Charles Dee Mitchell's Reviews > Planet of Exile

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. Le Guin
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's review
May 20, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: mid-century-sf
Read on May 20, 2012

Based on Rocannon's World and this second novel from Ursula Le Guin, both the sense and realities of exile will be one of her ongoing themes.

The Terran populations sent to establish colonies on inhabited planets have already accepted exile from home. Since there is no FTL travel in Le Guin's universe, the journeys they take may remove them by centuries from the home they left. The group of Terran's on Askatevar have been further abandoned when many of the original colonists left for military actions the colonists cannot know the outcome of. Since this planet has a year closely equal to a human lifespan, the several years they have spent sequestered in their seaside city has for the Farborn been at least a century. They live among nomadic tribes whose lives are based around the seasons that are in fact many years long. Only the oldest of the native populations will remember a previous winter or summer. During their time on the planet, the Farborn have become objects of superstition to the nomads and relations have grown increasingly strained. In the few days this narrative covers, the two races will have to discover a way of working together to defeat the rise of a more savage nomadic tribe known as the Gaals, a group who for the first time has learned that concerted action against the winter cities of Askatevar can give them control of territories they once only passed through as troublesome northerners.

"Working together" is not a concept among the locals, and the Farborn leader Jakob Agat can do nothing to prevent the coming disasters. HIs love-at-first-sight affair with a Rolery, one of the local chiefs several dozen daughters, does not help the situation. The rules of colonization have prevented the Terrans from passing on any technology to the native population, who have not yet even invented the wheel. The wheeled carts used by the Farborn are alien technology for which they see no practical application. Farborn medicine must be kept secret as well, along with their abilities to "mindspeak." (Why did so many mid-century SF writers assume telepathy was in our future?)

Days of war councils, bloody battles, siege, and the final overwhelming reality of the changing season are the plot points of this short novel that more deeply concerns itself with questions of ethnicity and social evolution. At novel's end there are signs of new possibilities, but I wondered how much would be accomplished before the Gaals returned heading north in about fifteen or twenty years.


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