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The Birthday of the World (Hainish Cycle)

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  2,050 ratings  ·  163 reviews
For more than four decades, Ursula K. Le Guin has enthralled readers with her imagination, clarity, and moral vision. The recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the National Book Award, the Kafka Award, and five Hugo and five Nebula Awards, this renowned writer has, in each story and novel, created a provocative, ever-evolving universe filled with diverse worlds ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2000)
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The Birthday of the World and other stories by Ursula K. LeGuin is a beautifully written collection of stories crafted by an artist whose ability to create deeply meaningful speculative fiction has placed her high among peers.

Providing a foreword to her work, LeGuin makes a persuasive case that the collection of short stories should be considered its own genre. While her reasoning makes sense and should be considered, LeGuin really makes her case in the pages that follow. Creating a panorama of
I think it’s something of a cliché to say that science fiction is about the here and now. Reading Iain M. Banks or Vernor Vinge, who write (awesome) adventure novels about post humans and super-intelligent computers set in space in the far future, it’s easy to forget just how much light SF can shed on the condition of us earth-bound, unenhanced humans of the early 21st century. And then you read Ursula Le Guin and remember.

For that reason alone, The Birthday of the World is a spectacular book:
Wow. I was an anthropology and sociology major at the University of Michigan, and I picked up this book for free at a used book sale. Impressed would be an understatement. Guin's stories are as thorough as the ethnographies that I have to read for my Anthro classes; class, gender, inequality, signification, and more are covered in a writing that envelopes and enchants the reader. My favorite story is "Paradise Lost", a story about the culture and mythology that are created in a space vessel of h ...more
Ursula Leguin is a genius at speculative fiction. What she does is create worlds like little tiny machines, with something at the heart of them that drives them differently from ours. Then she starts them and sees where they go, and writes beautiful, beautiful stories about them.

This collection of stories explores a variety of worlds. It takes us back to the world of "The Left Hand of Darkness," where the inhabitants are genderless most of the time, only becoming male or female for short periods
"Coming of Age in Karhide" ~ A pretty straightforward title for a pretty straightforward story. If you read The Left Hand of Darkness and wondered about Kemmer and exactly how it worked, this will clarify things. Fascinating.
"The Matter of Seggri" ~ Seggri is a world where the number of females is greater than males to a magnitude of 6. Males are venerated and cosseted and do little more than compete in games and impregnate females. The females do pretty much everything else and, it could be arg
That was really fascinating. It was definitely a different approach to science fiction than I've read before - and I'll attribute a good portion of it to the author's gender. The stories are written with a beautiful tenderness, anthropological explorations of unfamiliar worlds and races and relationships, made real through very relatable themes of love and friendship. They're very curious. Some of the worlds are sketchily described, while Paradises Lost, the final story and the longest by far, i ...more
Dylan Tomorrow
The Matter of Seggri: I would not have expected this one to floor me that much. That's now already two stories that really hit me emotionally, and I haven't even read all of them yet!(view spoiler) ...more
I was utterly absorbed in all of the stories in this book. Le Guin is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers, and I look forward to reading more. She approaches science fiction like anthropology or ancient history, considering the cultural bases for our identities, inhibitions, and expectations. By inventing, with meticulous and compelling detail, cultures and bodies, she makes the reader reexamine her own frameworks for understanding the world.

Le Guin is also a master of characterization,
Many of these short stories take place in the same universe The Left Hand of Darkness does, but Le Guin goes further in exploring matters to do with sex and love for a few of them. More than just being 'experiments', though, her worlds are complete, organic. You can also picture them growing beyond her, the births and deaths and forests extending beyond what we can see on the page.

What if...

- A marriage were a foursome (a sedoretu with a 'Day' male/female pair and an 'Evening' male/female pair),
Wow. Usually short story anthologies get a middling rating from me because one or two standouts function as the tent poles. That's not the case here at all- each story is excellent in its own right. I loved learning more about people, places, and cultures in the Hainish Universe. But my favorite story was the multi-generational interstellar starship voyage. Fantastic collection, and a must-read if you've read The Dispossessed or Left Hand of Darkness.

A review must follow after reading this fabulous short story collection. So far I have completed "Coming of Age in Karhide," "The Matter of Seggri," and "Unchosen Love." I have yet to be disappointed within any of these stories.

"Coming of Age in Karhide"

The first story I imagined as an extended and detailed footnote taken out of Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness," an interesting novel I enjoyed but hardly remember anything about. As soon as I began, however, the memories
This is a collection of short fiction, 8 stories set in UKL's various worlds and universes. I found them all to be engaging, serious, and good. The first one, Coming of Age in Karhide is set on the world of The Left Hand of Darkness, which is a world I've missed. It was cool to get to revisit it and learn more about the culture of Karhide on Gethen. I won't take you through each story, but suffice it to say that some are sad, others are joyous or funny, but all of them are so very real. The char ...more
Arun Divakar
Sep 01, 2014 Arun Divakar marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yet-to-finish
Wonderfully written with in-depth observations into the nature of societal views on gender and sexuality. Shelving this book for the moment for it would make more sense to read the rest of the Hainish cycle before I come back to this one.

We'll meet again.
It was nice to be able to read stories about the different planets of evolving humans that I had encountered in previous novels, but the real crown jewel of this collection is the novella at the end, "Paradises Lost". In it, Di Chew (Di Qiu, the Chinese Pinyin word for Earth) sends an envoy of humans to explore and settle a planet, Hsin Di Chew (Xin Di Qiu, or New Earth) hundreds of years away. As the envoy cycles through a few generations waiting to arrive, some form a religion deeming that exi ...more
Ellen Welsh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rich Daley
Billed as a short story collection, this is really a vehicle for Ursula Le Guin's 2000 long story Paradises Lost, which is far away the highlight of the collection and worth five stars in its own right.

It imagines what would really happen if we sent a ship on a 200-year six-generation voyage. Instead of concentrating on the voyage part or the science part, it concentrates on what happens to isolated communities of people and how those effects might apply in space. The title is quite apt, as it h
Natalie Bowers
4.5/5 stars

One Saturday afternoon, when I was about twelve years old, my dad put a tape in our VCR and pressed play. After the pounding of the 20th Century Fox drums had faded, there was a quiet pause followed by a second dramatic fanfare. (Even now, nearly thirty years later, the sound of it makes my insides tickle with anticipation!) As the trumpets trumpeted, little blue words appeared on a space-blackened screen: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … And thus began my love affair with
The first chunk of stories in the book deal wonderfully with gender and relationships and oppression in the way LeGuin always shines at. Her characters are always human and their relationships are sensitively drawn to the point that no premise feels unweildy or weighed down by any speculative-fiction cheesiness. The story that has the most potential for that kind of pitfall is "The Matter of Seggri", which is roughly just a gender-reversed story about sex-specific abortions and prioritizing one ...more
Beverly Diehl
LeGuin is SUCH a brilliant writer that on the one hand she inspires me to write, to reach for the stars, on the other hand I despair of ever getting close to her AMAZING, lyrical prose. Her work is filed in Science Fiction, but truly, she is all about who WE are, now.

This is a collection of eight short stories/novellas, what she calls a "story suite," that is, worlds/stories set in the same mythical universe. Her stories simultaneously pose the question, "What would life/society be like if:

Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books were some of my absolute favorites while I was growing up, but I found when I came back to them a few years ago that they left me relatively cold; the language was more formal than I like in my books these days. Enter these short stories about life on a number of planets in the same universe. This is scifi anthropology at its finest: really interesting speculative concepts explored and taken to their logical extremes, without sacrificing strong characterization or ...more
This is my absolute favorite of Le Guin's short story collections. Every single story in it is among my favorites. Unlike some of her early and sometimes difficult and bitter dystopian short stories, these stories generally deal with worlds where things are going right, or at least the way they've always been, and sit in the middle of them comfortably looking around instead of hurrying to arrive at any plot points. Of course every story has a point to make - the first part of "The Matter of Segg ...more
Great collection of shorter sci-fi stories by this amazing author :) The last story, "Paradises Lost" was my favorite. I love all her different worlds' different social/sexual/romantic situations, they are all so interesting to think about. This book was especially great because the stories were deep enough to get my brain really going, but nice and short for my ADHD brain ;) There are many different worlds in this collection of stories, and it was interesting to read one after another that had ...more
Some of the stories in this collection were great and some were just fairly good, but I found something I liked about every story and something to think about in each of them. Le Guin skilfully uses societies that are very different from our own to present themes that matter in ours, and only occasionally does it feel like she's hitting you over the head with a moral.

If I read this again I'd try not to read the whole thing in one day, both because it got a bit confusing, especially for the stori
Pixie Dust
Each of the short stories in this collection tells of a different world. The social systems of each world are so interesting that the narratives in each short story, though impressive in their own right, are upstaged by their context and seem to serve mainly as the vehicles for explaining the culture of the worlds. The social structure of each world seems centred around the sexual and reproductive customs of each, and Le Guin really does come up with some extraordinary ideas about gender roles a ...more
I absolutely loved this collection of short stories by a writer with an extraordinary imagination and keen sense of storytelling. I'm normally not partial to the format of the short story, but the short tales in this book were beautifully written with economy of style; I wouldn't have wanted them to be expanded. They were like short glimpses into another life, exactly the right length. In fact the story that was least attractive to me was the expanded short story--novella?--at the end, Paradises ...more
The five stars go mainly for the last story,''paradises lost'' It's the second story i have ever read that deals with the concept of a ''generation ship'' (the first one was Non-stop by Brian Aldiss -strongly recommended). Like many works of Le Guin this one is also a study on human emotions,behaviour,reactions under new and uncertain circumstances.

Among the other stories some were very interesting, i think ''The Birthday of the World'' deserves your attencion the most.
Feb 11, 2008 Sylvie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sylvie by: Dan
I am not normally a Sci-fi fan; I was given this book by a friend, and I am really getting into it. I am really enjoying the complex social/sexual relationships she creates between men/women and how she explores gender issues. It's interesting to read so many human dynamics taking place in an imagined world, but it's almost like LeGuin holds a mirror up to humanity and says "This is what we look like". It's not always pretty or happy or meaningful, but it is very human.
I could not finish this book, possibly because it require more attention than I could give it in the Airport and on the plane. The few stories I read did have very interesting exploration of alternative social structures, but the characters lacked depth to me. I am guessing this book would be better the second time around, since I would not have to relearn so many new terms and ideas. It just did not intrigue me enough to give it another shot.
This book contains eight short stories, all of which I enjoyed immensely. I had never read Le Guin before, so I wanted to get a feel for her writing through something like short stories. And I've come to the conclusion that I really like her writing! Not only does she create interesting and intriguing worlds, she brings up social issues that would have never crossed my mind but are almost difficult to think about. It really made me think.
The stories in this book by Ursula K. Le Guin force the reader to re-evaluate the way we think about relationships and power. By giving us characters and conflicts from different planets and different times, she breaks all the rules we know when it comes to gender, sexuality, religion, politics, etc. She forces us to see the tensions in the relationships we take for granted. Perfect for scifi geek feminists.
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As of 2013, Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. Forthcoming ...more
More about Ursula K. Le Guin...

Other Books in the Series

Hainish Cycle (10 books)
  • Rocannon's World (Hainish Cycle #1)
  • Planet of Exile (Hainish Cycle #2)
  • City of Illusions
  • The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4)
  • The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #5)
  • The Word for World is Forest (Hainish Cycle #6)
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness (Hainish Cycle #7)
  • The Telling (Hainish Cycle #8)
  • A Fisherman of the Inland Sea
A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1) The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2) The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle, #3) The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle, #4) The Dispossessed (Hainish Cycle, #5)

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