DYING OF THE LIGHT
George R.R. Martin
On the edge of the galaxy, the "rogue" planet Worlorn has drifted within warming distance of a star system for just long enough to attract a decade-long "Festival" created by terraformers, biologists, and architects from every neighboring world. As Worlorn passes once more toward interstellar darkness, few residents remain except a handful of Kavalars, representatives of a fierce and xenophobic civilization with a unique marital system. Marriage as such is unknown in this world of warrior brotherhoods and ritualized honor, but a fortunate woman may graduate from the status of communal to that of private property, as the protected possession (betheyn) of a man and his teyn (male bondmate). Among the last sojourners on Worlorn is an enlightened Kavalar historian, Jaan Vikary, who maintains a tempestuous menage a trois with his more traditionally minded teyn and his non-Kavalar betheyn Gwen Delvano. The protagonist is Gwen's former lover, who comes to Worlorn at what he believes to be her command, is appalled by the harshness of her situation, and ignorantly touches off a disastrous confrontation between Vikary and the more reactionary Kavalar elements on Worlorn. Martin's evocation of the strange planet and the intricate Kavalar ethos is wonderfully ingenious. As in the novella A Song for Lya, he navigates a complex love story with some conviction. Yet the writing itself is effortful; Martin does not seem to have enough stylistic resource up his sleeve to do justice to his own marvelous materials. Labored, inflated, intermittently arresting.