©2002 Harper Collins Publishers; (P)2002 Fantastic Audio
"Like all great writers of fiction...Le Guin creates imaginary worlds that restore us, hearts eased, to our own." (Boston Globe)
"Fans will love these eight new stories." (Library Journal)
"Her characters are complex and haunting, and her writing is remarkable for its sinewy grace." (Time)
These short stories do just what I would expect from science fiction, they take me elsewhere and allow me think differently. The readers are the same crew that did the Ender series by Orson Card, with LeGuin herself contributing her forward and one of the stories. Having such talented readers with interesting stories combines for a great listen.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Ursula le Guin is an author who demonstrates that good speculative fiction need not be heavy on spaceships, robots, and ray guns. Rather, her stories (at least the ones I've read) explore relatively simple societies with alternative biological or social arrangements. They're thought experiments in how human beings might live if a few things were tweaked.
This collection focuses strongly, but not exclusively, on gender and sexuality. One story is set on a world where humans have evolved into hermaphrodites, only becoming sexually male or female during brief windows when the mating urge takes hold. Is this form of sexuality better or worse than ours? It's hard to say, but the characters view it with familiar emotions -- anxiety, frustration, consuming passion, dispassion, friendship, scheming, nostalgia. Another set of stories take place in a culture where genders are binary, but marriage is a complex four-partner arrangement. When two partners in such a marriage decide not to entirely follow the rules, can it still work?
Aside from her interesting thoughts on the nature of social structure and power dynamics, Le Guin is a good storyteller, crafting simple but satisfying tales of characters with believable daily lives. My favorite suite of pieces deal with a planet that has a 16-to-1 female-to-male ratio. It initially sounds like a dream world for (hetero) guys, with men spending their lives competing in athletic games and acting as sexual studs to women who bid for their services. But, as the cycle unfolds through the eyes of different visitors or natives to the planet, that reality and its traditions come to feel more and more oppressive, justified by some of the same sexist assumptions we readers know from ours. "Oh, men's minds aren't suited for serious intellectual work, what with all the hormones."
My testosterone-induced attention deficit may have kept me from finishing the strange title story, but the novella that closes the book is a real gem. This one imagines people on a generation ship traveling to another star, and a spiritual movement that develops on board over the years, risking the mission for beliefs that are either insane or very truthful, depending on how one sees them.
If you haven't read much Le Guin, this is a fine place to start, though I also liked Changing Planes. The cast of audiobook narrators is of mixed quality, but I didn't find anyone terrible. It was cool to hear the author's own voice, which is unpretentious and earthy.
If you enjoyed THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS you will love these short stories! Any one of them would make a fine novel. All of her wit, energy, and imagination shine through these tales. They are delightfully written and perfectly read. I want to forget them in a hurry so that I will have the pleasure of listening to them again soon. Or, maybe, I won't wait to listen again right now.
Le Guin fills out her Ekumen universe with six stories that are in the tradition of The Left Hand of Darkness--an almost anthropological approach. Sex roles play an important role in all the stories, which gives an interesting perspective on our current power structures in society. A great book.
Ursula LeGuin is an exceptional storyteller who presents us with fictional societies that open our eyes (in this case, our ears) to new, unimagined possibilities of human interaction.
The Left Hand of Darkness and The Telling
These stories seem to depict a lifetime of frustration with male dominance and they beat you over the head with it. We already know that UKL's Left Hand of Darkness broke new ground and it was welcome. These stories take those ideas (and her new one-moieties) and burn them out. Each story attempts to right every wrong that women have suffered at the hands of men and society. I don't agree with male dominance either, most men reading these stories are likely enlightened on this as well, so it seems she's preaching to the choir. The males become the prostitutes, they are used and hurt, it goes on and on. The first two stories communicated the point and that's all I needed. If you're looking of Science Fiction, there is none in these stories.
This truly original audiobook beigns with Le Guin's reflections on the difficulties and challenges of creating imaginary worlds and in particular startling diversions from 'normal'sexual relationships in different cultures - completely convincing as she is so skilful in creating detailed background to the strange marriage arrangements or the astonishing physiological development of becoming either male or female in each sexual cycle. I found this collection very varied, profoundly moving and thought provoking and am so grateful to Audible for offering it; the range and skill of the different narrators made listening a memorable experience.
"A great book and adaptation"
Both a good book and possibly better as an audiobook with the different voices all adding depth to the stories. This book was among the best of Le Guin, and affirms her place among the best of science fiction writers, where looking at the world askew is the main concern. I would not recommend this book to someone unfamiliar to Le Guin's work as I think it's the best introduction piece (unlike her longer novels). For those that has read more of her work, this is like a deeper dive into her world.
"Just didn't get it"
LeGuin is revered as a premier writer of the 70/80s, so I was interested in what she had to say. However I have to admit that I never actually finished it because I found it so disinteresting. Maybe I will have another go at another time, but for now I just didn't get it.
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