Once upon a time, even the awesome George R.R. Martin still had a thing or two to learn about characterization. (Read his "Song of Ice and Fire" series for some GREAT storytelling.) This was his first novel, and it shows. The main character's name - Dirk t'Larien - ouch...it fairly shouts "I've watched way too much Star Trek, and I'm trying way too hard at this!" I felt little engagement with either of the two main characters, and found myself more interested in the intricate society of the antagonists.
Still, though, you can see the seeds of Martin's later excellence in this story, and it's a neat, fairly quick read. I still couldn't care less about the main characters, but it left me wanting to learn more about all the races that built cities on Worlorn, and especially Kavalar. It was like a little tease into a vast & fascinating universe.
Not as polished in storytelling and characterization as Martin's later works, Dying of the Light is still a very good and well-told story with some highly original twists. The language is beautifully nuanced, sometimes breathtaking. Dirk, despite the unfortunate muscle-flexing image suggested by his name, is a terrific and complex character, alternately tender and harsh, confident and confused, if sometimes a little too dense. As for Dirk's rival, Jaan, I'd happily read volumes about him and his Kavalar culture. The Gwen character is probably the weakest, and even she has her moments. A short and engaging read.
Written well (1977) before Martin's highly-acclaimed but not-yet-with-an-end-in-sight Song of Ice and Fire series, Dying of The Light is a novel that shows many of the skills that that series has been appreciated for - complex interpersonal relationships, deft characterizations, believable world-building, to the degree that you want to just step right in and look around the corners to see what else is there - because you *know* that something is...
I actually finished this book really wishing that Martin had written other books in this universe because it was so fascinating - even though the story itself takes place in an extremely small, isolated sphere.
The scenario, I thought, was very Iain Banks-ish...
A 'rogue' planet in a parabolic(?) orbit is only swinging close enough to its stars to support life for 50 years. The civilized universe decides to take advantage of this and throw a festival much like a World's Fair, each planet displaying their arts, technology and unique culture - but only for a brief time.
At the time of the book, the festival is over. The vast majority of the participants have left, as the planet slowly plunges back into cold and night.
But one man (Dirk T'Larien) races through space to that planet - because he has received a token from an old love, one that he had promised, no matter what, to answer...
But when he arrives, things are not as he expected. His welcome is odd. His old lover, an ecologist, is busy studying the dying of the planet's ecosystems.
She's married - or 'betheyn' - to Vikary, a man from a harsh, warlike culture, and is also bound sexually and culturally to his partner.
But another old friend of hers is also there - and he speaks, in confidence, telling Dirk that she really wants to be rescued - that she is enslaved and oppressed.
A psychosexual drama ensues between these four - one with plenty of action and violence, but also dealing with the frictions and attractions between personalities, the complexities of human relationships and the differences between cultures.
Really a great book.