So I've had this book since forever. I remember really enjoying it as a child and it still holds its old charm for me as an adult.
For those not in theSo I've had this book since forever. I remember really enjoying it as a child and it still holds its old charm for me as an adult.
For those not in the know, this is a wump (or more specifically, several wumps):
They are likely the reason I find Capybaras awesome. For those ignorant of these fair beasts, here is a picture of one:
Here is a picture of a family of them:
And here is one with a caiman:
OK, maybe I am just using this review as an excuse to post Capybara pictures, but the resemblance is striking.
Anyway, since this site is called GoodReads and not GoodLargeRodents, suppose I should talk about the book.
It is a very straight forward environmental parable about the perils of resource exploitation and non-sustainable economic growth wrapped up in a Manichean conflict between nature and industry with our poor wumps stuck in between.
The villains of this morality play are the aptly named "Pollutians", refuges from a previous planet they spoiled. Having learned nothing from their previous lifestyle they continue their non-sustainable way of life, driving the poor wumps underground. The Pollutians use up the planet's resources, foul its environment, and generally make a mess of things. However, instead enacting policies and changes to their way of life, the Pollutians instead send out scouts to find a new planet. The Pollutians leave when they find such a planet, letting the wumps reclaim their broken planet. Since this is a children's book it naturally turns out alright as nature finds a way to overcome the Pollutians damage and the wumps return to their idyllic lifestyle.
On the surface this is a good lesson to teach children: respect the environment and don't pollute. I certainly would want these values instilled in the next generation. However, the wumps in this book are very passive. They cannot and do not resist the Pollutians, fleeing to underground caverns. If the Pollutians never left they would still be down there, living out their dark and meager existence. A better lesson for children is to be proactive in dealing with problems and not hide underground waiting for the solution to happen on its own.
Further, the ending also teaches a level of passivity. The Wump World is able to naturally repair the damage caused by the Pollutians. But this is not always the case in the real world. Environments have been permanently damaged by pollution and resource exploitation. Waiting around for nature to fix it or for the industries that damaged the environment to leave the planet are not reasonable responses to real world problems. Extractive industries won't pick up and leave the planet, they will pick up and move to a different part of the planet. Without environmental protections we could very well end up like the Pollutians of Wump World, but without the benefit of interstellar travel.
So by all means read this book to your children, but be sure to stress the importance of a being proactive in solving problems.
OK, that is kind of a bummer to end on. How about more Capybara pictures!!!!!
My parents got me this book as a birthday gift during the height of my fascination with WWII history (late middle school through high school). I had hMy parents got me this book as a birthday gift during the height of my fascination with WWII history (late middle school through high school). I had heard about references to this book and how it predicted a lot of the events that would transpire during the actual Pacific War between America and Japan. While I enjoyed reading this a lot, I think the author got just as much right (surprise attack on the US Fleet, kamikaze attacks, etc.) about the conflict as he got wrong such as:
-Aircraft carriers would only be useful for scouting purposes and not be a decisive instrument of war. -Japan would cripple the Panama canal to prevent the flow of material from the Atlantic to the Pacific. -Japan would launch the war in order to forestall domestic social unrest (namely communist influence among industrial workers). -Americans of Japanese ancestry would rise up in Hawaii to disrupt the American war effort. -Poisonous gas would be used in combat.
Of course I can't blame Bywater for being wrong, the man wasn't psychic.
He was very good writer who crafted a very believable conflict between the U.S. and Japan. He had a very good eye for technical details of military equipment as well as military strategy. The story primarily concerns itself with the disposition of military forces and material with little in terms of characters or character development. It isn't a book in a conventional manner, more like a series of newspaper dispatches from an omniscient reporter detailing the developments of the conflict (which makes sense since Bywater was a Naval correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph).
All in all I really enjoyed this bit of speculative military fiction and would recommend it for any WWII buff. It was different enough from the actual Pacific War that the developments and battles felt fresh. My only quibble was that (at least in my version) the beginning over every chapter had a quick synopsis of what would happen in that chapter. So much for literary tension!...more
On the surface the Left Hand of Darkness was about an emissary from an intergalactic organization of planets attempting to bring a new planet into theOn the surface the Left Hand of Darkness was about an emissary from an intergalactic organization of planets attempting to bring a new planet into the union. The world in question, however, is quite unique. Apart from being near the extreme cold end of planets that can support human life (the planet is informally referred to as Winter by the Emissary), the humans that inhabit it are ambisexual. During most of the month they are neither male nor female, but for several days they will enter a phase of sexual activity where they can possess either male or female... qualities.
The Left Hand of Darkness struck me more as a world building exercise than a straight forward story. It interspersed the main narrative with bits of folklore from the planet Winter's culture. The first half of the book alternated every other chapter in this manner and then gave way to the main narrative for most of the rest of the story.
I did find the concept of a (primarily) asexual society interesting. Le Guin posits some interesting impacts on society of this arrangement (no concept of war, philosophical alignment more with holism than dualism, etc.). I really would have liked a more in depth examination of the various cultures on the planet but felt that the narrative drive and the perspective it was written from limited this option.
Viewing the society from the outsider's perspective did little to deeply explore the world. Once the narrative switched to a native, there was little discussion of the wider Winter culture and instead concentrated on the day to day experience of the native.
Then there was a huge chunk of the book that was just the Emissary and his companion traversing hundreds of miles of ice and snow. I suppose Le Guin wanted to take that time to grow and develop the relationship between the envoy and the native but it just felt like this section (which occupied what felt like 25% of the book) was very repetitive and uninteresting. Try to travel, run into obstacle x (maybe a blizzard, maybe bad ice), stop for a bit, eat rations, rinse and repeat. It really killed what little momentum the book had.
So this book could have been really great. I think Le Guin did an excellent job creating this fictional world and society (really top notch soft sci-fi) but fell flat in showing the reader the world. The main narrative provided too narrow of a view. There was a lot of telling but not enough showing. At the end of the day the lackluster story overshadowed the fascinating world Le Guin conceived....more
Peter Pan: Narcissistic, charismatic, cult leader that steals young boys to fill out his army of "Lost Boys" while inciting strife between the indigenPeter Pan: Narcissistic, charismatic, cult leader that steals young boys to fill out his army of "Lost Boys" while inciting strife between the indigenous population of Never Neverland and his followers; prohibits his "Lost Boys" from thinking the wrong way (maintains a strict anti-mother policy); steals a young girl to provide the trappings of motherhood with none of the moral or emotional development mothers provide their offspring; traffics with fairies and other unnatural being, likewise using them to further his own short sighted and capricious whims. Avoid contact if possible and report sightings to Captain James Hook of Eton.
The above is why I couldn't identify, or even root for, Peter Pan in this classic. He is the very embodiment of irresponsible boyhood and people actually suffer for it. While not shown in the story it is alluded that the "savages" have several Lost Boys' scalps, but only have hostile relations with the "Lost Boys" when Peter is around. He leads his followers into deadly situations with Neverland's "savages" and resident pirates, blissfully ignorant of the consequences for his followers. Peter Pan possess no redeeming moral qualities, which is to be expected as he is an avatar for young boys....more