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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 410

Nightflyers , George R. R. Martin’s best-known collection, is both an individual achievement and representative of trends in science fiction during the 1970’s. Like many fantasy stories and novels, which enjoyed a revival during the decade, these stories feature unusual names and vividly described worlds entirely divorced from contemporary experience....

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Nightflyers, George R. R. Martin’s best-known collection, is both an individual achievement and representative of trends in science fiction during the 1970’s. Like many fantasy stories and novels, which enjoyed a revival during the decade, these stories feature unusual names and vividly described worlds entirely divorced from contemporary experience. Influenced in part by the social movements of the 1960’s and by the New Wave as well as by earlier science fiction, the stories often deal with antiestablishment themes, relaxed sexual mores, and extrasensory perception and quasi-occult phenomena; in addition, they frequently include women and minorities as strong characters.

The stories are also significant in displaying Martin’s skills as a writer in creating a convincing, interesting, and diverse future history linking all the stories except “Weekend in a War Zone.” Without seeming to burden readers with description, he adroitly sketches a variety of settings containing imaginative science-fiction creations such as sentient spacecraft, neural links between humans and computers a full decade before such an idea became prominent in cyberpunk novels such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), genetically enhanced human beings, and artificial space-warp devices. He is also successful in presenting a wide range of characters who are both recognizably human and shaped by their different circumstances. Martin’s social units also are realistic.

In addition, Martin does a good job of inventing situations that compel the reader to discover what happens next. “Nightflyers,” for example, is a science-fiction story, a murder mystery, and a horror story rolled into one; “Override” and “Weekend in a War Zone” both place their protagonists in physical danger. Even in stories with a slower pace, such as “And Seven Times Never Kill Man” and “Nor the Many-Colored Fires of a Star Ring,” Martin creates reader interest not only with the plots but also through effective development of setting, characterization, and theme. Perhaps the best work in the collection, “A Song for Lya,” lyrically describes not only the situation of the two “Talents” but also the alien world of the Shkeen, their religion, the human colony and its administrators, and the relationship of the protagonist couple as they react to the Shkeen religion.

Although some of the stories are less successful than others, none is poor in quality. Both novellas, for which Martin has been widely praised, are excellent. Martin received the Hugo Award in 1975 for “A Song for Lya.” “Nightflyers” was made into a 1987 film of the same name that was not well received.

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