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Five Ways to Forgiveness: A Library of America eBook Classic

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Here for the first time is the complete suite of five linked stories from Ursula K. Le Guin’s acclaimed Hainish series, which tells the history of the Ekumen, the galactic confederation of human colonies founded by the planet Hain. First published in 1995 as Four Ways to Forgiveness, and now joined by a fifth story, Five Ways to Forgiveness focuses on the twin planets Were Here for the first time is the complete suite of five linked stories from Ursula K. Le Guin’s acclaimed Hainish series, which tells the history of the Ekumen, the galactic confederation of human colonies founded by the planet Hain. First published in 1995 as Four Ways to Forgiveness, and now joined by a fifth story, Five Ways to Forgiveness focuses on the twin planets Werel and Yeowe, two worlds whose peoples, long known as “owners” and “assets,” together face an uncertain future after civil war and revolution.             In “Betrayals” a retired science teacher must make peace with her new neighbor, a disgraced revolutionary leader. In “Forgiveness Day,” a female official from the Ekumen arrives to survey the situation on Werel and struggles against its rigidly patriarchal culture. Embedded within "A Man of the People,” which describes the coming of age of Havzhiva, an Ekumen ambassador to Yeowe, is Le Guin’s most sustained description of the Ur-planet Hain. "A Woman’s Liberation” is the remarkable narrative of Rakam, born an asset on Werel, who must twice escape from slavery to freedom. Joined to them is “Old Music and the Slave Women,” in which the charismatic Hainish embassy worker, who appears in two of the four original stories, returns for a tale of his own. Of this capstone tale Le Guin has written, “the character called Old Music began to tell me a fifth tale about the latter days of the civil war . . . I’m glad to see it joined to the others at last.”


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Here for the first time is the complete suite of five linked stories from Ursula K. Le Guin’s acclaimed Hainish series, which tells the history of the Ekumen, the galactic confederation of human colonies founded by the planet Hain. First published in 1995 as Four Ways to Forgiveness, and now joined by a fifth story, Five Ways to Forgiveness focuses on the twin planets Were Here for the first time is the complete suite of five linked stories from Ursula K. Le Guin’s acclaimed Hainish series, which tells the history of the Ekumen, the galactic confederation of human colonies founded by the planet Hain. First published in 1995 as Four Ways to Forgiveness, and now joined by a fifth story, Five Ways to Forgiveness focuses on the twin planets Werel and Yeowe, two worlds whose peoples, long known as “owners” and “assets,” together face an uncertain future after civil war and revolution.             In “Betrayals” a retired science teacher must make peace with her new neighbor, a disgraced revolutionary leader. In “Forgiveness Day,” a female official from the Ekumen arrives to survey the situation on Werel and struggles against its rigidly patriarchal culture. Embedded within "A Man of the People,” which describes the coming of age of Havzhiva, an Ekumen ambassador to Yeowe, is Le Guin’s most sustained description of the Ur-planet Hain. "A Woman’s Liberation” is the remarkable narrative of Rakam, born an asset on Werel, who must twice escape from slavery to freedom. Joined to them is “Old Music and the Slave Women,” in which the charismatic Hainish embassy worker, who appears in two of the four original stories, returns for a tale of his own. Of this capstone tale Le Guin has written, “the character called Old Music began to tell me a fifth tale about the latter days of the civil war . . . I’m glad to see it joined to the others at last.”

30 review for Five Ways to Forgiveness: A Library of America eBook Classic

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kat Kennedy

    I think I may have found a new girl crush in Ursula K. Le Guin and her collection of four short stories, Four Ways To Forgiveness. I never did like weak, insipid damsels in distress. [image error] In fact, I think it is those very characteristics that cause me to pull away from and revile books like Fallen, Twilight and Hush Hush. It seems to me that in these books, nobody aspires to be anything more than Mrs. Cullen and to terrorize the local woodland creatures as some sort of gothic reverse of Sn I think I may have found a new girl crush in Ursula K. Le Guin and her collection of four short stories, Four Ways To Forgiveness. I never did like weak, insipid damsels in distress. [image error] In fact, I think it is those very characteristics that cause me to pull away from and revile books like Fallen, Twilight and Hush Hush. It seems to me that in these books, nobody aspires to be anything more than Mrs. Cullen and to terrorize the local woodland creatures as some sort of gothic reverse of Snow White. Fuck! However, though I enjoy books like Bitten, The Mercy Thompson series, Chicagoland Vampires series and their ilk - I get annoyed that these chics have super strength and special powers etc. Do our chic heroines need super powers to be badass and totally incredible? Le Guin says not and shows you how awesome a chic can be without breaking out the shurikens and exploding powder even once. So you can understand why I adored these four short stories about women so awesome that even awesome had to step back and appreciate them. Much like we might all want to appreciate Aunt Sarah who, like these women, marches to the beat of her own drum: [image error] I want to meet Aunt Sarah and give her a girl power hug! I think my favourite story was the first one as I felt that Yass had such a beautiful, strong and loving heart that I fell completely in love with her. I also loved Rakam for her strength of character in surviving where ever she was and thriving in conditions I couldn't even imagine. Her ability to find love again with Havzhiva was so beautiful. I enjoyed Solly for her dignified, authoritarian and energetic ways. All three of these women were strong, sexual, thoughtful women who took the circumstances that they had and filled their lives with passion - whether that was work, a career a cause or a man or all three at once. The men in this book, Abberkam, Teyeo and Havzhiva were fantastic. They were all strong without dominating, encroaching on or crowding the brilliance that each of these women had in their spirits. Instead they came alongside them and helped them shine brighter. I cannot express how much I love Le Guin for this. Maybe I'm just vulnerable to this. When I worked full time, people treated me differently. As an employee for a cruise line whose job it was to organize their charitable donations to certains organizations, I found people treated me with respect and were happy to talk to me on an intellectual level. Then I had my son and suddenly at parties or social situations, I wasn't an intellectual individual anymore, I was Mrs. Kennedy. Housewife and mother. No, I do not want to know about your fucking bake sale! Does it matter that I'm an editor of manusripts for authors looking to be published or that I'm writing a novel of my own? No, as soon as they ask what I do for a living and I tell them that I'm a mother, their eyes glaze over and they assume that I don't have a legitimate opinion on the criminal justice system or batman or whatever the hell they're talking about. [image error] I can contribute to the batman discussion, damnit! Le Guin, I tip my hat to you! A spectacularly crafted read!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    Four (actually five now, in the edition I read) interlocking novellas by Ursula Le Guin, exploring the history of two planets, Werel and Yeowe, with an entrenched culture of slavery based largely on race. Here it's the black race that has enslaved the whites, although after a few thousand years of slaves being used and raped, many of the slaves are as dark-skinned as their masters. When the Hainish spacefaring race rediscovers Werel, which they populated millions of years ago, the interactions b Four (actually five now, in the edition I read) interlocking novellas by Ursula Le Guin, exploring the history of two planets, Werel and Yeowe, with an entrenched culture of slavery based largely on race. Here it's the black race that has enslaved the whites, although after a few thousand years of slaves being used and raped, many of the slaves are as dark-skinned as their masters. When the Hainish spacefaring race rediscovers Werel, which they populated millions of years ago, the interactions between the master race on Werel and the Hainish envoys lead to all kinds of unforeseen consequences. Le Guin explores those events through the eyes of five different characters, including a female slave and three visiting envoys. Le Guin's anthropological version of science fiction is amazingly insightful and often deeply disturbing, but well worth reading. Review to come. I received a free copy of this collection from the publisher for review, as part of the Library of America collection, Ursula K. Le Guin: Hainish Novels and Stories

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    Writing this review is hard, simply because I don't think I am equipped to adequately relay Ursula K. Le Guin's genius. She is one of the cleverest writers I have ever come across and her anthropological science fiction never ceases to amaze and distress me. Of course, at the core of every sci-fi novel lies an alien world. The one depicted in this collection of 4 interconnected novellas is particularly gruesome IMO. This collection of stories is about slavery, freedom, and women's liberation. But Writing this review is hard, simply because I don't think I am equipped to adequately relay Ursula K. Le Guin's genius. She is one of the cleverest writers I have ever come across and her anthropological science fiction never ceases to amaze and distress me. Of course, at the core of every sci-fi novel lies an alien world. The one depicted in this collection of 4 interconnected novellas is particularly gruesome IMO. This collection of stories is about slavery, freedom, and women's liberation. But even more, it is about understanding and forgiveness. Le Guin makes it possible: to understand and forgive a disgraced leader of the the War of Liberation who is accused of embezzlement and debauchery; for a Werelian officer, disgusted by a female representative's of Ekumen (the Envoy) childishness and loose behavior, and the Envoy, turned off by the officer's uptight, proprietary behavior towards her, to understand each other and fall in love with the very qualities they had thought off-putting; for a representative of a better, more peaceful world, to come to understand how a refusal of newly freed men to allow their women the same freedoms can be justifiable. There are many profound things touched upon in this book: the destructive, alienating nature of slavery; the futility of just giving people freedom when they never dared to want it and never fully understood it; that freedom begins with sexual freedom, a freedom within our bodies; the wrongness of simply bringing one's ideas of liberty to force upon people without understanding the people's culture, no matter how right and humane these ideas are. I think Le Guin articulates the last argument very well in this quote: "You can't change anything from the outside in. Standing apart, looking down, talking the overview, you see pattern. What's wrong, what's missing. You want to fix it. But you can't patch it. You have to be in it, weaving it. You have to be part of the weaving." Truly, there are so many things that I loved about these 4 stories, I can't quite express it. Le Guin brings often under-appreciated genre of science fiction to a whole new level. I am in awe of her talent.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Four Ways to Forgiveness: Slavery, oppression, revolution, and redemption Originally posted at Fantasy Literature Ursula K. Le Guin is hardly afraid to tackle difficult topics. In fact, she delves into them with a fearless but controlled approach that forces us to look at painful subjects we may prefer not to. This time she is going straight for the jugular, exploring the sensitive subjects of freedom, slavery, oppression, sexual politics, and revolution. In the wrong hands this could easily becom Four Ways to Forgiveness: Slavery, oppression, revolution, and redemption Originally posted at Fantasy Literature Ursula K. Le Guin is hardly afraid to tackle difficult topics. In fact, she delves into them with a fearless but controlled approach that forces us to look at painful subjects we may prefer not to. This time she is going straight for the jugular, exploring the sensitive subjects of freedom, slavery, oppression, sexual politics, and revolution. In the wrong hands this could easily become a heavy-handed polemic that might be unreadable. However, Le Guin is far too skilled a writer to wield a cudgel — instead, she uses her scalpel to peel away layer after layer of ingrained societal norms as she explores just how human societies are affected by these topics, and leaving no side free of sin but shows how even the slavers victimize themselves as they indoctrinate their own children into the system. There are no purely evil people in her stories, but much cruel and unthinking behavior. As with her other Hainish stories, in Four Ways to Forgiveness she uses the Envoys of the advanced space-faring Ekumen as the neutral observers of the more primitive native societies, determined to not take sides but forced to by circumstances. In these stories Envoys get kidnapped, tortured, and otherwise dragged into messy situations. In the end, we see just how cruel, damaging, and irrational slavery is, symbolized by reversing the usual pattern of our world with darker-skinned people enslaving lighter-skinned people. Four Ways to Forgiveness introduces a pair of worlds named Werel and Yeowe. Werel was first to be populated by the Hainish in antiquity, and many generations later when the Hainish come back in contact, they discover that the Werelians have a firmly entrenched system of slavery. In fact, the shock of encountering these space-faring “aliens” prompts the Werelians to colonize the planet of Yeowe using an-all male population of slaves (which they label “assets”). Though later female slaves are sent to join them, they have already developed an extremely masculine hierarchical and homosexual society, and the women are placed at the bottom of it. What is both surprising and upsetting is that even after the light-skinned Yeowe slaves stage a successful revolution, the women still find that their status of subservience does not change as much as hoped. There are a lot of unpleasant and brutal scenes in Four Ways to Forgiveness — Le Guin really forces the reader to face the ugliness of societies built around oppression and abuse those unable to defend themselves. In the case of slaves, both men and women are abused and treated inhumanly, whereas among both slaves and slavers, women are victimized by men. The cycle of oppression leaves its psychological scars deep in people’s minds for generations. Approaching the issue from numerous angles, we see how it affects every individual in the story. Eventually, each story comes to some form of resolution or rapprochement, and oftentimes individuals of very different backgrounds come to understand and even love others. While this can be properly labeled “understanding” or “empathizing,” I was a bit hard-put to identify “forgiveness” in an overt form in some cases. That would imply a victim forgiving a victimizer, I would think, and that didn’t seem to always be the case. Perhaps other readers can interpret the book’s title better than I can. Of note, there is another story set in the same world of Werel and Yeowe called “Old Music and the Slave Women,” which fits very much into the same framework of the other stories and belongs together with them. It can be found in The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin, along with three of the stories from Four Ways to Forgiveness, “Forgiveness Day,” “A Man of the People,” and “A Woman’s Liberation.” The first story, “Betrayals”, can be found in The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin. I listened to the audiobook versions of both available from Recorded Books, with The Found and the Lost narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan and Jefferson Mays, and The Unreal and the Real narrated by Tandy Cronyn. All do an excellent job as Le Guin’s stories are perfectly suited for reading aloud. The narrators’ voices are strong, direct, and passionate, and the characters and dialogue take center stage, reflecting Le Guin’s love of story-telling and poetry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Quintessential Le Guin. It's apparently part of the Hainish cycle, which I have never read. This seems like the "Tales from Earthsea" of the Hainish cycle: it's a collection of short stories that easily stand alone, but are part of the same universe as other books, and it's, most likely, the best book in the lot. I've heard, anyway, that people don't get that excited about the Hainish books, so I assume this one may stand out. It's four, tangential stories that surround a slave rebellion and a wa Quintessential Le Guin. It's apparently part of the Hainish cycle, which I have never read. This seems like the "Tales from Earthsea" of the Hainish cycle: it's a collection of short stories that easily stand alone, but are part of the same universe as other books, and it's, most likely, the best book in the lot. I've heard, anyway, that people don't get that excited about the Hainish books, so I assume this one may stand out. It's four, tangential stories that surround a slave rebellion and a war for independence. Le Guin beautifully and articulately (with her anthropologist's lens) describes the tension of different cultures trying to understand each other: local truths for each culture that conflict each other, but are all still equally true. She delves deep into the feelings of hatred, confusion, disgust, and possible empathy and love that can take place across these borders. She focuses on specific kinds of relationships: slave and owner, colonized and colonizer, between generations, and, of course, between genders. Le Guin argues that all relationships across cultures are akin to the sexual relationship between two people, and that all larger freedoms begin with the freedom of one's own body. Having a sexual relationship is akin to crossing a border between nations, between cultures, and all the same issues of colonialism, of oppression and freedom, are manifest. It's classic Le Guin. An amazing feat of anthropology, as well as just heartwrenchingly beautiful and human. She manages to address huge sociological issues, and the intimate lives of lovers, seamlessly, with gorgeous detail that all rings very true.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Septimus Brown

    I already adored Ursula Le Guin, and yet this book raised her pedestal even higher for me. Four Ways to Forgiveness is a beautiful collections of stories that underscore her skill as a storyteller and a master of speculative fiction. These four tales are set on other worlds, but they are very simply about people and relationships. The SF locale isn't all laser guns and spaceships, but a mirror to our own contemporary realities and conflicts. Le Guin deals with themes of slavery, intergenerationa I already adored Ursula Le Guin, and yet this book raised her pedestal even higher for me. Four Ways to Forgiveness is a beautiful collections of stories that underscore her skill as a storyteller and a master of speculative fiction. These four tales are set on other worlds, but they are very simply about people and relationships. The SF locale isn't all laser guns and spaceships, but a mirror to our own contemporary realities and conflicts. Le Guin deals with themes of slavery, intergenerational trauma, and individual power bravely, and with wisdom. I rank this collection near the top of her Hainish Cycle, but then again, I loved nearly every title in this series.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    Four interconnected love stories between people from different and difficult backgrounds. All of them end up finding their way to -don't say forgiveness. don't...- to forgiveness, which clearly consists in an understanding partner and an useful occupation. It's settled in many planets, but it's mainly about one, Yeowe, that joins the narrative advantages of having just freed itself from a colonial, pro-slavery regime and being ruled by chauvinistic assholes. Luckily, none of the characters are n Four interconnected love stories between people from different and difficult backgrounds. All of them end up finding their way to -don't say forgiveness. don't...- to forgiveness, which clearly consists in an understanding partner and an useful occupation. It's settled in many planets, but it's mainly about one, Yeowe, that joins the narrative advantages of having just freed itself from a colonial, pro-slavery regime and being ruled by chauvinistic assholes. Luckily, none of the characters are native of wherever they end up finding their particular brand of happiness. It's manicheistic; all things Ekumen are very likely to be good, and all things patriot are probably bad. I don't mind. There probably is much to be gained of the contact of others, specially if they are older, academically better and have a working peaceful system of govern, but I'm a worried about how the ideology at work might translate in real life. The stories are slow to pick up, and end on the satisfying natural conclusion wholly invented by fiction. Frankly, slavery and male chauvinism are rather tired themes, specially on this planet with no history. It has to rediscover all from scratch. On the good side: (view spoiler)[Happy endings, no they never bore me (hide spoiler)] The first story's characters are old people, and the orthodoxally interesting part of their lives is over. Is that politically incorrect? The fact is that the only thing going on is the romance; and it's a fairly common one, contrived by the oldest, really really old, ancient, tricks in the book. (view spoiler)[ She nurses him back to health, he saves her cat from a fire. La mère Michelle invented that like, a thousand years ago. (hide spoiler)] I might have found it sweet, but it info dumped me to boredom. I might have liked the male protagonist, only I didn't, because I don't have pity to spare for corrupt politicians. And she was strong and independent, but only by omission, because we didn't know that much about her. On the whole, it's a shame, because I'm usually a sucker for willful old people. I did care for the main character of the third one, but the story focused on his relationships with women and glossed over his involvement in the feminist movements of Yeowe. I find that I enjoy reading about a man who chooses to defend the rights of women. I would object if he created the movement, but he's just willing to participate, and it's curiously moving. The fourth one... happens... and its plot is very contrived and the main character is a bit too perfect and I should have skipped it, even though it's the longest. The second story I liked. It was about two people made enemies by their upbringing, their experience, their beliefs, and most of all their temperament, locked up in one room, but who can think. It's about how difficult it is to understand one another, and it's a love story between flawed grown ups whose flaws are also their virtues. They dislike, then love each other for the same reasons. There also seems so be some thinking about personal semi philosophical concepts and individual mottos, specially for the male characters: hold fast to the one noble thing, global and regional truths, and I can't remember the others (or even if there were any) but it's a great way to build a distinct character in a story so short and so focused in sci-fi's social problems.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Basia

    Along with Lathe of Heaven, one of my most favorite works by her.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    There is just no denying it: Ursula le Guin is one of the greatest writers of the last 50 years (at least), and I firmly believe that the only reason she does not get more recognition for her commentary on race, politics, and - especially - gender - is because she sets much of that discussion off world. But, as I've mentioned before, this makes the discussion both easier to read - it's not my society being critiqued! - and harder-hitting, because when we see our faults in aliens... it hurts more There is just no denying it: Ursula le Guin is one of the greatest writers of the last 50 years (at least), and I firmly believe that the only reason she does not get more recognition for her commentary on race, politics, and - especially - gender - is because she sets much of that discussion off world. But, as I've mentioned before, this makes the discussion both easier to read - it's not my society being critiqued! - and harder-hitting, because when we see our faults in aliens... it hurts more, somehow. Or maybe that's just le Guin's genius. So. Here we have four interconnected short stories (although if we're being technical I think the last two are probably closer to novellas). We have two planets, Werel and Yeowe. Yeowe was uninhabited until the Owners on Werel decided to start mining and farming it, for which they used the labour of their assets. Yes, Werel is a slave-owning society, and a capitalist one (I see what you did there, le Guin - very nice indeed - Marx needs a little chastising sometimes). And within the hierarchy of owner/owned there's a gender hierarchy as well, with women being firmly the lowest section of each caste. Sounding familiar? Well yes, except that here lovely onyx skin is the most prized, and the paler you are - the more 'dusty' - the more obvious your slave status. Me, I'm one of the palest of the pale whitefellas around. No way can I presume to comment on how people of colour would react to this inversion. For myself, I'll admit that reading the derogatory term 'dusty' did not at first make sense (I thought it was referring to them living in the dirt and dust); and while it was uncomfortable in the context of slave/free, it's awesome to read stories wherein black is desirable and beautiful... and it's not a big deal. The four stories all deal with the same basic issue and time: the consequences of a revolt of the 'assets' on Yeowe against the Corporation who owned them: consequences for the Owners and the assets, for men and women, and for the alien Ekumen observers (this fits into le Guin's Hainish cycle). For me, while revolutions are interesting and all, it's the aftermath that's really the meat of history. What difference does it actually make? How long do changes take and how long do they hang around? Changing the world is one thing; changing attitudes and desires and beliefs quite another. The first story, "Betrayals," is set some time after the Liberation, in a nowhere town on Yeowe. It's the story that has least to do with the Liberation itself, although it comes about as a result of it. It's a tale of two old people - and how refreshing is that? - dealing with being old, and the changes in their world, and how frustrating the world can be when you're not able or allowed to make big changes yourself any more... but you can still make small ones, that do make a difference. Bitterness and growth and love. Also gossip, and the downfall of heroes. "Forgiveness Day" comes first from the perspective of a 'space brat' - a worldly (hmm, or not; she doesn't really have a world) woman of the Ekumen sent to Werel to act as an observer there. Being an observer on tight-knit, inward-facing and closed-mouth Werel was always going to be a difficult task, but having a woman in that position - going out, rather than staying in the beza (woman's side); her own property, rather than a man's; speaking to men as their equal - is yet another kettle of proverbial. Solly deals with it rather bullishly, which is perfectly fair and understandable. What puts le Guin at the pinnacle is that she writes Solly completely sympathetically for maybe a quarter? of the story, and then relates the next section from the perspective of Teyeo, her bodyguard, of whom Solly has a very dim view but who again comes across as immensely sympathetic, and casts some shade on Solly; and then the rest is the two of them in rather a pickle. It's a commanding story of attitudes and cultural perspectives, and change in the face of necessity. It also starts opening up Werel society to the reader, giving hints and clues about how and why it works, which while not making it likeable begins to make it comprehensible. "A Man of the People" begins on Hain, with a young boy growing up in a sheltered, insular pueblo... who eventually gets impatient with the local knowledge available and longs for something bigger. Nearly half of the story takes place on Hain as Havzhida learns about universal knowledge and eventually becomes a member of the Hainish delegation to Yeowe. While the previous story showed Werel from an outsider's perspective, seeing Yeowe post-Liberation from such a view is revealing too, not least because the gender hierarchy has been replicated. The rhetoric of freedom, of liberation, is a complex one, and le Guin makes some offerings on how to understand it in this and the next story in particular. I think this story is my favourite, at least partly because it shows how power doesn't have to come from violence, and subversion doesn't have to involve deceit. And the characters are wonderful and varied, and Havzhida is a willing observer - not insistent on participation where that might not be appropriate. Which is something that some activists might do well to understand. Finally, "A Woman's Liberation" is probably the most difficult to read of the lot. The first is post-Liberation Yeowe, so at least the theory of freedom is present; the second is Werel, where there is no freedom for 'assets' but Solly and Teyeo move freely (mostly); the third is post-Liberation Yeowe too, with Havzhida moving freely and women beginning to do so. "A Woman's Liberation," though, is from the perspective of a bondswoman - an asset - on Werel. She is thus doubly bonded, doubly enslaved, both to her Owner and to the men of her caste. This makes for a sometimes-painful reading experience - not gratuitous, not unnecessary, but painful nonetheless. Things do change, as the name suggests, but le Guin does not hide the fact that changing official status is difficult, and indeed is only one step in losing the 'slave-mind'. Rakam is a glorious character who grows and struggles and is unrelentingly honest with the reader. She's inspirational. These stories are complex and challenging and absorbing and frustrating because they do not fill in all of the gaps. By the end a general sweep of the history and society of Werel and Yeowe has been revealed, but there is so much more that could be written! This is one of the peculiar gifts of le Guin, I think - she does not tell us everything. Only what we need to know. Which is about liberation, and freedom, and individuality, and community, and love.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    This book was on the list from the Worlds Beyond Worlds Symposium, must-reads or would love to see as a film. Didn't know 'til just now that it was a number in the Hainish cycle. Doesn't read that on the book, but it's in the universe. This is a collection of 4 novellas intertwined with characters and locations in the system that includes planet Yeowe and planet Werel. The titles are Betrayals, Forgiveness Day, A Man of the People, and A Woman's Liberation. These are fiction along with a keen st This book was on the list from the Worlds Beyond Worlds Symposium, must-reads or would love to see as a film. Didn't know 'til just now that it was a number in the Hainish cycle. Doesn't read that on the book, but it's in the universe. This is a collection of 4 novellas intertwined with characters and locations in the system that includes planet Yeowe and planet Werel. The titles are Betrayals, Forgiveness Day, A Man of the People, and A Woman's Liberation. These are fiction along with a keen study of what it means to be free. Le Guin is a genius in swirling together stories that ask the reader to be involved, to choose, to evaluate settled knowledge and turn it on its ear. Not think. Rethink. Feel what that tastes like. Empty your brain, start over and lean into looking at freedom in a different way. Understand how easy it is to have freedom taken from you, and be afraid. Would I have the courage to fight to the death to be and remain free? Would I have the brains to comprehend how much freedom I actually have or how to get it back if its gift is lost? Great storytelling. I liked the cover on this edition so much, too. (Danilo Ducak, artist) The four figures are windswept, a nod to the setting of Betrayals and an artistic note on how tenuous freedom can be.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Four Ways to Forgiveness contains four novella set on the planet Werel and its colony planet, Yoewe. Werel has a violent and oppressive history and although having become technologically quite advance, the practice of slavery is still the basis of their society. The first story is set on Yeowe following their War of Liberation and features an old woman and her relationship with a former Chief of the revolution. This story seems mostly to serve as exposition and a commentary on how elders are trea Four Ways to Forgiveness contains four novella set on the planet Werel and its colony planet, Yoewe. Werel has a violent and oppressive history and although having become technologically quite advance, the practice of slavery is still the basis of their society. The first story is set on Yeowe following their War of Liberation and features an old woman and her relationship with a former Chief of the revolution. This story seems mostly to serve as exposition and a commentary on how elders are treated in the burgeoning free era. Next, we follow an Ekumenical sub-envoy and her struggles with the extremely misogynistic practices in place on Werel. She is trying to bring enlightenment and is treated alternately like a man and a precocious child, but just wants to be seen as an independent woman. This is difficult for the Werelians to deal with. The third story begins on Hain, which is nice because of all the talk so far in this series of the Hainish and the Ekumen having originated there, none of the action has ever been set there. It is interesting to note that there are still some “backwards” and “rural” areas of Hain. It is not the enlightened utopia I had come to think of judging by its description and the characters in other books who are from there. The narrator of this tale begins life in a rural area and grows to be an Envoy to Werel. His early life and training period are quite interesting and his adventures on Werel serve to tie some threads together from the first two stories. This Envoy will also appear in our fourth story, which is presented as a memoir of a woman who is born in slavery on Werel, but because of some very fortunate events is able to participate in a Werelian slave-revolt, learn to read, write and teach, and finally end up on Yeowe helping to continue the revolution and enlightenment there. The themes throughout are, of course, forgiveness, as well as how two people from different walks of life can find love together. Each of these stories features a set of very unlikely lovers, often of different planets of origin, who find common ground. This could be applied as a metaphor for mixed-race relations here in America (or even on Planet Earth). The other main theme is feminism. The revolution on Yeowe originated in the women’s camp, but after liberation, women are still treated as property, often with less power than they had as slaves. The message seems to be that many men need to have someone to oppress in order to feel powerful, even if they have been oppressed themselves and know how that feels. Of course, as the society grows and becomes more “civilized” the genders need to be treated more equally. This is also a comment on Earthly societal norms. LeGuin has long been a pioneer of feminist science fiction. She is adept at spinning an engaging tale that stands alone on its own merit, as well as presenting an underlying message that is almost sneaky in the way it inhabits the readers mind and (hopefully!) transforms the reader’s attitudes on the subject.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    "At the far end of the universe, on the twin planets of Werel and Yeowe, all humankind is divided into 'assets' and 'owners', tradition and liberation are at war, and freedom takes many forms. Here is a society as complex and troubled as any on our world, peopled with unforgettable characters struggling to become fully human. For the disgraced revolutionary Abberkam, the callow 'space brat' Solly, the haughty soldier Teyeo, and the Ekuman historian and Hainish exile Havzhiva, freedom and duty bo "At the far end of the universe, on the twin planets of Werel and Yeowe, all humankind is divided into 'assets' and 'owners', tradition and liberation are at war, and freedom takes many forms. Here is a society as complex and troubled as any on our world, peopled with unforgettable characters struggling to become fully human. For the disgraced revolutionary Abberkam, the callow 'space brat' Solly, the haughty soldier Teyeo, and the Ekuman historian and Hainish exile Havzhiva, freedom and duty both beting in the heart, and success as well as failure has its costs. "In this stunning collection of four intimately interconnected novellas, Ursula K. Le Guin returns to the great themes that have made her one of America's most honored and respected authors." ~~back cover I'm a huge and loyal Ursula Le Guin fan, and several of her works are on my "Desert Island List." But this one is not among them. I was disappointed in these novellas. It felt as though she was trying to recapture the glory of the Earthsea trilogy, while at the same time using the plot and the characters to illustrate a vital but tired point: how dehumanizing slavery is, for both slaves and owners. The "awakening" of several of the characters also seemed stale and already overworked to me, and the stories provided no new insights into human behavior or clever new societies as window dressing and backdrop. Her writing is flawless, as always. But the vehicle was unworthy of the craftsmanship.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Josephine Ensign

    This book completely sucked me in and I basically read it in one sitting. I had forgotten what an amazing writer Le Guin is, having read The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed during my early teenage 'sci-fi phase.' I stumbled into this book of hers by a happy mistake, ordering it up along with tons of other library books in my current research on forgiveness. She deals with complex issues of racism and sexism, power and oppression, forgiveness and anger in a mesmerizing, completely abso This book completely sucked me in and I basically read it in one sitting. I had forgotten what an amazing writer Le Guin is, having read The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed during my early teenage 'sci-fi phase.' I stumbled into this book of hers by a happy mistake, ordering it up along with tons of other library books in my current research on forgiveness. She deals with complex issues of racism and sexism, power and oppression, forgiveness and anger in a mesmerizing, completely absorbing way. This makes me want to read (and re-read) all of the books in her Hainish Cycle. A favorite quote for the ending of the book: "What is one man's and one woman's love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the great revolutions of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens. If you lose the key, the door may never be unlocked. It is in our bodies that we lose or begin our freedom, in our bodies that we accept or end slavery."

  14. 4 out of 5

    Glaiza

    https://paperwanderer.wordpress.com/2...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey E

    There is a reason Le Guin is considered one of the greats. This book is a shining example of how elegant and powerful her writing can be. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ken-ichi

    If you've ever thought, as I never have, that Ursula Le Guin would write fantastically wonderful romance, may I present this book. The four stories depict a society emerging from slavery and dealing with its initial political and sexual repercussions and reiterations, but the love stories at the heart of each are both hopeful and beautiful. That said, there's definitely a weird tension between Le Guin's artificial society of Werel and American slavery (or at least how it's been depicted in ficti If you've ever thought, as I never have, that Ursula Le Guin would write fantastically wonderful romance, may I present this book. The four stories depict a society emerging from slavery and dealing with its initial political and sexual repercussions and reiterations, but the love stories at the heart of each are both hopeful and beautiful. That said, there's definitely a weird tension between Le Guin's artificial society of Werel and American slavery (or at least how it's been depicted in fiction). You could argue that science fiction is a space to explore different sides of issues like slavery without being bound to our own specific history with those issues, but slavery's kind of a big one, and to me, slavery on Werel felt a bit tame compared to what we know about slavery in America. Le Guin mentions horrors, but didn't manage to make me feel them. Maybe that's a failing on my part. A Woman's Liberation was particularly vexing for me, because the protagonist, Rakam seems oddly unscarred by her past as a sex slave. Growing beyond a history like that is perhaps impossible to explore satisfactorily in a short story, and maybe I've just become too accustomed to stories about harm that's truly indelible, but her forgiveness didn't feel quite as earned to me as the others, even though her story is the longest and most directly addresses slavery. Again, the fault is probably my own.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Silvio Curtis

    Three worthwhile stories with a few boring or incohesive aspects, then "A Woman's Liberation", which is a real masterpiece. All the stories deal with the slavery-based culture of Werel (this is a different planet from the one in City of Illusions) and with its former colony Yeowe, which has expelled the owner race in a revolution but is still struggling to create a truly free society. In addition, the book contains a section of "notes" on the history and cultures of the two planets. A fifth good Three worthwhile stories with a few boring or incohesive aspects, then "A Woman's Liberation", which is a real masterpiece. All the stories deal with the slavery-based culture of Werel (this is a different planet from the one in City of Illusions) and with its former colony Yeowe, which has expelled the owner race in a revolution but is still struggling to create a truly free society. In addition, the book contains a section of "notes" on the history and cultures of the two planets. A fifth good story would naturally belong with these but is in the volume The Birthday of the World.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Darceylaine

    As I near the end of my quest to read every scrap of fiction LeGuin ever wrote, this one does not disappoint. 4 short stories about the same world in the midst of a revolution. I love that her first set of characters are old, and how quiet and personal that story is in contrast with the later stories. I also love her sense of particularity and how truth is local in "A Man of the People." My only criticism is that her stories are trying to cover whole lifetimes,so sometimes go in and out of focus As I near the end of my quest to read every scrap of fiction LeGuin ever wrote, this one does not disappoint. 4 short stories about the same world in the midst of a revolution. I love that her first set of characters are old, and how quiet and personal that story is in contrast with the later stories. I also love her sense of particularity and how truth is local in "A Man of the People." My only criticism is that her stories are trying to cover whole lifetimes,so sometimes go in and out of focus. Forgiveness Day has an extended epilogue that was in some ways unnecessary. Also, who are those characters on the cover supposed to be, and why do they have such light skin?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    This is a collection of four novellas that revolve around one topic: liberation. Liberation of a people from slavery, liberation of women from the equally oppressive thumb of sexism. It's also about the liberation of a mind from ignorance. Because of the subject it concerns, it is quite heartbreaking. But also very beautiful. I can't explain (and I'm not even sure I understand) why Le Guin used "forgiveness" as the sort of secondary theme to hold the stories together. I won't try to. No amount o This is a collection of four novellas that revolve around one topic: liberation. Liberation of a people from slavery, liberation of women from the equally oppressive thumb of sexism. It's also about the liberation of a mind from ignorance. Because of the subject it concerns, it is quite heartbreaking. But also very beautiful. I can't explain (and I'm not even sure I understand) why Le Guin used "forgiveness" as the sort of secondary theme to hold the stories together. I won't try to. No amount of rave reviews or explanations can truly give any of Le Guin's works justice, this one included.

  20. 5 out of 5

    ~Katan~

    Note: I had given this book 4 stars, coz the Left Hand of Darkness & Dispossessed were 5. Yet I'm compelled to change my grading to 5, because (for me) it's far superior to other books I've graded with 4. And well, to be honest, all Le Guin's books are, in fact, 1000 stars out of 5.

  21. 4 out of 5

    prcardi

    Characters: 4/5 Writing Style: 4/5 World: 3/5 Resonance: 3/5 The Identify-This-Book Challenge Clues:bucolic setting foreigner to a new land viewpoint free-love advocacy cautionary, pro-environment lesson villainous capitalist plunderers inclusive treatment of sexual identity oppressor/oppressed class conflict violent sexual assault as weapon of antagonist pro-democracy message Answer (Hold computer monitor up to mirror): elcyC hsiniaH eht fo koob yrevE If Hainish Cycle fans finish this thinking they've encount Characters: 4/5 Writing Style: 4/5 World: 3/5 Resonance: 3/5 The Identify-This-Book Challenge Clues:bucolic setting foreigner to a new land viewpoint free-love advocacy cautionary, pro-environment lesson villainous capitalist plunderers inclusive treatment of sexual identity oppressor/oppressed class conflict violent sexual assault as weapon of antagonist pro-democracy message Answer (Hold computer monitor up to mirror): elcyC hsiniaH eht fo koob yrevE If Hainish Cycle fans finish this thinking they've encountered this all before, it is with good reason. They have not seen these exact same stories with these exact same characters and perhaps the message has an added wrinkle; but take the above attributes, fill in the descriptions of a new planet and people, shake it up, and out pours the present Hainish volume. Still, all should remember that it is Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish Cycle, meaning frequent encounters with lyrical prose, incisive juxtapositions, a contagious outrage at injustice, and nuance galore. One doesn't have to praise everything she writes to understand why everything she writes meets with praise. This collection was much more satisfyingly interwoven than was A Fisherman of the Inland Sea. Each of the four novellas here were relevant to the Ekumen, and, in addition, spoke to each other. Le Guin made some especially pleasing intersections and contrasts between the tales, despite continuing to neglect doing so for the bigger series. Despite this being a positive reading experience, I think I'm going to set Le Guin aside for a while. The similarities between volumes in the series really have become a burden on each new telling. I also see the weak (or in some places nonexistent) connections between books as a serious disappointment. Many authors write shared universe series where you are supposedly able to pick up any book in the series and start there without disadvantage. I usually find that not to be the case. With the Hainish Cycle, I think it is probably true, however. There's little advantage to having read the previous installment (and in some cases, like trying to figure out why the name of one of the main worlds in this collection shares the same name as one from a previous book, prior knowledge was a distraction - there is no relationship; they are not the same place). Abilities, technologies, and significant solar system-wide events that should make impacts and reappearances do not always do so, and because the chronology is so vast, disordered, and incomplete, one could only make order out if it with extensive notes, charts, and diagrams. Le Guin has obviously done this herself, as one can see from the mini-encyclopedia at the end of the volume, but I would much rather her integrate that material in the narrative and description. Finally, I always feel that Le Guin's progressive political and social messages are decades behind. That was understandable, perhaps, when I was reading The Dispossessed (1974) in year 2017, but I'm catching up to her newer works, and I'm not seeing any new, significant insights into sexism, slavery, hierarchies, or gender identity. The oppression of women in this book, for instance, is supposed to make it a serious book. Le Guin takes this further than she had in The Dispossessed by adding the overlapping layer of slavery. Was it really novel, however, in 1994, to write about how liberation from one social evil can leave women trapped in another? By the mid 1990s, Le Guin is certainly no longer the only one doing this in science fiction and fantasy. It seemed a tiresome message over which I felt guilty for not applauding. On one level, I ask if we really need continued reminders over ills so blatantly unjust. On the other, I look at indicators, the media, and my own experiences in Western democracies, and I know that we, as a society have not learned the lessons that Le Guin is teaching, even if they have been taught over and over again for decades. In notable developing countries on the continents of Africa and Asia, the reality for so many women - especially rural women - is so much like what Le Guin describes here that it is more current history than fantasy. So this is another well-intended, artfully-written, message fiction novel that surely is better than the average science fiction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Valentina Salvatierra

    Four linked novellas revolving around the convoluted relationship between the planets Werel and Yeowe, in the 'Hainish universe'. Perhaps not the best way into the Hainish universe, these novellas constitute an intriguing development of it for someone who is already somewhat familiar with Le Guin's work. Werel is a slave-capitalist planet that colonised Yeowe through four private corporations and populated it with an overwhelming majority of light-skinned assets, the Werelian term for their slave Four linked novellas revolving around the convoluted relationship between the planets Werel and Yeowe, in the 'Hainish universe'. Perhaps not the best way into the Hainish universe, these novellas constitute an intriguing development of it for someone who is already somewhat familiar with Le Guin's work. Werel is a slave-capitalist planet that colonised Yeowe through four private corporations and populated it with an overwhelming majority of light-skinned assets, the Werelian term for their slaves. The slave population eventually rebelled and a 30-year war was fought that ended in nominal Liberation. Along with this event, the two planets were in the process of establishing diplomatic relations with the Ekumen, the loose confederation of human societies across the universe which all descend from the ancient Hainish civilization. The novellas mostly take place after that Liberation, and therefore address the legacies of slavery, the aftermath of a social structure where one group systematically and inevitably dominates another. The stories show that liberation is not just about one moment of revolution, or even the outcome of a revolutionary war – it's about the struggle between people, in intimate social relations as well as wider political conflicts. Ingrained structures of domination and prejudice have infected the minds of characters like Teyeo, the noble, chivalrous, and pro-slavery warrior in 'Forgiveness Day', and have led the revolutionary leader Abberkam to disgrace and corruption in 'Betrayals'. As the title indicates, the novellas revolve around how this distorted mentality of a slave-owning society can be forgiven and remedied. Set in the same universe as Le Guin's trailblazing novels The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, this later work seems to want to remedy the masculine character of those earlier works which I know feminist critics have denounced. The result is a more intimate work that lingers on personal relations more than big ideas, even if the big ideas of liberation and forgiveness serve as the inescapable backdrop for these relations. Except for ' A Man of the People', the novellas clearly centre on female protagonists, who are more open-minded and wise than the male characters. It was women who ignited the revolution on Yeowe. Domesticity, parenthood, and patience play a much bigger role in the stories, although that's not to say the female focus is a stereotypical one. Solly, for instance, is a female representative of the Ekumen who defies Werel's rigid gender hierarchy and is trained in martial arts – her female condition does not entail domesticity or passivity at all. Four Ways to Forgiveness is both entertaining and moving, if less concerned with the exploration of abstract ideas than other Le Guin works. Because (I hope) everyone know slavery is brutal and inhumane, Le Guin does not so much explore the political ramifications of a slave-owning society as the psychological implications and after-effects of it on individuals.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Juushika

    There's an ongoing thread in the Hainish novels (and Le Guin's work in general, as far as I can remember) of how to fix a world--of the various, individual problems within a society, and who sees those problems, and why, and who has the potential to solve them, and how. The uneasiness in this, particularly given the frequent outsider PoVs in the Hainish novels, is the threat of the white savior trope (among other pitfalls). Five Ways to Forgiveness is an uneven collection which errs towards conf There's an ongoing thread in the Hainish novels (and Le Guin's work in general, as far as I can remember) of how to fix a world--of the various, individual problems within a society, and who sees those problems, and why, and who has the potential to solve them, and how. The uneasiness in this, particularly given the frequent outsider PoVs in the Hainish novels, is the threat of the white savior trope (among other pitfalls). Five Ways to Forgiveness is an uneven collection which errs towards confusing due scattered worldbuilding (the appendix clarifies a lot but, perhaps, shouldn't be necessary) and, although explained by monopolies and hegemonies, tends towards monolithic. It concerns two planets undergoing political revolutions which end a long system of slavery, and so is even more daring, and precarious, in its questions. It answers aren't always satisfying, or good, and sometimes they lean explicitly towards white savior. But they're multiple and critical, and as such robust; perhaps what they answer best is the Hainish cycle's own imperfect efforts. A Woman's Liberation is both the strongest and most punishing to read. You can't change anything from outside it. Standing apart, looking down, taking the overview, you see the pattern. What's wrong, what's missing. You want to fix it. But you can't patch it. You have to be in it, weaving it. You have to be part of the weaving. The gardens of Yaramera were utterly beautiful in their desolation. Desolate, forlorn, forsaken, all such romantic words befitted them, yet they were also rational and noble, full of peace. They had been built by the labor slaves. Their dignity and peace were founded on cruelty, misery, pain. Esdan was Hainish, from a very old people, people who had built and destroyed Yaramera a thousand times. His mind contained the beauty and the terrible grief of the place, assured that the existence of one cannot justify the other, the destruction of one cannot destroy the other. He was aware of both, only aware.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Notkin

    I must have read this book before, because it was on shelves no book should get to without being read. However, I only remember one of the four stories ("Forgiveness Day"). All four stories are set on the planets of Werel and Yeowe, which orbit the same sun, around the time that the nations on those planets are considering joining the Ekumen. Werel and Yeowe both have entrenched histories of slavery, taking somewhat different forms on the two planets. The slaves ("assets") on Yeowe, which was col I must have read this book before, because it was on shelves no book should get to without being read. However, I only remember one of the four stories ("Forgiveness Day"). All four stories are set on the planets of Werel and Yeowe, which orbit the same sun, around the time that the nations on those planets are considering joining the Ekumen. Werel and Yeowe both have entrenched histories of slavery, taking somewhat different forms on the two planets. The slaves ("assets") on Yeowe, which was colonized from Werel, win their freedom before the assets on Werel. The four stories approach the planets' history of slavery, and the resultant caste systems, from four different perspectives. All have Le Guin's stunningly beautiful writing, and her insight into characters and power dynamics, plus some extraordinary world-building. However, this collection also showcases some of the weaknesses of Le Guin's writing: in particular, the four stories together really strongly reflect her gender essentialism: while not all men are violent or power hungry, violence and hunger for power reside basically in men, and while not all women are nurturers and community builders, nurturing and community building reside basically in women. This thread has bothered me in Le Guin's writing for a long time, so I wasn't surprised to see it here. (Someone should do a deep analysis of how these preconceptions affect Left Hand of Darkness and the other stories set on Gethen.) All Le Guin is worth reading, and this is no exception. But if gender essentialism of this sort bothers you, be prepared.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Read as a part of The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin This was another story set in the Hanish universe where apparently every world is filled with some form of humans. I'm starting to see a pattern in the author's writings in terms of themes, which usually involve gender discrimination, sexuality and cultural differences. These are interesting topics and she does a good job of fleshing out the characters and their struggles, but the stories themselves tend to be Read as a part of The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin This was another story set in the Hanish universe where apparently every world is filled with some form of humans. I'm starting to see a pattern in the author's writings in terms of themes, which usually involve gender discrimination, sexuality and cultural differences. These are interesting topics and she does a good job of fleshing out the characters and their struggles, but the stories themselves tend to be quite lacking. This novella is another example of the above observations. The story gets off to a decent start, introducing us to another new world and its culture from the perspective of an 'alien' to the world (albeit she's still recognizably human, so she doesn't have issues fitting in aesthetically). The story ambles along, for the most part, fleshing out the world and its people mostly. However, even at what's supposed to be the climax of the story, nothing much happens other than the main characters have some epiphanies. Sure, I get that's the point of the whole story and it was somewhat interesting, but I was just too bored by the story to care much by that point.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Franklin

    Four stories about life on two neighboring planets, taking place before, during, and after the abolishment of their slave society. Each story was interesting in its own, but also more interesting is how together they told the bigger story of these two planets from different perspectives. Very common themes in each story are forgiveness, love, self care, and understanding on personal levels as well as ideas like how we learn from our captors, and the long and difficult journey society has to take Four stories about life on two neighboring planets, taking place before, during, and after the abolishment of their slave society. Each story was interesting in its own, but also more interesting is how together they told the bigger story of these two planets from different perspectives. Very common themes in each story are forgiveness, love, self care, and understanding on personal levels as well as ideas like how we learn from our captors, and the long and difficult journey society has to take to really change itself. Highly recommended. Fiction taking place on other planets more than science fiction. The human is the central character.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rene Sears

    I hadn't read this in years, and it was as powerful as I remembered, a meditation on freedom and hierarchies and subjugation; but also on compassion and love. The language is beautiful, spare when necessary but never less than thoughtful and lovely. The linked stories give different perspectives that add to a rich whole. Beautiful.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Beautiful stories, about identity and free will and learning to see from other's perspectives. Each story had a luminous, beautiful moment that brought tears to my eyes. Ursula, you are missed.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    The first story, Betrayals, is pretty nice, in a quiet way. It's set on one of her Hainish worlds, Yeowe, but it's not really alien or sci-fi in any way other than that -- it could easily be a story about our world. Werel is a slave-owning planet, and Yeowe its colony, and for some time when the story is set, Yeowe has had freedom, but they're still all fighting among themselves. That isn't the focus of the story, though it's wound into the background: in the foreground is an old woman, Yoss, an The first story, Betrayals, is pretty nice, in a quiet way. It's set on one of her Hainish worlds, Yeowe, but it's not really alien or sci-fi in any way other than that -- it could easily be a story about our world. Werel is a slave-owning planet, and Yeowe its colony, and for some time when the story is set, Yeowe has had freedom, but they're still all fighting among themselves. That isn't the focus of the story, though it's wound into the background: in the foreground is an old woman, Yoss, and a disgraced politician, Abberkam, who have both chosen to do a kind of religious retreat. They come together slowly and talk, a little. Not much really happens, if you're looking for big space opera SF, but the characters feel real and close and are interesting. The second story, Forgiveness Day, seemed more lively and fun from the word go. Solly, the main character, is an envoy to Werel from the Ekumen, and her observations of the world are more lively than those of Yoss (obviously, for good reasons). The other main character, Teyeo, is more stiff and stern, and you start off biased against him because of Solly, but I got to like him too. It's just odd to go from one to the other, disliking the first when in the POV of the other -- it's third person limited, not first person, but the effect is the same -- and then vice versa. It gets easier, later on. I wish there was just a bit more of Teyeo's POV, but I liked this one, the slow coming together. The third story, A Man of the People, began on Hain -- now I think about it, how many stories have there been actually set on Hain? which are they? I should look back through the various anthologies and see -- but ended in Yeowe. All of the stories are about freedom, but this one is about women's freedom. The character and the customs he grows up with, and the world he goes to, are all interesting in themselves, but even better when they all tie in to questions like what is freedom? and what is truth? I love the way I can read Le Guin's thoughts on our own history in this. As good an argument against 'SF is just silly escapism' as I've ever seen... The fourth story, A Woman's Liberation, tied into the third one, and was pleasing because it was a woman's own voice -- the one thing that I don't like so much is that in the third story, the women's liberation is from the point of view of someone who is male, and that one of the women he mentions, important as she is to him, isn't given a name... This fixed that. I liked her voice, the slow and difficult unfolding of her story, and loved the ending, the opening up to what had been taken from her, a full freedom. I think the latter two stories are my favourite, but all four of them make a world I was happy to lose myself in, for a day.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Outis

    A smart and memorable political book about slavery, imperialism, patriarchy and social change. It's mostly reflexive in tone, light in plot and heavy in worldbuilding. It's of course woven with intriguing cultural stuff of the made up variety (including a look at Hain) and Le Guin tempered the exposition and her lecturing with a lot of up-close-and-personal stuff. There are a bunch of interesting and sometimes touching characters as well as several narrators who are often far from omniscient. Al A smart and memorable political book about slavery, imperialism, patriarchy and social change. It's mostly reflexive in tone, light in plot and heavy in worldbuilding. It's of course woven with intriguing cultural stuff of the made up variety (including a look at Hain) and Le Guin tempered the exposition and her lecturing with a lot of up-close-and-personal stuff. There are a bunch of interesting and sometimes touching characters as well as several narrators who are often far from omniscient. All in all, a compelling mix... if you're into that sort of thing. The politics are grittier and more believable than I'd expected from Le Guin. That was a pleasant surprise but her bouts of politically correct idealism shine through all the more. At times the political storytelling is truly great (the part which ends with white papers lying in the blood for instance) but the grating bits keep me from embracing the book fully. Be warned the beginning is slow. It will surely drive away the kind of reader which isn't after this sort of book but if you're on the fence, rest assured the setup pays off! Another thing: there's a lot of ugly stuff as you might expect considering the subject matter, including a heavy dose of ugly sexual stuff. You know who wrote this so of course it's not gratuitous or needlessly graphic... but it is nevertheless heavy (somewhat more than would have been strictly required for authenticity). You've been warned. Finally, something which I found aggravating but which would not bother most readers: Le Guin named another planet "Werel" in the same fictional universe. I was trying to understand this book's setting by relating it to another's and I struggled more and more to reconcile what I knew with what I was learning until the Wikipedia told me what the problem was. So if you too have memories of Werel, don't waste your time like I did: there's no relationship between the two planets.

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