The Glass Flower (1986) by George R. R. Martin

“The Glass Flower” is George R. R. Martin’s last story in his “Thousand Worlds” setting. The collected version of “Tuf Voyaging” was printed later, but the short stories it compiles were published earlier. “Avalon” was set to be a proper full-length novel in the “Thousand Worlds”, like “Dying of the Light” was, but was abandoned when inspiration struck Martin for what would become “A Song of Ice and Fire”. “The Glass Flower”, then, doesn’t seem to have been intended as a final story in the series, but that it was it has turned out to be. It’s appropriate that the story is so heavily concerned with decay (”warmth is a byproduct of decay, the stepchild of entropy”), death, and ageing, since it turned out to be the finale of the series.

It’s more of a poetic story than most of the other stories in the series. It’s also more concerned with concept than plot or even character (some might disagree there, but I felt the characters were more archetypal than anything else here). It’s a slight, short story, but it is quite fascinating, and fans of “A Song of Ice and Fire” might read into some concepts that later pop up in that series too, in much the same way as “A Song for Lya” – particularly the sort of psychic hivemind (and the awkwardly described sexual content!).

I enjoyed the story, but it’s not really much of a story, it’s musings on theme and concept, without much plot or character beyond that. Not necessarily a bad thing, but does make the story less memorable than something like “Meathouse Man” or “Dying of the Light”. In retrospect, I think a story about death makes for a fitting (if unwitting) finale to the series. I give it three duralloy bones, and a crystalline lense.

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