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A Song for Lya (SF) - George R. R. Martin ****

Venturing into my old SF books I discovered this classic 70s short story collection from what's described on the back as 'a new breed of science fiction writer' - though, of course, George R. R. Martin would really make his name in the field of fantasy.

There are some excellent stories here. Some are pure mood pieces, notably the opener 'With Morning Comes Mistfall' which is rather like a Somerset Maugham short story, set on a distant planet. Others have the classic twist in the tail, such as the short short 'fta' that gives a kick to the gut for that SF classic concept, hyperspace. Although the collection has very much a feel of the period - nuclear war hovers in the distant past in 'Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels', for example, and two separate stories reference Simon and Garfunkel songs - there's nothing here that doesn't hold up very well, other than a lack of female main characters. Only the closing title story, which won a Hugo Award, the wistfully thoughtful 'A Song for Lya', has a female main character, and she is not the narrator.

It says a lot for Martin's writing skills that even 'Run to Starlight', which despite being written in 1974 has the most 50s feeling characters of any story here, and centres on American football - a topic in which I have zero interest - manages to be entertaining, with the nice thought of a future Earth in contact with several intelligent alien species having to deal with the difficulties that arise from an alien team wanting to join an American football league.

All in all, a collection that has stood the passage of 40 years remarkably well.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the popularity of Game of Thrones, the book is out of print and there's no Kindle version. The cover shown here is my 1978 Coronet edition.
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Review by Brian Clegg


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