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Worlds of Exile and Illusion (original 1996; edition 1995)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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7451012,495 (4)37
Member:sturlington
Title:Worlds of Exile and Illusion
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
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Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Dystopias, Science fiction, omnibus, edition (reissue), 2013

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Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin (1996)

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Easy to read sci-fi, more about people than technology. Ursula Le Guin's writing is as lovely as always. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
Three early novels of the Hainish Cycle collected in one volume.

The science fiction novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, often collectively called the "Hainish Cycle," are not intended to be a series in the conventional sense. They are meant to stand alone and be read that way. But collecting three of her earliest novels into one volume gives the reader the opportunity to read these as a series, revealing connecting themes and making for a very satisfying way to experience Le Guin's futuristic universe. The stories in themselves are ripping adventures, as well, with two quest tales bracketing a story of war.

The three novels take place thousands of years apart, at pivotal points in the conquest of a galactic empire called the League of All Worlds, which includes Earth, by aliens from a distant galaxy. Each novel also sows the seeds for the future evolution of humanity, which will enable them to defeat their conquerors and establish a new galactic alliance.

***There are some slight spoilers ahead.***

In the first novel, Rocannon's World, a ship from the League of All Worlds is visiting a planet where several intelligent species have been found. The humans are studying the aliens for possible inclusion in the League. One of them is Rocannon, who is staying at the home of one of the natives when his ship and all his shipmates are destroyed by an unknown enemy. Rocannon deduces that this is the Enemy that has been foretold, alien conquerors from a distant galaxy, against which the League has been formed to resist. On his ship was a device called an "ansible," that enabled communication at faster-than-light speeds, with which he could have warned his home planet. He figures that the enemy aliens also has an ansible, and sets out with a few companions, riding big flying cats, on a quest to reach their base in the south of the planet and send the warning so that the secret base may be destroyed. It is a hazardous journey, and along the way, Rocannon encounters natives with telepathic ability, which is called "mindspeak," and which he begins to learn.

The second novel, Planet of Exile, is set thousands of years later on another planet called Werel, which has been colonized by humans from the League planets. They have lost all contact with their home planets and have been stranded on Werel for generations. They have built a walled city on the seaside and holed up there, keeping themselves apart from the intelligent natives, who think they are witches because they can mindspeak and possess technology. Gradually, their numbers have been dwindling, due to the alienness of the planet where they have settled; they are being rejected as a foreign body.

Werel has a very long orbit around its sun, which makes each season last for a lifetime. A person born in fall may never know spring. As Planet of Exile opens, winter is near, and a great wave of people are emigrating south, destroying everything in their path. The colonists join with the nearby natives to resist them. At the same time, the colonists discover that they are adapting to their new environment after all, which means that humanity won't die out on Werel.

The third novel, City of Illusions, was my favorite of the three, although all of them are terrific reads. City of Illusions is set on a future Earth, a thousand years after the time of Planet of Exile. A man wakens in the forest with no memory of who he is or where he came from. He only knows that he looks different from the people who discover him. Gradually, he learns that the few remaining people of Earth live under the rule of a conquering enemy called the Shing; both the people and the Shing practice telepathy. The man sets out on a quest to reach the capital city of the Shing and find out who he is. What he discovers about himself sows the seeds for an eventual rebellion against the conquering aliens. This novel was so compelling and exciting that I really wanted there to be a sequel.

There is not one, really, although the next novel to take place chronologically is Le Guin's most famous science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness. But that is set on another planet and after another thousand years or so has passed. Interestingly, her other most famous sci-fi work, The Dispossessed, takes place before Rocannon's World does, just before the ansible is invented, although she wrote and published it much later.

Le Guin's imagined worlds are a fantastic blend of advanced technology and high fantasy, combining faster-than-light space travel, magical powers in the form of telepathy and incredible beasts like the flying cats of Rocannon's World. Her worlds and her people are richly imagined and wonderfully detailed, and her writing is pitch-perfect: fast moving but still philosophical when it needs to be. I have never disliked one of her novels, and the three collected in this volume are no exception to that rule.

Read because I like the author and I got interested again in the Hainish Cycle stories after reading some related stories in The Real and the Unreal (2013). ( )
2 vote sturlington | Jan 11, 2013 |
These are the three backbone novels of Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish Series, and sweet jeebis they're pleasant to read! In each one Le Guin serves up a little bit of the shooting of the lazer guns, a little bit of the falling in love and getting busy, and a bucket full of the existential crisis of figuring out what it means to be human and how can people from different planets all be human together. I like feeling like I'm thinking about something important while I read about spaceships that can melt planets. I blame the paint chips. There are also baddass winged cats. And marauding barbarians. Le Guin is my hero. ( )
4 vote danconsiglio | Jun 11, 2011 |
This is an omnibus of Le Guin's first three novels. All three are very short -- the first two even by the standards of the time -- and the three together are not overlong for a modern novel.

These are only loosely connected (especially the first to the other two), and while there's no particular reason to read them out of order (in this case, chronological and publication orders coincide, and are the order in which the books appear), if you should happen to come across individually published volumes, or if one of the three looks especially interesting, there's no reason you have to read them in order, either.

The first novel, Rocannon's World, is a fairly straightforward quest narrative -- a journey to far-off lands, with companions of various races, to seek an important object. Of course, the various races are different intelligent species on a planet around Fomalhaut (except for Rocannon himself, an anthropologist from another world), and the object of the quest is an ansible with which to send a warning back to other worlds, but that doesn't change the shape of the story any. This isn't one of LeGuin's stronger works, but completists will want to read it, and if you're buying the omnibus anyway you might as well -- it's very short. At least read the prologue, if you haven't already read it as "Semley's Necklace" in The Wind's Twelve Quarters, where it was published separately.

The second novel, Planet of Exile, is the strongest of the three. An abandoned colony on a world with a year as long as a lifetime (predating the Helliconia series by 15 years; I don't know whether this was the first use of the "very long year" idea in SF), slowly losing technology and hope of recontacting the League of All Worlds, allies itself with a group of natives against invading barbarians. This novel is thoughtful and individually focused, with a sense of resignation -- in making this alliance the group is choosing the least bad of a set of options, but the future remains bleak. The alliance is personal as well as political, with a colonist falling in love with a native, despite the prejudices on both sides, against the low-tech natives by the colonists and against a marriage that is assumed to be necessarily childless by the natives.

City of Illusion, the third and longest of the three novels, is set on a far-future Earth, in the aftermath of a war; it seems that the Enemy alluded to in the previous novels, who the colonists in Planet of Exile blame for their abandonment, attacked long ago, and broke up the League of All Worlds. Most of the novel concerns the journey of a (not entirely human) man called Falk. Falk has had his memory wiped and been left in the wilderness; after being found by a small human settlement, he makes a journey across the continent to the alien city of Es Toch (the only city left on the planet) to regain his memory. After a disconnected and episodic journey, Falk reaches Es Toch, where he learns that to regain his old self and old memories, he must irrevokably lose the last six years of his life, since being left in the forest; in effect, he must commit suicide so that his old self can live again. This interesting dilemma is not satisfactorily dealt with, and once Falk makes his decision the book takes a radically different turn.

Overall, these definitely aren't the place to start with LeGuin; they're decidedly minor, and would leave a reader wondering what all the fuss is about. But they're interesting (though Planet of Exile is the only one I'd bother picking up as a separate volume), and definitely worthwhile for LeGuin fans. Seeds of some of her key themes of isolation and being surrounded by strangeness run through all three, and I think the reason I like Planet of Exile the best is that it balances both sides of the strangeness the best of the three; neither the landscape nor the protagonist is set apart as being strange, but there are two sides that are strangers to each other, both of which need to change to survive. ( )
6 vote lorax | May 11, 2010 |
Excellant. Le Guin in storytelling mode without all the obvious social commentry that intrudes on the later books.

This trilogy is the opening three books of her Hain cycle universe - which contains some of her most famous works, which I've read. These earlier books are far better stories. The gently interlinking themes mark the grand scale of a space opera, but the writing is much more fantasy than some technology based SF.

Rocannon's World open's the trilogy and explains briefly how mankind has spread amoung the stars - many of which are inhabited by huamnoids. This is perhaps the only jarring note in the universe, it's never explained why this should be. the great Law of the League of Worlds is that of Cultural Embargo - civilisations should not be influenced by external technology, and at most can be gently influenced to progress. Hence on an unnamed world around the star Formalhut, the Emissory finds reports of helicopters amidst the traditional pastoral fantasy flying horses and knights somewhat disturbing. When his starship (and only ansible link to the rest of the universe) is destroyed he begisn to wonder whether he has found the Enemy's secret base. A trek through the countryside follows.

World of Exile is set somewhat later, following the war with the Enemy, Werel is cutoff from the greater universe. And it's 24000 day Year means most humans see only a season or two. When Winter falls, savages fleeing the Ice attack. The League of Worlds expedition again barred from high technology tries to teach the natives how to survive, and a romance develops between the people. The shortest but perhaps most poignent story of the three.

The last City of Illusions is an odd tale, and perhaps comes the closet to the more explict social commentry of the later works. It is set on Earth many thousands of years in the future of the other tales. the war with the Enemy is over, and mankind lives subjucated but free, the great law has been replaced with Do Not Kill. There is no League of Worlds, but the survivors of Werel have reinvented spaceflight, and return to earth, but an accident on re-entry leaves our hero berefit of memories and he must find his own way in the strangely segregated new human communities.

Really well written enjoyable tales. Simple problems of humanity isolated but through strength of character overcoming different challenges. Read them.
.................................................​

If you wish to discuss or comment on this review, you can do so via my profile, or on a thread in the Review Discussions group ( )
4 vote reading_fox | Dec 18, 2009 |
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Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Winter, R. S.Cover Artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is gratefully dedicated to the memory of Cele Lalli, Don Wollheim, and Terry Curr.
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How can you tell the legend from the fact on these worlds that lie so many years away? - planets without names, called by their people simply The World, planets without history, where the past is a matter of myth, and a returning explorer finds his own doings of a few years back have become the gestures of a god.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312862113, Paperback)

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the greatest science fiction writers and many times the winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. her career as a novelist was launched by the three novels contained in Worlds of Exile and Illusion. These novels, Rocannon's world, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusions, are set in the same universe as Le Guin's groundbreaking classic, The Left hand of Darkness.

Tor is pleased to return these previously unavailable works to print in this attractive new edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:00 -0400)

The author's first three novels--City of Illusions, Rocannon's World, and Planet of Exile--are included in an omnibus edition, all set in the same universe as The Left Hand of Darkness, as her characters battle forces in society that seek to tear them apart.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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