Review of Under Siege by George R.R. Martin

18586183I’ll be honest. At first, I was a bit ho-hum about this story. Don’t get me wrong. The writing is beautiful and vivid, the story compelling. But for a while, I didn’t get the end. And then, late at night, two days after I’d finished reading it, I suddenly realised what may have happened *spoilers*. And that graduated this story from 4 to 5 stars.

The story is of a mutant from a dystopic future who timerides into the past – his consciousness joins with a ‘local’ man’s, one Bengt Anttonen – in an attempt to change the course of history. The occasion: the siege of Sveaborg in 1808. The aim: to prevent Cronstedt surrendering to the Russians.

It kind of saddens me that I could not discover the name of the mutant who timerides to the past. It’s as though he’s meant to be a sympathetic, but unknown, individual. What we know is that he is ugly, but that he has emotions, feelings, and a sense of humour. Oh. And he plays chess too.

An excellent story with a surprising conclusion, I did enjoy reading it.

**Spoilery Discussion**

***** (select area from these stars to the next set of stars to highlight and read)

Wow. This is the first time I’ve really felt a need to gnaw on a part of a story.

So. I read the ending of the book, and then I was left sortof cold. It had ended, and that was it. I didn’t really grasp what happened in those final two pages. I saw Bengt see what the mutant saw – which must have been a rare thing to happen between a timeriding mutant and their subject – and then I know that it was the mutant speaking when he surrendered to Suchtelen, that was very clear. He was taking a gambol in the chess game. And then Anttonen moves to the US, plays chess, predicts the future, and stuff.

Two nights later I was chatting to my husband about the story. I said that “the time traveller sends his consciousness into the past”, and suddenly it smacked me upside the head. The only way I can explain the ending in a way that makes sense to my brain is that, somehow, Bengt and the mutant’s consciousnesses melded in some unforeseen way, so that yes, the mutant dies, but his consciousness lives on in Bengt. I’m not entirely convinced that the mutant actually got into that machine he would get into to linkup with Bengt right at the end, but that something odd, unusual, happened, that would be a bit more my speed.

Am I making any sense?

And seriously, it wouldn’t be a GRRM story without the main character dying, right? LOL This is the first GRRM story I’ve read, and it appears that even back in 1985, he tended to kill main characters off.

*****

5/5 rating

My fellow time travelling readers are:

Timothy C. Ward (on hiatus)
H.M. Jones
DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

 

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About Laurel C Kriegler

A born and bred South African, I was educated at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, where I graduated with an Honours Degree (post-graduate) in Economics at the end of 2001. After spending several years gaining work experience in the UK, I returned to South Africa to get married. It was during the ensuing period that my pursuits of writing and editing took hold.
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4 Responses to Review of Under Siege by George R.R. Martin

  1. Yes! Okay. I read the spoiler and I totally agree. I was a little iffy on that part, too, and sad for our wonderful narrator, flawed but very feeling. Very nice review.

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  2. SPOLIER…. Didn’t it say that if a mutant’s host dies while they are still in their mind, then the mutant will also die? I took the ending as him deciding to stay in Swedish guy’s body until he dies, so that our mutant can die with him and not have to return to his unpleased life… SPOILER END

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