In the House of the Worm

September 2, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , , )

wormIn the House of the Worm by George R.R. Martin


I picked up this ebook after doing some research into Dreamsongs, Martin’s huge anthology of short stories, and seeing this story mentioned alongside the others. The thing is, “In the House of the Worm” isn’t included in that retrospective, and given what good I had heard about this story, and my affinity for a good horror story, I figured I would give this one a shot.

Unfortunately, this story is a slog. It has a big hill to climb at the start, then builds up a little bit of steam, and then creeps its way back uphill for the rest of the story. For all of its atmosphere — a dying planet where people live underground and worship the White Worm — you’d think it would have offered more, but the story is really all about the world-building. There’s an adventure that passes for a plot — a privileged young man feels insulted by someone and tracks him through the underground city to exact his revenge — but it never feels like it lives up to its potential. Even the reveal seems like a let-down, since it lacks any context to explain what it is we’re seeing.

The strange thing is this story doesn’t even feel like a George R.R. Martin story. That’s not necessarily bad — Connie Willis has that one story with profanity that goes against her usual style, but is no less effective for it — but I was expecting something grander, more emotional, like “A Song for Lya” or “The Second Kind of Loneliness”, and instead I got another “This Tower of Ashes”. I realize it could be because I built up the story more than I should have, but based on the majority of the stories in Dreamsongs, I can’t say I was out of line.

I should have trusted the editors who selected the stories for Dreamsongs and recognized this story wouldn’t have been up to the standard, but the summary sounded like it would be something I would like. Anyone else thinking the same thing would probably be better off avoiding it.

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