The Stone City was written by author George R.R. Martin in 1977. It contains many elements that the main protagonist, Michael Holt, experiences: psychological stress, fear, desperation, and following a path that leads somewhere between memories, the star, and home.
The worldbuilding is strong in this story, but then again, I am one of the ones who thinks GRRM’s writing shines brightest in his short stories. This is also the same reason why I am pleased he constructed his A Song of Ice and Fire series as a collection of multiple POV’s.
This story is set up to be read at your own pace (I’m not going anywhere). I have made a few of my typical style comments along the way, but they are easy to skip if you prefer. Comments are encouraged as a book-club style discussion takes place in the comments section.
The Stone City
It was a barren place, a world of gray oceans and endless plains where the windstorms raged. But for the spacefield and the stone city, it was empty and lifeless. The field was at least five thousand years old, as men count time. The ul-nayileith had built it in the glory days when they claimed the ullish stars, and for a hundred generations it had made the crossworlds theirs. But then the ul-nayileith had faded and the ul-mennaleith had come to fill up their worlds, and now the elder race was remembered only in legends and prayers.
Yet their spacefield endured, a great pockmark on the plains, circled by the towering windwalls that the vanished engineers had built against the storms. Inside the high walls lay the port city—hangars and barracks and shops where tired beings from a hundred worlds could rest and be refreshed. Outside, to the west, nothing; the winds came from the west, battering against the walls with a fury soon drained and used for power. But the eastern walls had a second city in their shadows, an open-air city of plastic bubbles and metal shacks. There huddled the beaten and the outcast and the sick; there clustered the shipless.
Beyond that, further east: the stone city.
The Damoosh are a wise and gentle race, and great philosophers—or so they used to say on Ymir. The outermost of their suns interlock with the innermost parts of the ever-growing manrealm, and it was on a time-worn Damoosh colony that narKarmian died and Holt first saw a Linkellar.
Rayma-k-Tel was with him at the time, a hard hatchet-faced woman who’d come out of Vess; they were drinking in an enclave bar just off the spacefield. The place had good manrealm liquor, and he and Ram swilled it down together from seats by a window of stained yellow glass. Cain was three weeks dead. When Holt saw the Linkellar shuffling past the window, its bulging eyes a-wobble, he tugged at Ram’s arm and turned her around and said, “Look. A new one. You know the race?”
Rayma shrugged loose her arm and shook her head. “No,” she said, irritated. She was a raging xenophobe, which is the other thing that growing up on Vess will do to you. “Probably from further in somewhere. Don’t even try to keep them straight, Mikey. There’s a million different kinds, specially this far in. Damn Damos’ll trade with any thing.”
Holt had looked again, still curious, but the heavy being with the loose green skin was out of sight. Briefly he thought of Cain, and something like a thrill went through him. The old man had shipped for more than two hundred years, he thought, and yet he’d probably never seen an alien of the race they’d just seen. He said something to that effect to Rayma-k-Tel.
She was most unimpressed. “So what?” she said. “So we’ve never seen the Fringe or a Hrangan, though I’d be damned to know why we’d want to.” She smiled thinly at her own wit. “Aliens are like jellybeans, Mikey. They come in a lot of different colors, but inside they’re just about the same.
Then he took all the food that was left, a good two weeks’ supply, more if he starved himself. He filled a pack with it, strapped it on, and left. The laser was snug in his pocket, the helmet tucked under his arm.
The nearest underway was only a few blocks away; a great corkscrew that descended into the earth from the center of a nexus. Holt and Sunderland had often gone to the first level, as far as the light reached. Even there it was dim, gloomy, stuffy; a network of tunnels as intricate as the alleys above had branched off in every direction. Many of them slanted downward. And of course the corkscrew went further down, with more branchings, growing darker and more still with every turn. No one went beyond the first level; those that did—like the Captain—never came back. They had heard stories about how deep the stone city went, but there was no way to check them out; the instruments they had taken from Pegasus had never worked on the crossworlds.
If you are interested in the other works of George R.R. Martin that I have transcribed, here is a list for you to chose from.
- Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
- Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
- A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
- Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
- The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
- The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
- Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
- Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book FIre & Blood, volume 1.
This GRRMspreader thanks you for reading along to the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by gumbo!