As was the case with the bulk of fantasy readers, I was a bit taken aback by the buzz surrounding Martin's A Game of Thrones when it was initially released. Like most, I was unaware of GRRM's award-winning body of work in terms of short fiction. To me, he was simply the "Wild Cards guy." Yes, in retrospect, I was an idiot. Incidentally, many contend that I still am, but I digress. . .
Hence, Dreamsongs appeared to be the perfect opportunity for me to get better acquainted with the material which allowed George R. R. Martin to win every possible speculative fiction award, or so it seems. But still I was reticent, wondering if this collection of short fiction was for me. Well, I'm sure glad I elected to give this one a shot!
As a compendium of GRRM's early work, Dreamsongs is a veritable journey through the author's long and celebrated career. Each section begins with an extensive and insightful commentary that permits us to learn quite a lot about the man and his stories. As good as the material is -- and believe me, anthologies don't get much better than this! -- I found Martin's commentary to be at times as fascinating as the tales themselves.
As a matter of course, detractors and haters will bitch and moan about the fact that, once again, this is not A Dance with Dragons, that GRRM is spending too much time working on various other projects instead of focusing on his bestselling series. In all honesty, this might not be the next ASOIAF installment, yet I believe that it's the next best thing. In many ways, I was more impressed by Dreamsongs than by what I've read thus far of the ASOIAF saga. This collection demonstrates just how talented and versatile an author GRRM truly is.
While some stories are better than others, I think that every piece which was selected to comprise this anthology belongs within its pages. Indeed, it allows the reader to grasp how GRRM's career and writing style evolved over the years. My favorites include The Exit to San Breta, The Second Kind of Loneliness, With Morning Comes Mistfall, A Song for Lya, The Way of Cross and Dragon, The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr, Remembering Melody, and Nightflyers.
Only rarely does a book make such an impression on me. Truth to tell, I really feel like a dumbass for ever referring to GRRM as the "Wild Cards guy." I've been reading and appreciating speculative fiction for more than two decades, yet I've only just discovered what made Martin the writer he has become today.
Dreamsongs is a book to own, no question about it. I received ARCs of both volumes, but I'm buying copies of the finished edition for my permanent collection.
Dreamsongs is as engrossing and satisfying as any novel you are likely to read this year. If it's not there already, add this one to your Christmas present list.
The final verdict: 8/10