure is in print version) that explains where these came from that I enjoyed as much as the stories themselves. Also like most collections some stories are hit and miss. The early stories are not incredible, but Martin knows this, and includes them as early works showing his evolution as a writer. But even these early ones aren’t bad, just not at all the selling point. The science fiction I was pleasantly surprised with. From what I can tell all his science fiction operates within a loose “thousand worlds” universe that connects everything, but also allows them to be diverse and stand on their own. The fantasy stuff is even better and blends elements of his thousand worlds and early hints at Game of Thrones. Ice Dragon was the highlight among this set. And then the horror stuff, to my surprise, was amongst my favorite. I didn’t go into this collection expecting horror but the ones he offers are blended genres and have deeper messages. Meathouse Man was probably my favorite of these, and is also likely the most depressing, subversive, and controversial of these stories. Overall this collection was very good and worth seeing even the early stuff as a snapshot of the evolution of a writer. I’m looking forward to volume II.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    The stories in Section 1: A Four-Color Fanboy are thoroughly adequate but not particularly noteworthy. While this section is fascinating from an academic sense, the entertainment value is limited. The autobiographical bits were a lot more engaging than the fiction. I really dig GRR Martin’s fanboy roots. The stories in Section 2: The Filthy Pro were a definite step forward from his early fandom fiction. I enjoyed “The Exit to San Breta” the most, with its Twilight Zone trappings and comfortable g The stories in Section 1: A Four-Color Fanboy are thoroughly adequate but not particularly noteworthy. While this section is fascinating from an academic sense, the entertainment value is limited. The autobiographical bits were a lot more engaging than the fiction. I really dig GRR Martin’s fanboy roots. The stories in Section 2: The Filthy Pro were a definite step forward from his early fandom fiction. I enjoyed “The Exit to San Breta” the most, with its Twilight Zone trappings and comfortable ghost story. “With Morning Comes Mistfall” is a sad meditation on the removal of wonder from our lives. The stories in Section 3: The Light of Distant Stars seem to expand from Dying of the Light (or set up its construction) but few grabbed me as much as the novel. I liked the themes explored by Seven Times more as Speaker for the Dead. The Way of Cross and Dragon was a fascinating cynical view on belief through the lens of the colonialism of the Catholic Church to the stars. The religion of Saint Judas was delightfully constructed. A Song for Lya carries many of the trademarks of the brand of existential horror where we struggle with being just bags of meat. Yet here there is hope whereas in Ligotti there is despair. But the hope is still spurned. Rather grim. It could have benefitted from some judicious trimming, though. Bitterblooms was the standout from this set. This was crafted in a fascinating fashion. It’s got that Expedition to the Barrier Peaks vibe with distinctly less death. It’s also got the dangers of being captured by the fae and is tied into the whole Arthurian myth. The Heirs of Turtle Castle (Section 4) explores some of Martin’s early fantasy short fiction. “The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr” seems strongly influenced by Vance’s Dying Earth, but distinctly more melancholy and less cynical. The sting at the end is quite nice, but clearly structured to be the beginning of a serial. “The Ice Dragon” is a sweet meditation on the loss of innocence, while also showing an early propensity towards establishing personality type by season of birth. “In the Lost Lands” is a wonderful story. It explores the dark side of desire and what makes the monstrous. It delivers a solid take on “be careful what you wish for” through an action-driven werewolf story. White Wolf broke me of thinking of werewolves as scary, but this puts some of the edge back in, and is one of the few werewolf stories I’ve really enjoyed in a decade. This story also provides a great transition to the next (and best) section of the collection: Horror. Hybrids and Horrors (Section 5) is a truly fun section of this book, and the portion of Martin’s oeuvre closest to my heart. “Meathouse Man” was not what I was expecting. This setting focuses on operators of crews of brainless meat puppets. I would have liked a little more corpse operator bits and less romantic lamentation. While structurally solid, with every piece building to the ending, it felt like the punch was pulled just a bit. I don't want punches pulled with potential Dangerous Visions. “Remembering Melody” was an uncomfortable view of the toxic relationships that we allow to curse our lives. It was also a fascinating viewport into the late 70’s/early 80’s high-power-party-cocaine culture. This part finally starts kicking ass with “Sandkings”. The full spectrum of reprehensible humans is on display while they channel the cruel divinity of the Greeks. This story evokes the psychological horror borne on cruelty, fear of the bogeyman, as well as entomophobia. Then to top it all off, The Maw is a monster birthed from the uncaring cosmos which only becomes more terrifying when driven mad by an uncaring god or when it adopts a primitive god consumption mythology. The ending is very evocative of “The House on the Borderlands” and the creatures dancing around the house in the dream realm. And all they want to do is love. Or consume. Or both. This deservedly won a Hugo. “Nightflyers” was an interesting take on the ghost ship concept. I can see how it was made into a film, and GRRM’s screenwriting chops were applied here, as there are a number of truly cinematic scenes. The memory jewels reminded me strongly of those used in the Dying of the Light, but apparently these are not set in the same universe considering the remainder of the technology. The most fascinating part of this was the use of the Elder Gods as peripheral motivation for the story. They are giant, unknowable, gorgeous creatures of endless hunger traveling through space and are absolutely unconcerned with the incidental problems faced by the crew of this scientific expedition. “The Monkey Treatment” had some truly horrific imagery, but the ending deflated the dread. Happy endings have to be used sparingly in horror, and this one felt less like a relief of the cessation of pain, and more a return to an indulgent past. I’m not sure there was a lesson learned from all the torture. “The Pear Shaped Man” really wanted to show me his things. This tale of relentlessly passive obsession had tendrils of the supernatural creeping in at the edges. This is the modern slasher monster that stands on your lawn and stares into your windows, but instead of waiting for you with a knife, there is a fistful of cheese doodles and a moist lower lip. I love the resonance this story has with the Chambers classic “The Yellow Sign” and the spoiling of the art once the monster appears outside the window. This story could be uncomfortably renamed “The Orange Sign”. This deservedly won the Stoker for Long Form, with its uncomfortable creep towards thralldom and doom.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Mixed bag, but isn’t that the idea? Martin presents his own short stories in the categories of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. Some of his best are what he would call Hybrids - The Sandkings and Nightflyers being the standouts for me. Martin has come a long way as a writer - his earlier stories being good yarns but a tad hokey. By the time we get to Nightflyers, he is so much more self-assured with plotting and deft characterization. Vol II obligatory.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    Not all of these short stories were good. The early ones were actually somewhat crap. What's remarkable about this collection is the incredible growth that GRRM displays as a writer. Going from fanfiction like "only kids are afraid of the dark" to masterpieces like A Lonely Song of Laren Dorr, Sandkings, and The Second Kind of Loneliness, Dreamsongs is truly inspiring to me as an aspiring writer Not all of these short stories were good. The early ones were actually somewhat crap. What's remarkable about this collection is the incredible growth that GRRM displays as a writer. Going from fanfiction like "only kids are afraid of the dark" to masterpieces like A Lonely Song of Laren Dorr, Sandkings, and The Second Kind of Loneliness, Dreamsongs is truly inspiring to me as an aspiring writer

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