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Quartet: Four Tales from the Crossroads [Hardcover]

George R. R. Martin


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More About the Author

George R.R. Martin is the author of six titles in the A Song of Ice and Fire series: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords Part One: Steel and Snow, A Storm of Swords Part Two: Blood and Gold, A Feast for Crows and the long-awaited A Dance with Dragons. A Game of Thrones is now a major Sky Atlantic TV series from HBO, starring Sean Bean.

He has also written Fevre Dream, the ultimate science fiction horror novel, several collections of short stories and numerous scripts for television drama. He was also the co-author of SF adventure tale Hunter's Run. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If You're Looking for the Hugo Award Novella, Here It Is 10 Nov 2009
By Antinomian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the only published location I've been able to locate that contains the 1997 Hugo award winning novella "Blood of the Dragon" in it's novella form, other than Asimov's July 96 edition that first originally printed the story. Although >99% of readers will recognize the novella from parts of Martin's A Game of Thrones, there are a tiny minority that will instead learn of Martin's fantasy series from following his novella. I haven't read any books of his series, but if you look up the novel, the reviews are overwhelmingly favorable. However, if you take heed to some of the warnings, like I have, that you don't want to start a six book series of 700 page books (just yet), then this novella is an excellent place to start, and then to determine if you want to read the series. You could even read the excerpts in A Game of Thrones but be forewarned that they are all spread out in that novel, but still could be followed by locating the chapters headed Daenerys (note that she also goes by Dany if you read any other reviews). There are three other fine stories here. Note that Martin's other award winning story Sandkings isn't here, you'll have to locate it elsewhere. But run, don't walk, to read that excellent short story.

I'm sorry this review may appeal to only a very specific number of review readers, but it took me a lot of time to find out this information and wanted to inform others that may follow the same path I did.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glimpses of Genius 8 Nov 2002
By Omer Belsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
George R. R. Martin is my favourite living author, and having met him a few times in conventions, he's also a really great guy. That Quartet is a frustrating read has nothing at all to do with Martin's truly great writing prowess, and everything to do with the problematic selection of material.
Frankly, there are two possible audiences for 'Quartet', and the book is a somewhat scysophrenic appeal for both.
For the die hard fans such as myself, the collection offers 'Black and White and Red All Over', the beginning of an unfinished novel, and STARPORT, an unproduced pilot for a television series.
For the newbies, the collection features The Skin Trade, Martin's fantasy award winning werewolf novella, and Blood of the Dragon, an exerpt from 'A Game of Thrones'.
Thus, no matter in which category you belong, the collection is only half for you.
'Black & White� begins with a classic Martin line 'On that dump April Morning Ned Cullen started his day with a glass of cheap champagne gone flat, a cup of cold black coffee, and a Murder'. Merely reading that line made chills run down my spine. This, I knew immediately, was going to be top notch Martin.
And it is. The story of three journalists trying to solve a Jack the Ripper style Murder in later Victorian New York City is so obviously among Martin's best works that one is left amazingly frustrated to know that there is no ending, that the story ends in the middle of a scene, with a note from Martin which says, effectively 'that all I've got, sorry'.
As great as 'Black & White' is, though, you can see why it was rejected. The complicated structure, and the detailed description of NYC (Martin has a knack for the Historical narrative, and it is a pity he doesn't do it more often. Even more than in his Fantasy and Science Fiction, Martin has a way of making the past come alive) carries through a hundred pages in which, plot-wise, little yet happens. Martin is setting the base for the larger scheme, but, like Fevre Dream and A Storm of Swords, the build up is slow and meticulous and careful, unlike A Game of Thrones, where the action begins immediately. This is hardly a bad thing for itself, and Black & White handles the exposition superbly, but as exposition, you cannot see where he's going yet.
The Next piece is 'The Skin Trade', the werewolf novella. Willie and Randi are among Martin's most memorable characters, and the tale of haunted hunters is among his best. The only weakness might be the slightly too complicated plot - after several readings, I'm still not one hundred percent sure I know exactly who did what and why.
But there is so much great writing there, such a powerful and nonchalant description of the paranormal, and Martin's wonderful way of making the exotic into common life, without losing any of the majestic beauty
So you admit you're a werewolf?"
"A Lycanthrope... . So Sue Me. It's a medical condition. I got allergies, I got asthma, I got a bad back, and I got lycanthropy, is it my fault?'
But than, a different character describes himself "Perhaps I'll come for you myself some night. You ought to see me... . My fur is white now, pale as snow, but the stature, the majesty, the power, those have not left me... We are the dire wolves, the nightmares who haunt your racial memories, the dark shapes circling endlessly beyond the light of your fires."
An unproduced Screenplay, STARPORT, is a pilot for a series that never happened. As such, it is a shame that Martin doesn't tell us something of what he had planned for the series. It is difficult to judge the story on its own. For example, is Kim, the Nazi girlfriend of undercover cop Aaron, a character that was supposed to return again? If not, she gets much too much screentime.
STARPORT follows a police force in near future Chicago, where an alien constructed base exists. The screenplay does a good job of introducing some memorable characters, but the plot suffers. Usually, Martin is a masterplotter, his tales brilliantly conceived and excecuted. Here, however, the plot is little more then a mechanism to get the characters to meet and interact. Particularly weak is the solution to the mystery, which is obvious and expected, and robs us of a character which could have been a very effective source of conflict for the series.
But STARPORT is a great piece of writing anyway, and would have made a very good introduction to what might have been the best SF TV show in recent memory.
The final selection is an excerpt from A Game of Thrones, telling the story of Dany, the princess lost in the wilderness, wed to a barbarian but fearsome warrier. It is, of course, a very fine piece of work, the Dany narrative being one of the best realised parts in Martin's brilliant novel, but it is the least valuable in the bunch, because I doubt many readers of this book have not read it before. and I have the feeling that the amazing climax to the story is more effective as the end of A Game of Thrones, than as a conclusion for a supposedly self standing novella.
Ultimately, I greatly enjoyed Quartet, both the fiction and Martin's wonderful introductions, but as the selection of pieces included is problematic, I can only recommand Quartet to die hard -got to have everything- fans such as myself. If you are a casual reader, one who only read few if any Martin stories, you'll be much better off picking A Game of Thrones, Fevre Dream, the anthology Sandkings, or Robert Silverberg's Legends, which contains Martin's The Hedge Knight among much other great fiction, as introduction to one of today's greatest writers.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Hit-and-Miss collection 23 Nov 2001
By Michael Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Martin's latest collection contains some excellent work, but also some pretty second-rate stuff. Fans of Martin's ouevre will already be familiar with the excerpt from his exceptional novel _A Game of Thrones_. While the excerpt stands on its own quite well, it's still an excerpt from a popular novel, so most of the readers of this collection will have read it already.
Of much more interest are the other three stories. The first selection is a portion of an unfinished Martin novel from the 1980s. I was quite taken with the 100+ pages that are already written and would enjoy seeing a finished product. Unfortunately with Martin wrapped up in his current epic series, any continuation of _Black and White and Red All Over_ will be some time in the making. This excerpt is the story of a Jack-the-Ripper type killer in America. Martin attempted to sell the novel but didn't find any takers. He points out that in the early 90s, Caleb Carr's _The Alienist_ was a best-selling novel with a similar theme and writes, with a tinge of bitterness, that there apparently was a market for such a novel after all!
The unproduced teleplay "Starport" for a proposed Fox television series is very difficult to read. I've always found scripts to be mind-numbingly dull and this was no exception. Although I have faith in Martin's efforts to create a compelling world, I think we're better off never having seen this one.
Finally, the World-Fantasy-Award winning werewolf novella "The Skin Trade" was an enjoyable piece. I believe this is it's first appearance in a Martin collection. I wasn't engaged in this story, which is a common problem that I have with World-Fantasy-Award winners. But that's my problem.
Martin fans will particularly enjoy his 2-3 page introductions to each story. He writes about the events leading up to the creation of the story. The story behind the genesis of his epic 'Fire & Ice' saga is quite interesting. On the whole this is an enjoyable book, one that I think is well worth the low purchase price if only for the unfinished novel excerpt alone. I hope that in the future, Mr. Martin makes time to finish this promising novel.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Collection. 26 Dec 2001
By Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As the title implies, Quartet is a collection of four of George R. R. Martin's earlier works, two of them previously unpublished, the other two previously uncollected. "The Skin Trade" and "Blood of the Dragon", both previously published, are award winning works, the former a horror story, the latter high fantasy; "Black and White and Red All Over", the initial selection in the collection, is an unfinished historical novel regarding Jack the Ripper's exploits in New York around the end of the nineteenth century; the most interesting piece in the collection is the script for the unproduced television show, "Starport." Introducing the collection is a short piece by long time Martin collaborator, Melinda Snodgrass, and Martin introduces each of the selections with brief biographical notes, all of which are rather interesting as he plots his transition from novelist to screenwriter to novelist again, spanning nearly a decade. The collection, for both Martin enthusiasts and novices alike, holds quite a bit of worth, although "Black and White and Red All Over" provides a bit of a barrier to the rest of the collection.
While interesting, Martin's historical recreation of the Ripper's supposed exploits in New York, based in part on the mysterious, and historically accurate, death of a prostitute by the name of Old Shakespeare in emulation of Jack the Ripper is rather difficult to overcome, possibly because the reader knows that the novel, and the mystery, remain unfinished. Although entertaining, and well crafted, simply knowing that the mystery has no solution, like Charles Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood, makes intellectual investment in the narrative and the characters rather difficult. If the novel is ever completed, it will surely stand with the best of Ripper fiction, alongside such works as Alan Moore's From Hell (2000), as well as among the best of Martin's own work.
Martin's werewolf novella, "The Skin Trade", is the most engaging of the collection's work: It's a traditional page-turner horror novella, with the pacing of a well-plotted action film. The characters are interesting, the mystery well constructed, if not slightly transparent, and Martin handles lycanthropy with aplomb. Like the equally well-plotted "Blood of the Dragon", a novella that factors in to Martin's high fantasy opus, A Song of Fire and Ice, which won a Hugo for best novella in 1997, "The Skin Trade" is a wonderful read for both Martin fans and not. But having both been previously published, it is the script for "Starport" that makes this collection worth owning.
As Martin details in his introduction to the 168 page script, which comprises the most space of any of the selections in the collection, "Starport" was the proposed SF series to replace Alien Nation on Fox in the early 1990s. Explicitly a cop drama, much like Hill Street Blues, but more in line with Alan Moore's recent Top 10 comic book series, "Starport" concerns a near future Chicago police department that concerns themselves with the vast influx of alien races that have begun trade with Earth, with Chicago acting as one of the three "starports" on Earth to facilitate such. The cast is an ensemble of characters, most of which are human police officers and detectives, but accentuated with alien diplomats, merchants, and workers. The sheer inventiveness of the fictional world that Martin created in "Starport" is amazing, more so than his carefully constructed alter-Earth in the Wild Cards series, and while reading the script, it's hard not to mourn the loss of such an amazing entry into SF television. Engaging, funny, intelligent, the only aspect of "Starport" that is a little trying is the Klingon-esque Angels that play alien foils to the human cops with their arcane honor based culture. But "Satrport" is an amazing piece of work, and hopefully one day Fox will realize their loss. But until then, at least "Starport" is published, alongside some other outstanding work from Martin's most important phases of development.
5.0 out of 5 stars if only the publishers would have listened! 17 July 2008
By Amir Livne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Black And White And Red All Over" is one of the best pieces of work Iv'e ever read, and It's worth more than five stars just for those 120 pages we get. ah, if only the book could have been finished...
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