Under Siege (1985) by George R. R. Martin

A very curious oddity, “Under Siege” is a heavily rewritten “The Fortress”, the historical fiction short story Martin wrote as a college paper, about the Siege of Sveaborg, a short siege in 1808 during the Finnish War, where the fortress of Sveaborg was surrendered to the Russians mysteriously. Here, as in that earlier work, Martin shapes a story around a possible series of events leading to the surrender.

Unlike “The Fortress”, where the events were plausible and fell under the realm of historical fiction, here the story is reenvisioned and recontextualised as a science-fiction time-travel story. It’s a fascinating idea, and reading it after “The Fortress” makes for an interesting comparison. Martins’ development as a writer is clear – he’s a much better author by the time of the writing of this story – but I miss the charm of “The Fortress”, a college paper by a youthful Martin. “Under Siege” is a good story, and a fascinating one when examined as part of Martin’s career, as it is here in “Dreamsongs”.

undersiege

Taken completely on its own right, however, oddly enough I feel it’s more standard and unoriginal than “The Fortress”. Martin writing a historical fiction story is rare, and a story written by a Martin as young as he was back then is a charming historical curiosity in terms of his own career, but “Under Siege” is a standard clever, well-enough-written science-fiction short story. More Martin’s usual fare. Ultimately, I give it what I gave “The Fortress”; two stores of powder, and a frigate.

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