Nightflyers and Other Stories by George R.R. Martin Review

“Man invents gods because we’re afraid of being alone, scared of an empty universe, scared of the darkling plain.”

I can hardly put into words how brilliant this collection of stories is. My favourite type of story are ones that look at the depths of humanity, our drives and flaws. All these stories are set in our future on alien planets or deep in space and yet we are still the same, still so flawed and desperate to find something better.


An obsessed scientist hires a ship and a crew to take him to an alien ship that he has dremaed of seeing for most of his life. The Volcryn have never made contact with any other race, they are almost as old as the universe and appear to have been fleeing from it for eternity. They travel far away from civilisation on purpose? No one knows.

But their ship has other ideas, their captain stays sealed in his chambers, watching them, only communicating with the humans through a hologram.

This story was creepy and engaging, I really enjoyed it. The whole concept is very clever. Some of the members of the crew were telepathic/psychic and throughout the other stories humans crop up who have those abilities, I really like the idea that we evolve to be able to read minds etc.

But now the darkness woke in the room, a holoscope coming to life, cold black and stars everywhere, points of icy unwinking brilliance, no up and no down and no direction, the floating control sphere the only feature in the simulated sea of night.”


We find ourselves in Grotto, a quiet world that humans have settled on and discovered the rare jewels that lie in its caves. We meet some of the miners who don’t have to mine themselves because they have corpses to do it for them, they control the dead and put them work. It took me a little while to get used to the premise of this story but Martin has a way of describing things that puts you so fully in the narrative you can’t possibly question it.

A really interesting tale about the greed of humanity and how we will always find ways to divide us.

Weekend In A War Zone

This one really messed me up! On Earth there has been no war for over fifty years. Brilliant, well done us…except there are corporate get away weekends for people who want to experience war, who want to kill others. Real people, they pay to kill people. Extreme paintballing.

And Seven Times Never Kill Man

This story shows the evil of humanity, we colonise, we slaughter and we destroy what we fear. We have invaded an alien planet and instead of living peacefully with the Jaenshi people that live there we a fighting them.

The Jaenshi are a peaceful people, they worship their gods at their pyramids. They spend hours praying and asking for guidance on any decisions they must make. When one tribe fight back against the humans, they are punished, their children slaughtered, their pyramids destroyed.

This story was a tough read, it made me so angry and upset. But we continue to do this on our own world, I hope we never reach any others because we would be as awful as this story depicts.

Nor the Many-Coloured Fires of a Star Ring

In the depths of space scientists discovered a gap in the universe, the reverse of a black hole perhaps? They created technology to open the gap, on the other side is a void, no stars just darkness. Still they build a base and investigate. For Kerin this trip is exciting, his girlfriend is the scientist who has lead the research and he gets to accompany her on the adventure. At his heart he is a poet but he enjoys his work, sending out the probes to see into the nothingness. But Kerin starts to get affected by the void, he curls in on himself. The way it was described sounded like he had depression, Kerin blamed his proximity to the void, he started worrying about the probes he was sending out he could hear them screaming into the darkness.

Outside the window the stormfires raged on. The view filled an entire wall in the monitoring room, a tapestry of ever-moving flame, a flowing pattern of liquid light of every colour and shape.”

A Song for Lya

This one is probably my favourite, it’s so beautiful. It’s set on a world older than ours, with a people older than humanity but they have never progressed like we have, their technology isn’t sophisticated. But they are happy and young and free. Why? Because they are ruled by on organism who feeds on them and eventually kills them as soon as they reach fifty years of age. The Shkeen’s religion is based on the Unity that they gain upon their death.

Humans have lived alongside the Shkeen for a number of years but they have started to have an alarming number of converts to their strange religion. Robb and Lyanna are both gifted telepaths. Lyanna can read people’s thoughts and Robb can read their emotions. They have been asked to help find out why so many humans are essentially killing themselves by joining this religion.

I really enjoyed seeing this world through Lya and Robb’s eyes. I love what George did with this story, I won’t give it all away but it’s so profound.

How much can human beings know each other? Aren’t all of them cut off really? Each alone in a big dark empty universe? We only trick ourselves when we think someone else is there. In the end, in the cold lonely end, it’s only us, by ourselves, in the blackness.”

I know I’ve mentioned it a lot but George is a genius and I just can’t get over how incredible he is!

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