The Stone City… sneak peak

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Theseus in the Minotaur’s labyrinth

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.

Continue reading at the main Stone City page here…

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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.

  1. Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
  2. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
  3. A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
  4. Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
  5. The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
  6. The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
  7. Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
  8. 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!

3 Comments

  1. I’m very excited to discuss this story as there are so many topics. I thought I’d start with a fun one, the role of the shed-boss as a guide. We first meet the shed-boss in the shed with Takker-Rey and Alaina. They have steady been drinking themselves into oblivion for the past year, consuming an alcoholic substance called amberlethe.
    The word Lethe comes from the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion. In Greek mythology there is a river named after this spirit, the river Lethe. The souls of the dead are forced to drink from it causing them to forget all they had done while alive.
    The shed-boss, therefore, seems to be a psychopomp sort of figure, supplying Alaina and Takker-Rey with the oblivion they seek, materializing at just the moment someone needs to make an important choice. So, it’s not surprising we see him materialize when Holt is under the stone city, in the “maze”, as we say. Just before the shed-boss materializes Holt is eating a smoked meat stick but then curiously, mentions the FOOD is gone, not just the meat stick. “He chewed on his meat and listened even harder and after a long while decided the sounds were coming from the left-hand staircase. When the food was gone, he licked his fingers and pulled on his boots and rose. Laser in hand, he slowly started down the stair as quietly as he could manage. The stair too was spiral” (How long was he on the stair? My guess is a long time) Holt is traveling to a sort of underworld at this point having seemingly eaten all his rations and died at the bottom of the first corkscrew stair.
    Just before the shed-boss materializes Holt sees that there are many tunnels of different shapes that lead to the same hall. “The hall stretched away to left and right as far as Holt could see, high-ceilinged and straight; the tunnel that had led him here was only one of many. Others—each a different size and shape, all as black as death—lined the walls.”
    The shed-boss disappears and reappears as Holt wanders through the maze. He shows him the Dan’Lai seemingly shattering space and time by using the jump-gun, among other visions.
    Finally Holt seems ready for something. He starts wandering around on his own and sees ai-Emerel through a square gate and thinks about his idol Cain and compares his travels to Cain’s. The shed-boss materializes because Holt is ready to make another choice. “The Emereli towers were before him, and Holt wished to see them closer, and suddenly the doorway opened onto one. Then the Shed-boss was at his elbow, materializing as abruptly as ever in the Shed, and Holt glanced over into the faceless face. Then he put away the laser and removed his helmet (it had ceased to glow, oddly—why hadn’t he noticed that?) and stepped forward.”
    Now, I won’t even pretend I completely understand everything that is happening in the maze, but the shed-boss seems very much like a guide who appears when choices need to be made. Furthermore, I’m not even sure that Holt is really awake when he meets Takker-Rey and Alaina. There is the distinct possibility that he never awoke after using the jump gun. But I just don’t know. What do you think? 😊

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    1. Your reply is just as intricate as the story 🙂 I have a few more things I want to add in comments regarding Illyrio being a type of shed-boss. You are correct, the shed-boss does show up at opportune/important moments. I always sorta kinda wondered if Viserys and Dany weren’t chased by hired knives, but instead Viserys was instead noticing spies and people pushing he and Dany towards Illyrio. This is near the same concept as GRRM uses in his story The Runner (Runners?). There is also a scene in The Runner is that is very reminiscent of the interaction between Tyrion and the widow of the waterfront.

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  2. Sorry if that first comment is a little long. Ha. I was trying to hurry and get my thoughts put down before work. Didn’t realize it was that long. Your idea about the hired knives being spies for Varys and Illyrio, who lead Viserys and Daenerys straight to their trap is spot on. I’ve not ever looked at it that way.
    The shed-boss might also be relatable to the 3-eyed crow in Bran’s visions also, right?

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