The most beautiful collection of stories of Ursula I've read so far. Such interesting and deep themes, such a wonderful and inspiring prose. The Matter of Seggri is so powerful and meaningful!
Every story is a jewel. The best book of 2016 so far.
This is my first read from Le Guin’s Hainish cycles. Not having read any of the previous works can pose some challenges since some stories are derived from settings of her previous novels (e.g. Left Hand of Darkness and Four Ways of Forgiveness, etc). Switching between the worlds in which the stories set can be exhausting, and I have to admit that I nearly give up when I read “Old Music and the Slave Women”—the political strife in this story isn’t less complex than the one in our daily life. Still it is worthwhile to persist. In fact, “Old Music” later becomes among my favorite stories in this collection.
Sexuality is one main focus in at least the first half of this collection. One thing that fascinates me a lot is that most characters in this book are bisexual. Even though the statement that everyone is bisexual isn’t new nowadays, it still amazes me to see its fictional representation and how natural Le Guin treats it as a given. In fact, this book is pretty mind-blowing to me in terms of gender issues. After all, it’s one thing to read the theory and another to see the “actual practice” in story form. It definitely changes some of my views about certain issues nowadays. However, Le Guin’s feminist stance has its limitation. As one commentator on the web (DaNee) remarks, male and male group in Le Guin’s late works seem (I would add, almost predictably) capable of violence and hierarchical thinking only. While we do have some fully developed male characters such as Old Music or Nova Luis, I agree with this observation in most cases, especially straight males (the collegials in “The Matter of Seggri,” being homosexual themselves, does that free them from the violence that males seem doomed to in this book?).
There are parts which can easily fall into cliché if written by other authors. If “Old Music” is at the hand of others, for example, the political struggle in it would probably end with a romantic triumph of the Liberation Army, as I can imagine. Fortunately, Le Guin is the kind of author who avoids cliché and works out a new, sophisticated light from her materials. And her graceful style is simply a delight to read. The ending of “Paradises Lost” is so elegantly moving to me that I almost feel like crying—which I rarely do when reading novels....Continua