BONUS: Each selection includes extensive commentary by author George R. R. Martin.
©2003 George R. R. Martin; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Fans, genre historians, and aspiring writers alike will find this shelf-bending retrospective as impressive as it is intriguing." (Publishers Weekly)
When I saw the presence of this book, I greeted it with an air of casual indifference. I've never been a huge fan of short stories; not enough meat to them. I prefer my books like I prefer everything else: Epic. Moderation shows a lack of commitment. Some of these though… wow.
With this installment, I find I'm forced to revise my stance: I'm now not a fan of BAD short stories. It seems that a truly talented writer such as Martin can cram all the character development and plot progression required for a genuinely good tale into 45 pages. Sir, I’m sorry to have doubted you.
I picked this up while patiently twiddling my thumbs awaiting Dance of Dragons, the rest of the Mallorean, Memory of Light, etc. (Martin, if you ever read this: For the love of all that's holy: finish this series! Without dying halfway through. And without more prequels. We've lost WAY too many incredible sagas midway recently).
I have to say that I was actually ignorant of the prolific nature of Martin's repertoire. He's been all over the place, genre-wise, and appears equally talented across the board. It’s also quite a treat to have Martin himself narrating the autobiographical portions of the book. You really come to know the man behind the Songs, and get a good idea of not only the struggles he overcame becoming a writer, but also the varied successes and triumphs that you’re (most likely) unaware of (I had no idea he won awards for comic book scripts, for example).
All in all, this was a fantastic purchase. I heartily recommend it. If you’re a diehard Fantasy/Sci-Fi fan, this is your cup of tea. If you’re looking to learn more about one of the best writers of modern day, you’re in for a treat. If you’re seeking a long, involved, multi-part drama a la the Wheel of Time, Song of Ice and Fire, etc., then you may want to pass… but I’d recommend giving this a shot anyway.
From Austen to zombies!
Like other George R.R. Martin fans, I've been waiting for the next installment of his excellent fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. But I think this collection of Martin's short fiction will tide me over, at least for a while.
I was skeptical at first--short fiction, OK, but I wasn't expecting great quality from stories authored so long ago. After all, the first selection, "Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark," was written when the author was a teenager. A few minutes in, though, I knew that this wasn't just a curiosity that only the most rabid fans would enjoy. You'll recognize all the things you love Martin for--action, adventure, compelling dialogue from characters you can immediately understand and care about.
It was almost too much to hope for, but it's true: Martin has clearly had the magic that long. Things only get better from the first story on, with more short pieces that made it almost impossible to turn off my player and rejoin the rest of the world. I was expecting mostly fantasy, but many genres are represented here: horror, science fiction, space opera, even a story from Swedish history that made me wish Martin would write a textbook.
Regular Audible listeners will also recognize some of the audiobook world's best narrators: Scott Brick, Claudia Black, Erik Davies, and the incomparable Roy Dotrice, the man who brought to life the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire. The production values are excellent, too.
All that would have been enough, but the real treat is Martin himself, who offers memoirs about his early interests and his writing life. This adds a whole other dimension to the stories, and Martin is so honest and open, it's almost like listening to an old friend.
Any Martin fans out there wondering whether to use up a credit for this volume--stop wondering and click that "Add to Cart" button. You won't be disappointed, I promise. I'm already loading up Volume II.
I would have purchased this just for Chapter two, which is the author's account of how he fell in love with comics and writing, and the whole process of dealing with Fanzines which payed nothing and would often go out of publication before even publishing one copy - and not returning his manuscripts.
It's great to listen to these early stories, while also reading the Game of Thrones and it's following books - to see just how far he has come.
Good to give to the early writer of fantasy fiction, sci-fi, or horror. It will help them continue on through the hard parts. It encourages me, and I'm already 51.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
A Game of Thrones (and its followups) made Martin a household name among fantasy nerds, but not many of us knew he had been writing for so long.
Those who enjoyed that series but haven't checked out his back catalog are missing something special. Going back to his early 20s, it's clear that he had obvious gifts and a love for the craft, even in the face of the thankless job of writing for fanzines and short-lived monthly periodicals. Check out a story he wrote in college, set during the Swedish-Russian war of 1808, which offers crisp characters and a delicious sense of the divisions war can create among allies.
As a fantasy writer, Martin gives readers what most readers are looking for: exotic worlds populated by characters both colorful and familiar. Yet, Martin's stories tend to be darker and more ambiguous than the norm. The Hedge Knight novella is a fine example of this, taking the reader into a Knight's tournament in the Ice and Fire universe through the eyes of the likable but clueless young bumpkin, Dunk. Soon, he's in over his head with dangerous games of skill and equally dangerous intrigues between powerful lords. Sadly, many fantasy pieces offer too brief of a visit to the worlds Martin created for them -- as he acknowledges in his commentary, he'd often start a series, then never return to it.
And those who only know Martin for fantasy may be surprised to find that he's an accomplished science fiction writer. These pieces offer atmosphere, exotic worlds, and human drama, but with more reflectiveness than the fantasy pieces and a dark, speculative edge. Many of them feel surprisingly fresh and undated. The horror stories fare a bit less well. Martin deploys some tongue-in-cheek humor, but the pieces, with their cultural references, can't help but feel like products of the 1980s.
Then there are the commentary pieces, revealing a man who's just as much of a geek as much of his readership. He even sounds a bit like the Simpson comic store guy!
While there are a few gems here ("The Second Kind of Loneliness"), by and large these stories represent exploratory efforts and writing exercises. There are hints and glimmers of the amazing writer that George R.R. Martin will eventually become, but don't get your expectations too high.
The real thing to love about this audiobook are the autobiographical sections, narrated by Martin himself. It is absolutely fascinating to hear the blow-by-blow tale of Martin's life and career, especially as the segments coincide with the stories. You can really see Martin coming of age as a young writer. I'm looking forward eagerly to Part 2.
Wish I had know the author was into horror, or at least macabre drama. I got kinda tired listening to it after a while. The autobiographical snippets were interesting, but also sadly glib. Not really my cup of tea, although the voice acting is actually pretty well done.
Life catalyst & alternative relationship facilitator
This review is of the Audible version of Volume 1 of George R.R. Martin's Dreamsongs. I want to make that clear, because in this case the version severely impacts my review. I bought this as a Whispesync-for-Voice upgrade option. I did see that it was listed as "Unabridged Selections," nevertheless, I was still extremely disappointed when, only 3/5 through the book, the audio ends. What?? This can't be right! Oh yes, yes it is. Rather than recording selections throughout the entire Dreamsongs Volume 1, they decided to record only the first 3 sections. Why??
Well, after poking around on both the Amazon and Audible sites, I think I've finally figured this out. Dreamsongs was apparently originally issued as a single volume collector's edition. Given its massive size (this IS George R. R. Martin, after all!) the recorded version was broken up into 3 volumes. Apparently, though, when the massive print version was later brought to the mass market, the publishers decided to split it into 2 volumes. Which makes sense, if you're holding these books up to read them, but... it really doesn't track well with the 3-volume recorded versions. And to make it even more confusing, later the publishers apparently put all of the recordings together into a single recording of Dreamsongs ... and with the same cover art as is shown here for Dreamsongs Volume 1. It's all very confusing, and potentially disappointing.
The choice to stop 3/5 of the way through the full Dreamsongs Volume 1 book means, for instance, that the trumpeted "Sandkings" story is NOT amongst those that are recorded in the Audible "Volume 1" version. For those of us who do have eyes that work, and who purchased the book version as well, then yes, it's possible to read the story that way. But if you purchased the audiobook because you absolutely cannot read with your eyes, then you are going to be VERY disappointed with this Volume 1 recording.
What's actually presented in the recording, however, is excellent. The readers are all good, including Martin himself. The production values are good. And of course the stories are generally excellent (at least, after his earliest attempts, which are only passable in comparison with his later works). My favorite of the ones that are recorded in Volume 1 is Song for Lya, though there are many good ones. For me, as a person preferring fantasy over SF, the choice to truncate the book where they did meant that the stores I am MOST likely to enjoy are left out. But even so, the largely Sci Fi selections at the beginning were fascinating and satisfying. Surprisingly so, in some cases, since like other reviewers, I am usually less fond of short fiction than the sprawling multi-volume sagas for which he's become more well known in recent years. But it was fascinating to hear these tales written when he was very young, and to hear the personal backstory in his own voice.
So overall, my recommendation is to skip this particular recording of 3/5 of Volume 1, and head on over to the complete recording of the entire Dreamsongs, which combines the Audible versions of Volumes 1, 2, and 3 into one package. His stories are well worth listening to, and you'll be much happier to get ALL of them -- plus, It's a much better use of your Audible credit!
I want to feel good when I complete a story & am a little harsh on depressing ones. There are a few sad ones that I love but not many.
I really enjoyed the commentary by Martin. The storys were hit and miss for my taste. I really enjoyed some and could have left others. As a whole I am glad that I listened and I will be listening to Volume 2.
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