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The Word for World is Forest (Hainish Cycle #2)

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,201 Ratings  ·  528 Reviews
The planet Athshe was a paradise whose people were blessed with a mystical awareness of existence.

Then the conquerors arrived and began to rape, enslave, and kill humans with a flicker of humanity. The athseans were unskilled in the ways of war, and without weapons. But the gentle tribesmen possessed strange powers over their dreams. And the alien conquerors had taught the
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Published December 7th 2009 by Audible Frontiers (first published March 1972)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nataliya
"Maybe after I die people will be as they were before I was born, and before you came. But I do not think they will."
In every book by Le Guin there is that special something for me, something that grabs a firm hold of my mind and heart and stubbornly hangs on, refusing to let go, burrowing deeply, growing roots, sprouting shoots that will go on to quietly, unobtrusively, almost imperceptibly change my mental landscape forever - by making me really think, by challenging established ideas, preco
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Lyn
Jun 29, 2015 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“If it’s all the rest of us who are killed by the suicide, it’s himself who the murderer kills”

So muses author Ursula K. LeGuin in her 1972 novel The Word for World is Forest. The winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novella, LeGuin’s mastery of the language and the genre are in full display as well as her remarkable imaginative powers.

Revisiting her “Hainish” cycle of works (not a series of books but rather a group of stand alone works with a thematic central core – somewhat simi
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Tatiana
Sep 18, 2010 Tatiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 2010
In all honesty, the basic premise of this novella is the one I've read/seen many times before both in fiction (the latest version is James Cameron's "Avatar") and reality.

A group of evil and greedy Terrans is in a process of colonizing a new planet - Athshe. What it means, as you can guess, is that Terrans destroy Athshe's ecosystem by cutting down the planet's forests and sending wood to their mother planet Earth (which by this time is nothing but a barren desert) and enslave and abuse the nat
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Apatt
Jul 13, 2013 Apatt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, sf-top-20
Good short books are profitable reads, therefore great ones are greatly profitable. I am thinking of the time invested in reading the entire book and the pleasure, inspiration or education gained from them. This book clocks in at 189 pages but Le Guin made every word count.

Like most of Ms. Le Guin's works this is a thought provoking story. What happen when we introduce evil into a hitherto innocent and passive culture? The Athsheans are very vivid creations, the story of their enslavement and e
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Brad
Dec 08, 2010 Brad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, ecological, ethics
Hainish Wars: Episode VI
Return of the Anthropologist
*

67 EXT. FOREST CLEARING – TOWN OF ENDTOR - LJUBOV'S CRASH SITE 67

A strange little green furry face with huge black eyes comes slowly into view. The creature is an ATHSHEAN, by the name of SELVER. He seems somewhat puzzled, and prods LJUBOV with the butt end of a spear. The anthropologist groans; this frightens the stubby ball of green fuzz and SELVER prods him again. LJUBOV sits up and stares at the three-foot-high Athshean. He tries to figure
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Ken-ichi
My friend Josh described this as the book James Cameron ripped off to make Avatar, to which I replied, "Can you really rip off imperialist guilt? Also, hello, dragons." While I stand by both of those assertions, Cameron clearly lifted heavily from this book, so, ok Josh, you at least half win. Like basically all suckers for the Pocahontas trope, though, Cameron failed to grasp the central irony of said trope, namely that it redeems the oppressor while continuing to rob the oppressed of their age ...more
Bryan
Mar 31, 2012 Bryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, favorites
Great book by a great writer. If you've not yet read any Ursula K. Le Guin, then start with this book. If you've only read a couple by Le Guin and are wondering what next to sample, follow up with this book next.

I've only read two other titles by Le Guin, but I wish I had started here first. Le Guin's work is dense and requires some work on the part of the reader, but this book (actually just a novella) is far more accessible and serves as a great introduction to themes and concepts used in her
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Chris
Mar 07, 2010 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since I sat, polite, but wanting desperately to excuse myself from the spilt paint, methodical cacophony of clumsy dialogue, garish colors, interludes of mind numbing dead air, segueing into blindingly confusing scenes of (horrible) video game action, and a story that was told to death 70 years ago by people who had had so much passion for the worlds they were creating. A film which quite literally created a world with $300,000,000 worth of CGI, horrifically failing to trump the real juice… ... ...more
Penny
I've come to regard Ursula K. Le Guin very highly and think she's become one of my favourite authors. Her stories are beautiful and deep and always touch me in a way that is hard to describe. For any who've yet to pick up one of her novels, I can't recommend her work enough.

The different perspectives given in this story are so contrary and the light it sheds so illuminating. The conflict is unavoidable and the reactions are sometimes so misguided but always completely believable.

One of the thin
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Ben Flasher
Much as I'm in agreement with this book's message of environmentalism and nonviolence, I found its delivery of that message to be preachy, joyless, and heavy-handed. Its tale of colonist humans and their conflict with the native Athsheans transplants the worst atrocities of colonialism's past into the future, but loses any subtlety and nuance in the process.

It doesn't help that the Athsheans embody just about every romanticized stereotype of the native primitive. Like the most Disneyfied take on
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Sarah Anne
I need to think about my rating. The story has some very important messages but I wish I'd never read it. But everything else deserves five stars.

EDIT: So this book had a really strong effect on me and I feel that it deserves five stars for that alone. Emotionally I really struggled with this story and found it quite devastating. I also found it terribly realistic and totally heartbreaking. Yes, there's a part of me that wishes I had never read it but I also think it was really well done and abs
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Lotz
This here’s another book-club read. Because I didn’t pick it, I came into this short novel with almost no expectations, which is always a nice way to begin a book; for when you have no expectations, everything good tastes sweeter, and everything bad less bitter.

Le Guin’s little parable was a pleasant surprise. She is a fine writer, especially when she is describing scenery. Her prose is not workmanlike, but generally well crafted. I also found it pleasant that she switched her narrator’s perspec
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Stefan
Jul 29, 2010 Stefan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Tor recently re-released the Hugo winner The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin in a lovely paperback edition, so I thought it finally was time to check out this famous short novel, originally published in the seventies.

The novel is part of Le Guin’s famous HAINISH CYCLE (see also, among others, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed) but can be read completely separately, although being familiar with the larger story will give you a better understanding of the broader context
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Nur Ötken
May 04, 2016 Nur Ötken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kitabı bitirdim ama üzerine ne diyeceğimden emin değilim. Bilimkurgu türünde karanlık bir distopyaydı. Konuyu kısaca ifade etmem gerekirse, kendi dünyalarındaki bütün ormanları bitirmiş olan Arzlıların Athshe adındaki bir başka dünyaya koloniler kurmaya başlaması, oradaki ormanları ve ırkı yok etmeye başlaması diyebilirim. Ama işin özünde çok büyük bir insani sorgulama yatıyor. Dünyaya Orman Denir gerçekliğimizin acımasızca yüzümüze vurulması gibiydi. Kitap incecik ama öyle bir oturuşta, bir nef ...more
Arielle Walker
And people still think Avatar had an original concept.
(Though I'll admit the visuals are gorgeous)

Le Guin did it first, and did it better. The Word for World is Forest is heartwrenchingly beautiful, all the more for its continued relevence nearly half a century since first publication.

Her introduction to this edition is also exquisite, and discusses not only the need and reasoning behind the writing of this story, but also the need for the creation of any such story.

"The pursuit of art, by ar
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Inhibitor Medichine
Terrific novella, obviously influential to James Cameron's Avatar (which I now believe can be 100% constructed from elements of Old Man's War & The Word for World is Forest). Also very influential to the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. More on that in a second.

It's a moralistic story, and it had some insightful things to say about dangerous ideas entering the public consciousness. Basically, there is no going back. Here, specifically in relation to the concept of murder.

I enjoyed the waking dre
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Simon
Jun 06, 2015 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Once I got over the feeling that I was reading the book version of the film "Avatar" I came to rather enjoy this short novel.

I've long been a fan of her work but haven't read any of her books for a while and so took a long time coming to this. Pretty much knowing the plot in advance I was worried that it would be overly didactic. Indeed, the author's own introduction warned me that this would be the case. So well armed with this expectation I gritted my teeth and got stuck in and consequently di
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Sarah
Sep 03, 2015 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Gutting. Even reading this after its copycats on page and screen(::cough, Avatar::), I still find it powerful. And sure, I don't think the premise was new then either, but Le Guin brings her own eye and ear to this story, telling it with sociological and ecological detail that others would probably leave out. Her lovely language, too, but also her anthropological eye as she examines literal little green men (and women) with an entirely different mindset and physiology from our own. And Davidson, ...more
Dorothea
Jun 22, 2012 Dorothea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part evocative and subtle, part heavy-handed but still compelling.

This is a novella about the devastation a human colony wreaks on a forested world and its inhabitants, and how the inhabitants must fight back despite their habitual peacefulness -- written by a U.S. author during the U.S.'s participation in the Vietnam War.

... You see why it might be heavy-handed.

The story is told from three alternating perspectives. We open with Captain Davidson, a macho human-chauvinist, the author of many outr
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Rob
I first came across this title via Wayne Barlowe's Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials ; and when I was at the library this last time around, I said to myself: How can you have gotten this far without reading any Ursula K. Le Guin? those short stories just aren't going to cut it, you know! But when they didn't have A Wizard of Earthsea , I decided to go for this one. Mostly because it was short. (And I figured: Why not sneak in another book to put me two ahead of pace for this year's goal? [1 ...more
Max
LeGuin's prose shines, her worlds are balanced and fantastic and sad, she neither flinches from nor condemns the human condition. Every time I return to her I feel like I'm drinking from some wise, secret well.

Much of the book's descriptive attitude parallels James C Scott's notions of legibility and metis in SEEING LIKE A STATE. Anthropology is the common ancestor, of course, but I wonder about the proper genealogy of these ideas.
Oscar
Los humanos hace uno años que llegaron al planeta Athshe o Nueva Haití. Se trata de un destacamento de militares y hacheros cuya misión es conseguir madera, ya que en la Tierra no queda absolutamente nada y se ha convertido en un objeto más valioso que el oro. Este planeta está compuesto por 40 continentes completamente cubiertos de bosques, y también está habitado por nativos, los crichis, seres de un metro de altura cubiertos de un pelaje verdoso. Los crichis son seres pacíficos que son utiliz ...more
Nikki
This is a story with a familiar theme. I see a lot of people comparing this to Avatar, looking at the reviews. This is Ursula Le Guin, so it's better than Avatar, though not as flashy. The writing is not Le Guin's best, in my opinion, but it's still clear and expressive, and lyrical. The story is not new, and I get the impression from the reviews that it was very political and topical at the time it was written -- not a context I share in, so I can't comment on that. Le Guin isn't so shallow a w ...more
Becky
Dec 20, 2010 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm still not sure what I think of this book, and am giving it only three stars in an attempt at impartiality.

It has the now-classic plot of Big Bad Colonialist American-Types cutting down trees and persecuting the peace-loving natives *cough*Avatar*cough*Fern Gully*cough*. For all that it's an actually nuanced and compelling story.

Unfortunately to get to the compelling nuances, you have to get through the first thirty pages, which are narrated by the over-the-top imperialist misogynist patriot
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Ricardo
Nov 28, 2015 Ricardo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biblioteca
Por su brevedad y por el hecho de que su argumento es algo que hemos visto recreado muchas veces tanto antes como después (el más reciente y flagrante ejemplo vendría a ser la película "Avatar" de James Cameron) se podría pensar que es una obra menor de Ursula K. Le Guin pero no es así. Es por el contrario una novela muy concisa y a pesar de sus pocas páginas toca temas muy interesantes y poco habituales en el terreno de la ciencia-ficción espacial, especialmente la idea de una cultura en la que ...more
Mark
May 28, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Word for World Is Forest is an unusual addition to the Gollancz SF Masterworks series, yet a terrific one.

Being little more than 100 pages (and that includes a three-page Introduction by Ken MacLeod and a six page Introduction by the author herself) it was the winner of the Hugo Award in 1973 for Best Novella.

Despite its brevity, it is a masterclass in the case of the adage that sometimes ‘less is more’. Like Fritz Leiber’s equally brief Award-winning novella The Big Time (won in 1958 and re
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Clay Kallam
Jul 05, 2011 Clay Kallam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Perhaps seeking to build on the success of the movie Avatar, Tor has re-released Ursula LeGuin’s Hugo-winning classic, “The Word for World Is Forest” (Tor, $11.99, 189 pages). The reason? There’s an invasion of a distant planet by humans, a planet that already holds a less-advanced civilization, at least technologically speaking.

LeGuin has said that “The Word for World Is Forest” was greatly influenced by the Vietnam War (the novella upon which it is based came out in 1972; the book in 1976), bu
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Simon Mcleish
Mar 17, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in June 2011.

One of Le Guin's shortest novels is also one of her most effective. The Word for World is Forest is a telling description of the ecological and moral atrocities committed by a group of human colonists on a peaceful world covered in forest, and how their barbaric treatment of the apparently passive Athshean natives provokes a bloody uprising, leaving the natives changed forever, fallen, as it were, from their state of innocence.

The Word for World
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Kapila
Feb 12, 2012 Kapila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderfully quick and intense read.

But honestly, I do wonder sometimes whether Ursula LeGuin gets tired of other people making truckloads of money from ideas that sound eerily like her own. HP was one, though albeit a very different book from the other boy-wizard from Earthsea. Consider the jacketflap information from this book:

The Athsheans. Theirs is a fragile culture, deceptively simple. Beneath their pastoral life in the abudnant forests is a complex and almost mystical understanding of t
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Mazzy
Sep 07, 2015 Mazzy rated it really liked it
In this straightforward tale Ursula K. Le Guin extrapolates what humans did on this planet to a science fiction universe. This short part of the Hainish Cycle works well; a story about how humans (try to) colonize a planet inhabited by natives who live in close touch with nature (and how wrong that is and it needs to fail) is nothing groundbreaking – maybe back when she wrote it much more than today – but she delivers the story in her own style and with her genuine ideas – politically and sociol ...more
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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 (8 books)
  • The Dispossessed
  • Rocannon's World
  • Planet of Exile
  • City of Illusions
  • The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness
  • The Telling (Hainish Cycle #8)

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“A forest ecology is a delicate one. If the forest perishes, its fauna may go with it. The Athshean word for world is also the word for forest.” 13 likes
“For if it's all the rest of us who are killed by the suicide, it's himself whom the murderer kills; only he has to do is over, and over, and over.” 10 likes
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