A Song for Lya (1974) by George R. R. Martin

A deeply haunting novella. I imagine people’s reactions to this story depend heavily upon their own life circumstances, and what characters they relate to more, but I found the story painfully realistic, disquieting, unsettling, and tragic.

Martin’s first novel, “Dying of the Light”, shares many of the same concerns as “A Song for Lya”, but the latter is the stronger story, all the more impressive for its relative brevity. Speaking of Martin’s other works, there are very clear connections to “A Song of Ice and Fire” here. Not just the names (the protagonist couple are Robb and the titular Lyanna), but the worldbuilding and concepts as well. The Children of the Forest recall the Skheen, and the greenseer weirwood network (especially as presented in “A Dance with Dragons”) recalls the Greeshk and their parasitic hivemind.Both Lyannas also have impulsivity and a romantic nature in common.

Martin speaks to deeply relatable human themes here – love, what it means to love a person, what it means to be alone or otherwise, ambition to progress vs contentedness in stagnation. His skills in characterisation and speaking to human nature transcend genre.

I give this novella four distant stars, and an empty universe.

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